Getting Fit for the Arctic

It’s now under 3 weeks to go until I am in sub-zero temperatures trying to keep hold of a sled, most likely whilst face-first in the snow, and people are often asking me how I am getting on with my training or what I need to do to prepare for this challenge.

I have never been the type of person that likes to go to the gym and I find running really quite boring, I much prefer team sports like netball or tennis/squash when there is a purpose to running around.  I am also more likely to do exercise is if it is something fun like dance or an 80s aerobics class where neon and legwarmers are compulsory.  The last time I did a load of exercise was in the lead up to the Paralympic Opening Ceremony, around 15 four hour dance rehearsals certainly got us fit without realising.  That was the fittest I think I’ve ever been, quantified by the ability to race and keep up with my niece and nephew, but that was 2.5 years ago now.

Photo by Dave Clamp Dave, Mary, Chris and I in the 2012 stadium after performing the Empowerment section & finale in front of 80,000 people and the queen!

Photo by Dave Clamp
Dave, Mary, Chris and I in the stadium after performing the Empowerment section & finale in front of 80,000 people and the Queen herself!

Before starting challenge training my exercise routine consisted of playing Versatility Netball once a week with the Wasabi Peas (name constructed whilst at the pub), this is a much more fun version than the regular game, and the team I play with consists of a great bunch of ladies.  I actually surprise myself at how competitive I can get!

Wasabi peas in the florescent green headbands with facepaint, taking on an outdoor tournament August 2014

Wasabi peas in the florescent green headbands with face paint, taking on an outdoor tournament August 2014

So training began properly for the challenge back in November with a bit of farm fitness by rolling a tractor tyre around the farm in addition to jogging with one of the dogs.  I am on a real budget as I have had to save hard for the trip and also buy kit so when I came back to London it was a case of exercising for free and I was making up my training as I went along.  I did a bit of jogging, some strength work, made use of the local outdoor gym and as I am a big kid I got out on my scooter (I got that as a present about 4 years ago with the specific aim to use it to train for dog sledding).

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That was working ok but I was in need of a little help to take things further, then on twitter I saw I had a new follower, Jack Lynch, who happened to be a personal trainer.  I got in contact to see if he could give me some training tips.  We met up after Christmas and I was blown away by Jack’s generosity, not only did he construct a great training plan but also offered me weekly training sessions in the lead up to my challenge.

Never underestimate the power of having a piece of paper with a proper training timetable, it sounds so simple but when life is busy and hectic to have a timetable with exercises and scheduled rest days makes doing exercise and fitting it around life so much easier.  Jack really researched what I need to work on for my 200km husky dog challenge and also made it varied so I never do same thing (the only constant is core exercises).  There’s no need for gym membership or any fancy equipment, perfect, and they are all manageable from a time perspective.

My training plan designed by Jack Lynch PT

My training plan designed by Jack Lynch PT, as you can see I’ve managed to stick to it so far.  Over the page on Saturdays I either have to do 5km parkrun/a strength & conditioning class plus core, Sunday is a rest day.

There have been a few firsts whilst preparing for this challenge and a few weeks ago it was my first ever training session with a personal trainer and first time ever getting up to do exercise pre work, that I previously thought was just for crazy people!  I was a little nervous but I needn’t have been.  This session focussed on stair runs followed by core, it was tough (giant stairs, 2 at a time, 2 flights, all out) and I definitely needed the encouragement to keep going, having my runs timed was a great target to aim for each time.  My legs felt like jelly by the end and I had that feeling deep down to my lungs when you know you’ve worked hard.  My tummy was a-wobbling as were my arms with the plank but this is what I needed someone to push me out of my comfort zone.  That’s just something you can’t do on your own.

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Since then we’ve done two other sessions, strength high intensity interval training (HIIT)  and hill runs.  I have to commend Jack on his ingenuity during our HIIT session, training takes place in the park, and during this session we must’ve had about 4 dogs come up to us.  At one point whilst doing a press-up using the bench a dog actually ran underneath me, I managed to keep my composure, great way of bringing some dog training into the session Jack!  It even ended with a husky passing us by, we couldn’t have asked for more.

Then at weekends exercise is in my plan on Saturdays with either a 5km run or a class.  I have already made my feelings about running known, but I can’t avoid it as it is great endurance training.  My task was to do a 5km Park Run, these are free runs held in parks all over the UK and indeed the world.  I have never ever run that far before and wasn’t sure if I could, I know that for people that run this really isn’t the greatest distance in the world, but for me it’s a marathon!

Lining up for the start of the Crystal Palace Park Run

Lining up for the start of the Crystal Palace Park Run

I must admit I did chicken out the first week, and instead did a shorter run around the block, but knowing I really should tackle it I enlisted the support of the Wasabi Peas captain Alex to help me through my first ever 5km the next week.  By arranging to meet up with a friend it forced me to do it and also made it less scary.  I definitely needed Alex to help coach me through it, I was just about ready to give up at 1km, the first half of the route happened to be pretty hilly, but with Alex’s encouragement I made it the whole way round, and felt really accomplished.  I definitely needed my Sunday rest day, plenty of stretching and a fair few baths to soothe my aching muscles.  This week the Wasabi Peas very own Iron Lady Laura helped me around, and I must say although I was slower I found it much easier and wasn’t daunted by the distance.  I think I could probably now tackle it on my own with the help of my Arctic4Abby playlist to keep me going.

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Photo by Philippa Ramsey

So training is now properly under way, I am sticking to my plan and with just under 3 weeks to go there are still a load more training sessions to do. I have to say a huge thanks to my little sis, Philippa, as my surrogate trainer when Jack isn’t about, and to the two fittest ladies I know yep that’s you Alex and Laura.

My training support team Laura, Philippa, Alex

My training support team Laura, Philippa, Alex

Then finally a gigantic thank you to Jack you are an essential part of my challenge preparation, the sessions are challenging, I definitely know I have worked hard by the end, there’s always something to laugh about, and I know you’ll get me Arctic fit!  Thank you.

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I know you'll get me Arctic Fit

Team Arctic Fit! @JackLynchPT #thisgirlcan

All photos and content © Danielle Ramsey and Arctic 4 Abby, 2015, except where stated.

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