Let’s just say exercising does not come natural to me. I suspect that when athletic ability was being doled out, I already had my nose stuck in a book. “This is the final announcement…” clearly passed me by, while I was already in my first fantasy world induced by reading.
You only have to give me one look to confirm that I do not have an athletic bone in my body. For starters, I am short, very short. I am 1.53m tall (or short), which means that I just scraped through the 5 feet mark. One teeny weeny centimetre shorter and I would have been an under-five-footer. And, worst of all is that I am not one of those petite short women. You know the likes of women who can still pass for a 21 year old when they are 35 years old and can wear their kids’ jeans? An ex boss, when it was pointed out that one of these petite skinny women and I were the same height, remarked that I am just more visible. Which was probably a nice way of saying I am fatter. I would prefer to think he meant curvier…
In addition, I have really bad eyesight, and it is only due to the advances in modern medical science that I do not have to walk around with bottle bottoms in spectacle frames to see where I am going. For the first 20 years of my adult life, I had to endure contact lenses or glasses to find my way around the world. And while this adds to the sexy, intelligent look in some women (lucky cows), in my case it just added to the nerdy look. Thanks to refractory eye surgery, I don’t have to wear glasses anymore, but somehow the nerdy look stuck.
In school, physical education was by far my worst
torture subject. In grade 4 I was too embarrassed to admit that I couldn’t really swim, despite lessons that my mom paid for at one stage. After almost drowning (it certainly felt like I was drowning…), I was moved to the side of the swimming pool, so I could reach out for the sides. Luckily (?) I developed bronchitis shortly after that and had an excuse to skip swimming for a few lessons. When the PE teacher did not want to fall for the sick note story anymore, I hid in the girls toilets for a couple of lessons. And by then the swimming season was, thank goodness, almost over. Just in time for netball or some other sport that I was equally bad at.
But, as I have told you before, walking and dancing are the two types of exercises I do enjoy, and at some stage last year I did actually mention that I would like to do a longer hike one day. What I didn’t anticipate was that my first big hike would be on the other side of the world in mysterious Inca country. I guess I thought I would start with a two day hike and if I really get into it, do the Otter trail one day. But I have never been one for doing things half washed and with some reservation I decided I was gonna tackle the Inca Trail (as opposed to taking the train to Machu Picchu) on my soon to embark on once-in-a-lifetime tour.
Knowledge is power and I learned that it is a four day hike, and that you don’t need to be super fit (moderately fit will do it…which I have no idea what it means). In total the hike spans over 45 kms, with three main passes. But the scariest thing is the altitude. The highest pass (aptly named ‘Dead Woman’s Pass’) reaches over 13,000 feet. And altitude sickness is a serious risk. And incidentally, I did once have a short dalliance with altitude sickness. In 2006, we travelled to Switzerland and we went up to Jungfraujoch, and at 11,388 feet I got such bad altitude sickness that I couldn’t walk 400 meters. The big difference is that we travelled from 6,762 feet (2,061 m above sea level) to 11,388 feet (3,471 m) in a matter of hours. And, in hindsight, maybe the glass of wine with lunch when we arrived at the top wasn’t the best idea… Be that as it may, I am a bit wary. And I have already stocked up on altitude sickness tablets. Not taking any chances! And I ain’t saying no to any coca leaves coming my way either…
So that leaves fitness…and I am exercising the scary monster away, or at the very least to try and forget about the scary monster. All of the sudden I seem to have no problem getting up at 5h15 in the morning to go for a walk/run. After a week or so of trying to force my body to run when it didn’t want to, I started a proper running program and am starting with a 15 minute run, combined with a 15 minute walk this week. And I am walking/jogging/whatever-you-call-it for five days of the week. And on weekends, I am trying to do a longer walk/run or hike. I even did the Westcliff stairs once, where the likes of Comrades runners train. Maybe the energy will rub off?? And on top of that, I started doing Pilates twice a week.
Let’s just say my body doesn’t quite know what hit it… I know this doesn’t sound like much, but you have to put this into context. The last time I hiked for any significant period of time (less than 4 hours), I was stiff for days afterwards. And I have not been able to run for more than a kilometer at a time for years! For me, this is like training for a marathon!
But as the excitement is mounting, I am also starting to feel more confident that I will be able to do this. Honestly, I am sleeping better than I have for ages, I feel energized and I keep patting myself on the back with little mini achievements. Yesterday afternoon at Pilates I managed a complete backward roll, almost touching my legs above my head (almost, I said). And I can feel my core strengthening (either that or I am delusional from all the adrenaline). The excess weight is clinging a bit stubbornly, but my kids say I look thinner, so who cares what the scale says.
In 8 weeks time, I will be walking on an ancient trail, built by an extinct civilization and I will be able to experience one of the most sacred and awesome sights in the world, the lost city of Machu Picchu. And I can barely contain my excitement. Come hell or high water, I will drag my non-athletic body up that mountain!
The most splendid achievement of all is the constant striving to surpass yourself and to be worthy of your own approval. ~ Denis Waitley