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How one woman’s love affair with nature helped her quit smoking and get fit.

“Put one foot after another. Repeat.”
Those are the words Nancy Duguay uses to inspire people to keep going forward when they climb Sugarloaf Mountain in Campbellton with her.

Nancy’s own love affair with the mountain started quite accidentally. After she quit smoking, Nancy found herself at her son’s soccer game, battling irritability from nicotine withdrawal. When she looked up, she saw Sugarloaf Mountain rising up into the sky and remembered how she enjoyed climbing it as a child. So, to try and distract herself from her nicotine cravings, she decided to walk up the mountain.

It took a lot of effort that first time. But when she reached the top, the feeling it gave her was better than any cigarette. “When I got up to the top, I had that natural rush from the endorphins because of the exercise and I was like, geez, this felt good, I think I’d like to repeat this,” says Nancy.

Nancy began to make walking the mountain a daily routine after work. Day after day, her fitness level improved. She moved from walking up the mountain to walking up and around it. One day, when she was halfway around the mountain, it began to rain.

“When I got caught in the rain, I ran all the way back to my car. When I got home I thought, my gosh, I just ran 3 kilometers! So for the first time in my life, I realized I had the capacity—my knees weren’t hurting, my ankles weren’t sore, I didn’t have any breathing problems. I realized I had built up my cardiovascular fitness level by doing the mountain!”

Since those early days, Nancy has continued to push herself, running 10k races and even teaching fitness classes to other women in her community. “We brought down barriers to make exercising easier,” says Nancy about the group. “We motivated each other and checked in on each other. It was great motivation.”

While her family and friends initially thought she was a bit crazy to climb the mountain every day alone, they eventually gave it a try and are also using the mountain as both a way to stay fit and as a natural stress reliever.

And as a cardiac rehab nurse, Nancy is now a living example of what she reminds her patients of every day: You never, ever lose the opportunity to improve your health.

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