Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is something that had been on High School Teacher Anna's bucket list for years. With the help of British Military Fitness (BMF), Anna gained the training and confidence she needed to make that dream a reality. So how did she use BMF to ensure she was ready to tackle the biggest challenge she's faced so far?
BMF: How did you first get into BMF?
I first got into BMF after being told by an instructor in the gym I previously attended to 'get out of here and join some sort of boot camp' as he was sick of seeing me in there just leisurely reading my kindle on the cross trainer and barely breaking a sweat! He always used to approach me when I was in there and increase any weight I was lifting or up the speed or elevation as he knew I could be working much harder than I was. Not having someone there to push or motivate me though just meant I'd been going to the gym just for the sake of telling myself I was being active. Whenever he wasn't around I would stick to whatever was easy for me as strangely this made me feel more capable. I obviously never actually saw any results or felt my fitness levels improve, despite how many years I'd been going to the gym or how many personal programs I had worked through. I always got bored of them and would cut corners and never felt motivated.
When I did finally do the trial session at BMF I felt for the first time as if I had properly worked out, I felt muscles aching that never had before and best of all I had loved the whole class and enjoyed every minute. I had laughed, smiled and met a bunch of new people who were always encouraging me to push myself.
I wasn't able to cut corners and felt myself desperate to keep up with everyone and not be behind anyone else. I felt myself being slightly competitive my for the first time with exercise! There was absolutely no doubt after that class that BMF was exactly what I needed and since then (3 years ago now) I've never looked back.
As all members are, I was greeted with a personal welcome and mention by the instructor in front of everyone during the warm up so it was clear that I was new and people really did make the effort to say kind, motivational things throughout the whole class and ask me how I was finding it. It gave me a good chance to speak to them too about their experiences and how long they had been coming.
There was nothing pretentious, elitist or unwelcoming about it and there was a complete range of fitness levels - you really didn't have to be any specific level of fitness before going at all. It really is for everyone whether you regularly compete in runs and competitions or have never run anywhere in your life or lifted a single weight.
BMF: What made you decide to climb Mount Kilimanjaro?
I've wanted to climb Kilimanjaro for a number of years now ever since a trip to Africa was cut short a few years ago due to some civil unrest that was occurring at the time. I always felt cheated out of the experience and so it had remained high on my bucket list since then. I'd previously lived in Japan for a year and had climbed Mount Fuji, which at the time was a real challenge as I was still recovering from a broken leg in two places. The satisfaction I got when I reached the summit and saw how far we had climbed above the clouds to see sunrise was an unforgettable moment and I had wanted to repeat something like that again. In order to do that though, I needed a bigger mountain and at 5895m Kilimanjaro was it.
BMF: How did you feel ahead of the climb?
In the run up to the trip I actually felt pretty calm about the climb. Everyone kept asking me if I'd done any training for it or how I'd prepared for it and I just kept saying, "just BMF, as usual". For doing it regularly for so long I felt confident enough that I was in good enough shape for it. I would never have felt this way before starting though. I remember finding the Inca trail pretty hard when I was just a 'regular gym goer'. I did try to squeeze in an extra couple of sessions before heading off though and I'm sure they helped. The last one was particularly helpful actually as Jel, my regular instructor, and some of the other members knew about the Kili trip so gave me some 'extra' motivation and encouragement throughout the class; continually reminding me of the uphill pushing I'd have to do. Particular exercises were given in my honour and there was even an attempted human tower at the end to wish me luck.
I also managed to find out that one of the other members had previously done it and was able to get some very useful tips from him right before going. The whole group were very supportive and after that last class I was ready and raring to go.
When I finally got to Tanzania and started the climb, I felt great. Our guide seemed pretty confident that neither me nor my partner would fall into the percentage of people who wouldn't make it as he considered us both to be fit and 'powerful' to use his words. The first 3 days were a breeze but it got considerably harder after that, due to the altitude. Fortunately our general fitness wasn't something additional we had to worry about though. The hardest part of the whole thing was waking up at midnight and beginning the 7 hour climb to the summit after already doing a really tiring 6 hour walk earlier that day with several steep, long uphill climbs and steep descents. The legs were already tired and we had had very little sleep. I was also having trouble with migraines from the altitude so that also didn't help. After unfortunately having to admit we both vomited several times as we got over 5000m (apparently this is a fairly common result of lack of oxygen in the stomach), we ploughed on and finally made it to the top to see the most incredible sunrise and see the phenomenal glacial ridges from the top. I definitely shed quite a number of happy tears from the sheer relief I felt at our resilience and accomplishment. Due to the mountain sickness we were both suffering with, we did begin our descent relatively quickly but not before my obligatory photo in my BMF bib to send as a thank you to Jel and all those who offered encouragement and luck in my last class before the climb. CHEERS GUYS!
We rewarded ourselves after the climb with a 5 day safari - being driven around before ending with a week in Zanzibar on the beach in the sun. We felt we had definitely earned some relaxation time!
BMF: So what's next!?
I'm not too sure just yet, I'm doing my second 10k major series run in a month or so with BMF and have been toying with the the idea of perhaps a half marathon but the bucket list is forever growing with every trip we take so will just have to wait and see for the moment...
To find out more about British Military Fitness, please visit: www.britishmilitaryfitness.com or simply join us for a free trial class.