A First Descents Interview: Jennifer “Boots” Morris on Movement and Recovery

A First Descents Interview: Jennifer “Boots” Morris on Movement and Recovery

As part of Pledge 1%, FluidStance donates 1% of each sale and 1% of company equity to First Descents®, a non-profit whose mission is to provide free outdoor adventure experiences for young adults fighting, and living with, cancer. We recently spoke with Jennifer “Boots” Morris, one of their alums, about her experiences and the importance of movement and recovery in her life.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I live in Plymouth, NH with my husband, Chris, and two boys. Sawyer is 18, and he’s heading off for his first year at Montana State University in Bozeman. Carter is 16, and he’ll be a Junior in high school. Four years ago we built a house on 45 acres just outside of town and are working to grow our own food so we can live as sustainably as possible. It is a beautiful piece of land that has beaver ponds and two miles of trails that we cut. We have 2 dogs, Leo and Luna, 15 chickens, a rooster, and three Pekin ducks. My husband stays home and works on our gardens, and clears more property to plant. We have all kinds of small berries, hazelnut trees, stone fruit trees and apples. Eventually we hope to get a few more animals, and maybe grow some hops for the local breweries that are popping up near us. I work from home for a small biotech company located in Cambridge, MA in Oncology. I have a yoga adventure business on the side, and I teach regular yoga classes for cancer survivors and athletes. I am fortunate to live in a small rural community with tons of outdoor opportunities and great friends. We run, hike, bike, SUP, and ski together and with our families. I love to coach when I have the time too! I have coached both the middle school nordic and soccer teams.

Could you tell us about your cancer diagnosis overall, and a bit more on how that inspired you to keep moving? 

In October, 2013 I was diagnosed with stage 2b ER, PR positive invasive ductal carcinoma. It was a shock to me and my family and friends because I have always been focused on being healthy and was in the best shape of my life at age 43. I want through an aggressive treatment regimen of two surgeries, four months of chemotherapy, six and a half weeks of radiation, and am still on tamoxifen to prevent recurrence.

I was thinking about what really inspired me to keep moving. I think it was initially a sense of urgency to get back to who I was—not only back in shape, which I lost pretty quickly after treatment, but I was wanting to feel better, more like myself. Going through chemo and radiation made me feel so tired, slow, and foggy. Lots of other things, too, but I wanted to just walk and yoga through it. Looking back, I think I was longing for a sense of peace too. I had so much anxiety about cancer coming back, I think it made me kind of frantic to control what I could.

Getting back to exercise also was a way that I could feel back to myself socially as well. I have a very active (and supportive) family and group of friends. I wanted to be able to get out and be active with them all again. They all were so patient with how tired I was. It took a few years for me to finally feel confident enough that I could start challenging myself again. My husband and I were talking about me hiking the Presidential Traverse for our anniversary and how I got my FD nickname, Boots: we hiked the traverse and got married in the middle at Lakes of the Clouds hut. That is when I decided to do the 48for48. I planned the traverse for our anniversary day as part of the goal. It didn’t quite work out the way we planned because of some bad weather days, but we did get to Lakes to celebrate.

How has movement and recovery been a part of your path to personal wellness? 

I have always loved being in the outdoors and try to be outside as much as possible. I would much rather exercise outdoors than in, taking advantage of the amazing trail systems in the White Mountains and in our community, and the beautiful lakes in our area. I can’t really think of a better way to move than with friends and family in nature. However, yoga is a big part of my life as well—for both the physical andspiritual aspects. Yoga and walking are what got me through cancer treatment feeling somewhat human. When I’m spending time outdoors it’s easier to reflect on life and feel at peace. Also, exercising outdoors is where I get a lot of my social time in.

You recently finished your 48 peaks by age 48 Out Living It Project! How did you continue to get inspired to keep moving? 

That was such a fun goal. I wasn’t really certain if I could finish all 48 within a year. As it turned out, I hiked 24 in the first 11 months. Due to weather, scheduling, family interruptions, I couldn’t get more done in those months. When June rolled around and I knew I had only a month left, I cranked it into high gear and hiked two days each weekend for the entire month. I finished the 48 a week early. I hiked many peaks alone, which really pushed me outside of my comfort zone. But I also had a lot of friends and acquaintances, and of course my dog, Leo, join me on the hikes which was very cool and inspiring. I posted each hike on Facebook and Instagram and was amazed at how many people were following what I was doing. I was able to raise a lot of money for First Descents as a result. I didn’t want to let anyone down. Even if I didn’t really feel like hiking that day, or especially the second day, I was proud of myself for just getting up and doing each peak. I hiked the Pemi Loop in two days. 33 miles. It was one of the hardest weekends I had. Grueling terrain, and I was alone almost all of the second day. I was pretty stoked to finish that loop and that inspired me to do whatever it took to finish the rest.

Why is it important for you to keep an active, movement-oriented lifestyle? 

I feel better inside and out. Physically and emotionally, exercise is so important and necessary to my overall well-being.

What advice do you have for individuals trying to embrace a more movement-oriented lifestyle?

 Get outside and walk, ride your bike to the store, get yourself to move functionally. Find a friend and exercise together. Ditch the treadmill and walk the distance outside. Figure out what you need and make it happen. 

How do you keep moving all year long? 

We do a lot of hiking all year round. I run year round. I ride my bike, and get on my paddle board as much as possible in the summer, and in the winter we snowshoe and both nordic skate ski and alpine ski.

What has been your favorite adventure with First Descents? 

Hmmm. I can’t pick just one. They are all so different. I love meeting new people and trying new things! My first program was a week-long rock climbing adventure in Estes Park, CO. Loved that trip! I also have such great memories of a Boston Tribs biking adventure around Sandwich, NH. FD Tributaries (FD Tribs) are local multi-day adventures that provide great community support and the opportunity to get Out Living It together with other local FDers! Together, we rode 50 hilly miles, and I organized the trip which was a lot of fun. I felt so proud of everyone for finishing, which was challenging, but we saw the most beautiful scenery, ate delicious food, camped out, and had a lot of laughs. Another FD friend of mine, Misiu, and I rode a fat tandem bike the entire way. It was hilarious, but kinda scary trucking on the downhills!

For more information about First Descents, their mission and the types of programs they offer, please visit their site or follow them on social:

Web: FirstDescents.org
Facebook: @firstdescents
Instagram: @first_descents
Twitter: @firstdescents

Interested in writing a guest post for the FluidStance blog? Have suggestions for movement and recovery? Email us at flow@fluidstance.com.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.