Walking is something we used to do a lot as a family when I was a kid, and while I never did much after leaving home and throwing myself into London life, I think my childhood experiences were always at the back of my mind. As I’ve grown older, the urge to get out of the city and explore the mountains has grown and grown, and finally last year I made more of an effort to do so, with trips to Snowdonia, the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District all helping to really awaken a long-dormant passion.
As a result, the part of my trip I’m probably looking forward to most is spending August & September trekking in the high central Andes of Peru & Bolivia. Now while I’ve enjoyed my time hiking the UK’s hills, and had no problems with them whatsoever, there’s quite a difference between the 1,085 metres of Snowdon, the highest peak I’ve visited over here, and the Punto Coyoc pass on the Huayhuash Circuit in Peru, which at 5,490m is more than five times as high. So I figured I should probably make a bit of an effort to get as fit as I possibly could before leaving if I want to make life a little bit easier for myself.
So since November I’ve made the effort to get into the routine of exercising three times a week, at my local boot camp. Now to most people I know, the idea of spending cold winter nights outside in the park, running around and doing press-ups in the mud and the rain (and even the snow on one occasion) while being barked at by ex-squaddies sounds both insane and painful. They’re probably right, and yet it’s actually great fun, and is the most sociable way of making fit I’ve ever engaged in. Plus (and this is the real reason I enjoy it) it really appeals to my competitive streak, as I push myself harder and harder to be the fastest in the class, and progress to the advanced group.
The upshot of all this hard work is that I’ve been feeling fitter than I have in years – and both to test that out and to give me an interim goal to work towards, I entered myself into a 10k run this past weekend, my first for a few years. Now I knew the training had been going well, and I expected to beat my previous best time of just shy of 50 minutes. What I didn’t expect was to beat that by more than five minutes, with a time of 44:57. I even enjoyed it (what’s happening to me in my old age? 18 year old me would have been horrified…), and now I’m seriously considering trying out a marathon when I get back from my trip. I’m feeling a lot more confident about the summer’s coming activities (although of course, now I’ve done the run, I’ll slip into a final month of farewell drinking, followed by doing very little exercise during the first few months of the trip, and undoing all the good work).
Of course I’d be lying if I said all this exercise was purely to get me fit for the mountains. A happy side effect is that the beer belly I’d been beginning to develop has fallen away, and I’m now back to the weight I was in my early twenties, which will certainly help me look better on the beach. (and in other vanity-related news, I’ll be more keen than previously to produce a cheesy grin for the cameras, now that today I’ve finally had the veneer fitted to replace the filling that’s been patching up my broken front tooth for around fifteen years now, and which has never looked quite right. I’m very pleased with it, although I’ll be glad when the anaesthetic wears off and I can feel my face again.)