tasc Performance (an apparel company made with bamboo fabric free of chemicals) sent Heather Thomson (Real Housewives of New York), Jeff Evans (Everest Guide and Discovery Channel star who led first blind man up Everest) and a group of 17 amazing women (including a cancer survivor and a veteran) on an expedition to Mt. Kilimanjaro on September 17th.
Aside from starring in Bravo’s Real Housewives of NYC, Heather Thomson is an established fashion designer, entrepreneur, inventor, celebrity stylist, television personality, philanthropist, wife and mother of two.
We got to interview Thomson about the whole epic experience and even scored some advice from her on how you too can achieve your next goal…even if it’s not climbing the highest mountain in Africa!
From the Catskills to Kilimanjaro
Sari Beth Rosenberg: How did you train for the climb? Have you always been into hiking and fitness?
Heather Thomson: I have learned that training (for me) is about getting the most out of the workout. I train with Will Torres at Willspace and he focuses on full body workouts so that I can get combined exercises all in one place. So consider it an ‘all-in-one session’ that includes weightlifting, yoga, aerobic activities, flexibility, HIIT, etc. I was a 4 letter varsity winner in high school and I grew up in the mountains. (Specifically in the Hudson valley region and Catskill mountains, just south of the Adirondack mountains). I was a ski instructor as well so have a love for the mountains.
Sari Beth Rosenberg: Why did you decide to participate in this amazing climb? Had this been on your bucket list?
Heather Thomson: It was not on my bucket list, it was one of those things I fell into as I got more into mountain climbing and hanging out with my mountain climbing tribe. I met Jeff Evans, through Memmy, and I liked the idea of using something (like this challenge of a climb) to make change and impact in people’s lives.
Changes in Altitude, Changes in Attitude
Sari Beth Rosenberg: What was the biggest challenge you faced while climbing Kilimanjaro?
Heather Thomson: The hardest part of the climb for me was preparing for it. There was a lot of work put into the logistics of the trip and leading and encouraging people (the group of women that went on the climb) that I didn’t know to do something so daring was a tough challenge. I was always worried about the participants and what they would think, but I pursued the climb for the participants to make an impact and make a different in their lives. I also took on the Kili climb challenge to use ‘nature as nurture’ and enable the team of women to feel like they accomplished something outside of their comfort zone. It was less about the challenge and more about the journey, and some reason (the inspiration) to motivate them.
I got so much out of it myself. I was truly off the grid, without an iphone, and I can’t remember doing that in 12-15 years. I’ve never gone on a vacation where I have to shut my phone off. I was forced off the grid and there was a lot of moments of silences – just me and my breath. Jeff taught me a quote that says, “The mind is like water. When it is still, it becomes clear.” It’s really really true if you can experience it. It was a metaphysical and incredible experience on the mountain and I came down with a lot of clarity that I did not expect to have. The summit night was difficult, in particular, because I barely slept. I didn’t expect to not be able to sleep at night and there were a few nights where I wasn’t able to sleep at all. I was anxious that the deprivation of sleep would affect me but I was okay. Eating got hard and I knew I needed to eat to nourish my body.
Towards the end of the climb, those were challenging times. The last night, I couldn’t even go near food because of how much the altitude affected me. We climbed so slowly and moved so slowly that by the time we submitted, I was ready to run. I ran a bit down the mountain and wiped out and have some scars to show for that.
Climb Past The “Perfection” Trap
Sari Beth Rosenberg: What did you learn most about yourself after accomplishing this amazing feat?
Heather Thomson: I learned to have an appreciation for my accomplishments. I’m not one of those people that likes to pat myself on the bat. I used to think perfection was a good quality and vulnerability was a bad quality and I have completely reversed that. Vulnerability is a birth for joy, renewal, renewal, realization, reckoning and love. This is where GROWTH happens and when you are vulnerable (showing your true self) is when you can love. The experience was brave, real and tangible. I know view ‘perfection’ as more of a weakness and women fall into that stereotype a lot and it’s not true. When women show vulnerability, other women flock to their aid and support and watching that happen changed my thinking about being a perfectionist. I am always striving and pushing as hard as I can to be perfect and I am tough on myself. When I came down Kili, I changed that line of thinking. Show your vulnerability and stop trying to be perfect because it’s just something that doesn’t exist in human condition.
Rising Beyond Gender Expectations
Sari Beth Rosenberg: I read that the message behind the climb was to show the world what happens when women support each other to overcome life’s challenges. Why was this an important message for you to support and promote?
Heather Thomson: I think because we as women are faced with old standards of what it is to be feminine – to be a good homemaker, to parent, to find joy in one committed relationship. We are constantly trying to push past those standards as women but we’re faced with the stereotypes that are already there. Social norms are supposed to be ‘out’ and ‘anything goes’ is supposed to be in, but it’s not true. As women, we’re trying to push past these things. I wanted to show that none of those things were true and given an opportunity to show women in an opposite light of the show I’m in (Housewives of NYC), that women empowering women happens all of the time. This is more of the standard now.
One Step At A Time
Sari Beth Rosenberg: What advice do you have for women looking to challenge themselves in a new activity even if it’s not climbing Mount Kilimanjaro?
Heather Thomson: Start with putting one foot in front of the other. Whether it’s running or another goal, just start with one foot in front of each other. Get excited about the idea and invest in it. There is no rush and anything that lasts, takes time. You need to work towards your goal and don’t try to rush it. It’s not necessary to rush – there is no quick fix nor silver bullet, but if you focus on your goal, think about it, imagine it, dream it and if you do that, you will accomplish it. I’ve been working out with Will for 3 years and I still have goals to reach, and once you see advancements and changes you start to feel it and you’re in! You have to go towards what you love.