The mission at AIM Human Performance is to help others live their healthiest life so that they can reach their highest goals. A teacher at Gar-Field High School, Cindy Ardecki, set out to reach new heights when she decided to hike Mt. Kilimanjaro for her 50th birthday. As someone who is passionate about hiking, her bucket list includes the goal of completing a significant hike on every continent. As her 50th birthday approached, she and her sister decided to tackle a big adventure in honor of the occasion. Mount Kilimanjaro became the goal since it is the highest mountain in Africa at 19,341 ft above sea level.
Through lots of planning, training, and overcoming her share of obstacles, Cindy was successfully able to make it to the summit which is why she is the latest inductee to the AIM Human Performance Hall of Fame.
The most challenging obstacle she had to overcome was being in good enough shape so that she could make it to the top. The altitude of Mount Kilimanjaro was over twice what she had previously climbed plus it requires significant strength and endurance. When faced with a challenge, Cindy leans on her strong organizational skills by making lists, using her calendar, and following a routine. She did just that to prepare her for the hike. She researched all the options for combating altitude sickness to find what would work for her. She used her calendar to plan out practice hikes leading up to the main event. When it came to her routine, she found it best to not allow for options (except in the case of health or safety). Mornings she committed to running and made it a regular part of her morning, just like brushing her teeth. Her training wasn’t an option; it was part of her daily routine to help her reach her goal.
Cindy had been training with personal trainer and Muscle Activation Techniques Specialist, Chris Viggiano since the fall of 2006, so when she told him of her new goal, he got right to work. Chris researched what trials she would face on the mountain and designed a plan to specifically prepare her legs and entire body to ensure she had both the strength and the endurance. On the days when training was a challenge, Chris was there lending his support and keeping her on track.
When the hike up the mountain got tough and she was struggling, Cindy reminded herself to take baby steps (literally and figuratively!). “I imagine a big jigsaw puzzle and know that even if it has 500 pieces, each time I fit one in, that is one fewer piece I have to place. Similarly, each step I took towards the top was one fewer step I needed to take. That mindset was paramount on the summit day, when we had begun walking before dawn and several hours later we weren’t even half way! Instead of feeling defeated, I just focused on putting one foot in front of the other without looking up to see how far I had left.” When Cindy finally reached the summit, she felt on top of the world! Literally! But she also felt really proud of herself. “Not only did I have a dream, but I figured out what needed to be done to make that dream a reality, followed the necessary steps and then accomplished it. That is a fantastic feeling.”
When asked what the most rewarding part of this trip was, Cindy explained that it was mental. Knowing that she had set out to achieve something REALLY BIG, worked hard to make it happen, and then actually accomplishing it. THAT was the most rewarding part. Additionally, she enjoyed traveling to a new continent, seeing life in Tanzania, and meeting great people. Next up for Cindy; she’s applying to be part of a research group in Antarctica. She’s also interested in hiking the Great Wall, parts of Tibet and Nepal, the Andes, and Patagonia. “I think maybe my goal is to be a lifelong hiker.”
We asked Cindy what advice she could share with others that she learned through her journey. “My advice to others is to dream big but plan in small steps. Figure out what needs to be done, make a plan to get those steps done one by one, and then tackle each thing step by step. Don’t beat yourself up if you slip, just jump right back up and start again. Maybe most important is the quote I tell myself daily: Learn to love the journey, not the destination. LOVE what you are doing/what you are working towards, and there never will be disappointment.”
We couldn’t agree more with her! We hope her story will inspire you to dream big, set goals, and work to achieve them. At AIM Human Performance, they are ready to support and guide you along the way. Contact them by visiting their website at www.AIMHumanPerformance.com or by following AIM Human Performance on Facebook and Instagram.