New heights on my weight-loss jour­ney

Zip-lin­ing pushed me out of my com­fort zone and pro­vided a great sense of achieve­ment af­ter­wards

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Front Page - Rachel Fla­herty

‘Je­sus, why are we do­ing this? Are we nuts? This is ter­ri­fy­ing,” shouted a woman in front of me as I stood cling­ing on to a tree for dear life as the plat­form swayed back and forth in the wind. But it was shortly fol­lowed by shrieks of laugh­ter as she called out, “This is the most fun ever.”

Her words echoed the bat­tle be­ing fought in my head be­tween fear­ing I was fac­ing cer­tain death as I looked down at the ground 14 me­tres be­low while know­ing log­i­cally, I was wear­ing a har­ness and per­fectly safe, and this re­ally was go­ing to be a lot of fun.

But as the swing­ing log I needed to step on to wob­bled from side to side in front of me, I did long to re­turn to the sweet em­brace of my com­fort zone. When I did fi­nally step for­ward and get through the ob­sta­cle course, the feel­ing of ex­hil­a­ra­tion and achieve­ment trumped all oth­ers.

A cou­ple of weeks ago af­ter do­ing my first in­door climb­ing ses­sion I was feel­ing more con­fi­dent about push­ing my­self out of my com­fort zone, so I signed up to do a zip-lin­ing and a tree­top ob­sta­cle course. But my brav­ery had faded as I ar­rived at Zipit For­est Ad­ven­tures in Ti­brad­den Wood (Pine for­est) in the Dublin Moun­tains, south Dublin, on a mild and dry Sun­day morn­ing.

My palms started to sweat as I stared at the plat­forms high up in the trees. I be­gan to doubt my de­ci­sion to do this chal­lenge, ques­tion­ing if I should have waited un­til I was fit­ter or reached my goal weight (I’ve about 2st (13kg) to lose and have lost 3½st (22kg) so far).


My thoughts were thank­fully in­ter­rupted as in­struc­tors Eoin and Steven came along to fit my har­ness, gave me gloves and brought the group to the safety brief­ing cir­cuit. They stressed safety was para­mount through all the ac­tiv­i­ties and how the dou­ble-clip sys­tem meant I would al­ways be clipped on through all the ac­tiv­i­ties.

I did find it ini­tially a bit tricky clip­ping on and off, but quickly got used to it. A few chil­dren took the lead and showed me how it was done with ease.

Steven ex­plains there are five cir­cuits, rang­ing from 1 me­tre to 20 me­tres from the ground, and we had about four hours to tra­verse them. Each cir­cuit gets more chal­leng­ing and higher, and in­cludes tightropes, swing­ing steps, rope bridges, rock climb­ing and zip-lin­ing.

Clearly, I had the ex­pres­sion of some­one be­ing led to the guillotine, so he tells me sto­ries demon­strat­ing the strength of the wires and ex­plains how my con­fi­dence would grow as I com­plete each course.

Af­ter we fin­ish safety and prac­tice, it is time to head off on our own and tackle the next cir­cuit. It is my first time do­ing any­thing like this and it is daunt­ing, but also very ex­cit­ing. I climb up to the first plat­form and in­stantly get but­ter­flies in my stom­ach. It is a strange ex­pe­ri­ence talk­ing my­self into walk­ing off the edge of the plat­form on to an un­steady or mov­ing wire, step or rope, and trust­ing I could do it. It was thrilling each time I com­pleted an ob­sta­cle course and gave me a re­newed en­ergy to go fur­ther.

Then I ar­rived at the Tarzan jump. Look­ing at it from a dis­tance I imag­ined I would glide grace­fully through the air gen­tly swing­ing my­self on to the cargo net and climb­ing ef­fort­lessly on to the plat­form. The re­al­ity was a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. Fear took con­trol of me again. I doubted I could sup­port my own weight hold­ing on to the rope and did not want to leave the plat­form.

The longer I stood there, the more re­luc­tant I be­came to do it as I thought of dif­fer­ent ways I could get in­jured (none were re­al­is­tic) if it went wrong. Some­one shouted: “Stop over­think­ing it, you’ll be fine.” It was all I needed as I man­aged to swing across (more fall) and slammed my body awk­wardly on to the cargo net. My adren­a­line was pump­ing, and the in­struc­tors were right: I did gain more con­fi­dence as I “sur­vived” each ob­sta­cle.

At the end of the cir­cuit was the re­ward of zip-lin­ing all the way down, which was in­cred­i­ble fun and worth all the ef­fort to get there.

The third cir­cuit was the white course, more chal­leng­ing and higher, and it took me about 45 min­utes to get through. Then came the sec­ond most dif­fi­cult course, the blue cir­cuit, which I had ruled out at­tempt­ing be­fore I be­gan but af­ter a chat with an in­struc­tor, I de­cided to give it a go. I had achieved much more than I thought I was ca­pa­ble of and ready to push my­self far­ther.

This cir­cuit was much higher at more than 14.5m and longer, and the first chal­lenge of climb­ing up a hang­ing mov­able lad­der looked scary. I fi­nally started to heed the

tip of us­ing my legs more as my arms were tir­ing at this stage. As soon as the time ar­rived to climb it my mind had re­turned to telling me I was fac­ing death, but I kept go­ing be­cause go­ing back was even scarier.

Then I reached the snow­board in the skies. Each time I put one foot on it, I was con­vinced I was go­ing to fall off. Even­tu­ally, with some en­cour­age­ment and coax­ing, I got across. I used to think I didn’t have great bal­ance, but I learned when I feel my life de­pends on it, my bal­ance is good. I was ex­hausted and elated as I zip-lined down the fi­nal course of the day.

It was a men­tal and phys­i­cal chal­lenge, and the sense of achieve­ment and feel­ing of free­dom af­ter fac­ing my fears when I had fin­ished was fan­tas­tic. It was one of my favourite things I have done in a long time. I didn’t get as far as the high­est level (red), which had the BMX bike ride from tree to tree and the base jump, but I know I will do it.

It was an in­tense work­out, but I didn’t think about that while I was do­ing it. I do need to put more ef­fort into build­ing my up­per body strength, but I didn’t need to be an ath­lete to com­plete the cir­cuits.

It taught me to trust my­self more and that my body can achieve far more than I think. I lost only half a pound that week but what I gained through the chal­lenge was worth far more to me than weight loss.

It is my first time do­ing any­thing like this and it is daunt­ing, but also very ex­cit­ing

Rachel Fla­herty at Zipit For­est Ad­ven­tures in Ti­brad­den Wood in the Dublin Moun­tains: “It was an in­tense work­out, but I didn’t think about that while I was do­ing it.”

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