Training and Fitness
It’s impossible to say one thing is the most important thing to do in preparation to climb Mt Everest and fly from the summit because each area of the preparation is not exclusive to another. However, as a priority my physical is fitness is right up there.
I am doing all that I can to make sure that my body is fit and strong. I don’t have an exact training plan or regime, I’ve never been one for gyms and I don’t have a personal trainer. What I do have though is a very good knowledge of my own body and a rough idea of how I’ll use my time to reach the level of fitness that I think is required.
Fitness is an interesting subject and how fit you are is a tricky question. It’s like when you go skiing, you’ve done 6wks, you can do all the red runs, a few black even and you go to get your skis fitted. The guy in the rental shop asks what level you are, you have a think, and say intermediate/advanced, well more advanced – you are actually pretty quick too. Then you head out onto the slopes and a 6yr old child that learnt to ski before he/she could walk comes flying past and you realise maybe you’re more beginner/intermediate after all!
So I don’t know how fit I am, compared to some people I’m very fit and compared to others I’m not so fit. What I can tell you though is this –
At school sport featured quite heavily and so when I left at 18 I had a good base level fitness. I had also touched on cross country running for the later part of my school years and so it’s likely this is where the foundation of my endurance fitness began.
I did several ski seasons and I was aware that I wanted to maintain a certain level of fitness so made sure I did the odd run/bike ride. Then in my early 20’s some friends were doing the Salomon Adventure challenge, a gruelling 36hr endurance race. The teams were of four and there had to be at least one girl, I was the one girl in my team! To prepare for the race, I did go to the gym, that lasted for three weeks. It was good, I can do the gym in bursts of time and it’s something different, I enjoyed using the pool and although not a very good swimmer, getting a bit of swimming in was a good thing. I did long runs and longer bike rides… I did on 12mile run which was a personal record for me at the time.
The weekend for the race finally came and as we listened to the rules (at any one time three out the four would be racing- that meant in the next 36hrs I would get just 8hrs rest) and the routes (which were huge distances) it dawned on me that I had never done anything as hard, as far or for as long before… “oh well, better get on with it” I thought, as I was now at the starting line!
I continually surprised myself during the race at the speeds I was maintaining and the distances I was covering, the biggest surprise came in the final part of the race though. After racing for 28hrs, there was a 30mile fell run to finish off with. How on earth was I going to do that?! Well, I just continued to put one foot in front of the other and I managed it. But I’d done that thing… I’d hit ‘the wall’ and gone through it. By ‘The Wall’ I mean, “I had to stop, I needed to stop, I must stop, I can’t carry on, my legs will drop off, I need to stop….Oh, I’m not stopping, I’m carrying on, there’s some energy left, I can keep going, I am keeping going…wow…”. This was something I’d only ever heard people talk about and hadn’t given much thought to. I was shown one of my best lessons in life during that race, I could go further and do more than I imaged or dreamed was possible.
Looking back you could say I wasn’t very well prepared but actually I just wasn’t very experienced and it was a brilliant place to move forward on in terms of knowing my own body and my own fitness.
From that race I went onto do others and at 24 I began climbing big mountains.
I have found over the years ways to train that suit me and here are the main points I include in my not to specific training plan –
- Get enough sleep
- Aim to do something every other day, if I do more it’s a bonus, if I do less I try not to give myself a hard time about it because that can lead to giving up. (Like if you’re on a diet – you eat one chocolate biscuit, you’re so cross about it, you declare the diet ruined and eat the whole packet. Instead you should have just eaten the one and carried on with the diet).
- Try to do the exact thing you are training for. When I’m training for a mountain, I try and do long walks up and down hills.
- Do a variety of things. I’m not a swimmer, I don’t need to swim, but it’s good to do a different type of exercise and so I swim once in a while.
- Time yourself and set small goals – this might be to increase the time you doing a specific thing or to beat a certain time with the same distance covered.
- Be realistic but expect a lot from yourself. Remember to keep pushing. Sometimes I’m out running and I find myself day dreaming and I’m going at a snail’s pace, so concentrate on what you’re doing while you’re doing it.
- Mix it up. If I’m out running I try to go very slow and very fast in short bursts as a part of my run. This is a type of training that is amazing for building fitness and power.
- Eat well. You don’t need to over think food, but be aware and think about trying to have a balance.
- Have a rest. For example, if you are training for something in six weeks time, allow yourself a week before the event to just rest. Think about rest days in your training and if you feel tired, it’s because you are so listen to your body.
- Know yourself and what you need to do. You might work really well in a gym and with a very strict plan, you might not though. So do what’s good for you.
- Find ways to enjoy what you are doing, I do this by listening to music, training with other people and training in great places (by the sea or in the mountains are my favourite!)
So there’s the background to my fitness and some ideas I have on training.
In the next few blogs I’ll be talking about all sorts, but it will include more specifically and exactly what I’m doing to train for Everest!