Once I decided that I would climb Mount Rwenzori this year, I asked two friends of mine who did the climb last year, to give me tips on how best to prepare, and my oh my! One message was clear – I had to get as fit as I could for the climb. I had to climb steps, do strength training, walk long distances – the whole shebang. And so I threw myself into getting fit.
This time last year (and for many years before that), I was a classic couch potato – in fact, I often think that someone must have observed my life and coined the word expressly for me. The only exercise I did – if you can even call it that, was the walk from my bedroom to my car. And this was not for lack of trying. I had walked with a group of lawyer friends. We walked the hills of Kololo for about three months – doing two evenings per week. We then all became too busy to maintain the walking. A year or two later, I teamed up with a group of girls friends and we walked Kololo again – a few nights a week. What plagued and frustrated me the most was the guilt I felt at walking in the evenings, knowing that I was missing out on spending time with my kids, supervising homework and having supper with them. Anyone who knows the traffic jam situation in Kampala, knows how hard the evening drive home can be. We would do our walking exercise from 6 to 7 p.m. and then it would take me another hour to get home. Tired of feeling guilty, I gave up the exercise. About two years ago, I attended a one month boot camp for women. We did exercise every evening at a school ground in Kampala. It was fun while it lasted, and I really, really wanted to maintain doing exercise, but my resolve quickly melted away.
Last year though, through a friend, I discovered dance fitness exercise and I loved it. I love to dance, so it was easy to connect with this exercise. I threw myself at it and have never looked back. I now do ‘Cheza’, as it’s called, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning. We dance hard and sweat buckets! And we have loads of fun!
This year, in keeping with the advice I was given by my two friends, I threw myself into all kinds of exercise routines. I still do Cheza, and to that I added Torture Club – the exercises are torture, but also fun at the same time. I used to climb steps at Workers House, going up and down 4 times all the way to the 19th Floor. I also do exercise with my friends who are going to do the climb with me. We have done two – four hour walks. The first one was murder!!!! Literally. I could not feel my legs by the end of the walk. The second one was a bit easier – this time we walked from Nsambya to Kisubi (along Entebbe Road). This coming Friday we hope to walk the whole length of the Northern by-pass. We also recently started spinning together. Spinning is exercise on stationary bikes, done to music. I absolutely love it.
It is great for toning the leg and thigh muscles.
Is all this hard work – yes! Is it always fun – no. A few weeks ago, as I was struggling through some exercise, my lungs were bursting, my legs were aching, I had a moment of deep discouragement. I asked myself why I was pushing myself so hard. I asked myself what I was trying to prove (and to whom), by climbing Mount Rwenzori. I almost wanted to walk away from it all and go back to my couch potato status. But after sharing my thoughts and discouragement with my team mates, they encouraged me to keep going.
Some days are great and I get to do three and a half hours of exercise. During one of the Torture Club sessions, one of my team mates kept repeating this mantra “I am master of my body. My body does not control me, I control my body” – I thought it was great and I picked it up. I use it when the going gets tough – I am master of my body, my body does not master me.
We are climbing Rwenzori in July this year, so we still have several more months of rigorous preparation. But I believe the benefits will far outweigh the cost. Through it all, I am clinging to the lessons I learn each day – that each work out counts, that pursuing a goal takes discipline and the right preparation, that working as a team makes the going much easier and makes for great bonding moments and building friendships, I am learning to press past my limits, I am learning anew my high school motto of old – Never Give Up!
Mountains can be scaled. It takes work, but it’s well worth it.