Friday, September 21, 2012

Nepal 2012 Conditioning

In less than 3 weeks we will be in Nepal for the start of our 36-day trekk.  We will climb MILES of elevation and I need more power and endurance in my legs. 
It's a challenge for any of us to change our lifestyle, change our exercise level, and to significantly change our bodies. There are always many reasons to not make a change.

Hogus has not yet arrived (still enroute from England).  He will have to join me in this conditioning program when he arrives.

First challenge is to Discredit the Excuses.  Certainly it's harder to build strength and endurance at age 62 than it is for people half that age. I accept that I have to work harder and longer than the youth to get conditioned. Age is not a factor, and I will not be the weakest link on the team.
A colostomy may be less convenient than the original design, but my colostomy is my new normal. Three years ago I traded cancer for a colostomy, and it was a good trade. Without the colostomy, I would not be alive. Without the cancer I would still be just dreaming my bucket list, rather than living my bucket list. So I think of my cancer and colostomy as 'all good'. Colostomy is not a factor
A new and strenuous exercise program hurts as the body is forced to adjust to the changes. Yes it hurts, but the pain passes and is soon replaced by the encouraging progress of growing stronger.

Second challenge is to know what has to be done.
I know I need more power and stamina in my legs and a stronger core. I need to be able to climb thousands of feet in a day. I know the terrain is rugged and I need balance. I know I need increased lung capacity to function at 50% oxygen, which will fatigue my body and dull my brain.

So here is my weekly program:

Hockey - 2 games. Hockey is fun and it's the easiest way to get strength, balance and aerobic exercise. Hard skating is aerobic, helping to increase lung capacity and the ability to absorb oxygen. The battles in the corners and the scrums in front of the net build lateral strength in the knees. 

Stairs - more than 150 flights of stairs. This is a grinding, disciplined workout.  Up and down the same flight again and again. But it builds power in the legs and closely simulates much of the climbing required in Nepal. I do these stairs with a 60 pound (26kg) pack.
Hikes - 4 days a week, I hike for 2-3 hours doing hills, stairs, and flat-land.  I do this with a 60 pound (26kg) pack. This helps build the endurance needed to hike all day long in Nepal. It also toughens up the feet so I should not get blisters in Nepal.  Last year I saw a trekker agonize with blisters - a dozen blisters on each foot, feet taped to try to protect the skin, but walking was excruciating. For weeks she couldn't wear her hiking boots, so she borrowed camp-shoes from other trekkers - wearing different shoes every day to relieve pressure points from the prior day.  It was a very painful situation for her and one that I certainly want to avoid.

Gym - 4 days a week I workout at a gym. I work hard on my abs, and yes it's very difficult to build 6-pack abs when they have a 1-1/4 inch void. I do a lot of leg presses and calf-lifts. I always 'push to failure' - that means pushing the legs until the muscles scream, the brain turns black, and the total body sensation is exclusively that muscle. The brain demands more, the muscles retaliate and refuse to do more. After that mind-body stalemate the muscles relax and the brain clears, then the cycle begins again. Pushing to failure actually damages the muscles, which then repair themselves stronger than they were before. Progress hurts but is amazingly rewarding.
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