A week ago, 100km was just a number in my head. A number that I had to overcome in 48 hours but a number that I WOULD overcome. I am a power lifter who enjoys the process of bodybuilding. I lift heavy barbells and dumbbells and I enjoy every bit of the big muscles I’ve created over the years.
I’d never taken part in marathons leave alone endurance walks. Hell, I never even took part in any 100m+ races in school. I’m a fitness blogger and I believe that fitness should not be limited to a single domain. What I believe is that the ultimate goal of fitness is becoming ‘THE BEST VERSION OF YOURSELF’. And, if your endurance stats don’t match up to your strength levels, you are stopping yourself from reaching that ultimate goal.
So with no prior endurance training experience, I readily agreed to challenge myself and signed up for the Oxfam 100km trail walk.
A bit of a pre story – I didn’t practice much for the trail walk. Endurance training is known to deplete your muscles in terms of size. My muscles are my brand and I couldn’t let go of them. So I chose a midway path and decided to go for 10-15km jogs every week. These jogs may or may not have helped me, I don’t know for sure.
In saying that, I do not recommend that you don’t practice for the walk. I have been a strength and fitness coach for 4-5 years. My body has reached a level of fitness where I was capable of executing the walk without much hassle. But, it may not be the same case for everyone.
After I completed the walk, I realized that practice IS crucial for an average person. Especially those for whom fitness isn’t the central theme of their life. Make sure you go for a few practice walks if you don’t want to end up injuring yourself!
Coming to what I learnt. The lessons –
Firstly, you need to understand the MAGNITUDE of a 100km. Most people who live in cities aren’t even used to walking 1km at a stretch.
The day before the walk, I had a word with a 53 year old lady who was participating with me. She told me that this was her 3rd trail walk and the biggest advice she gave me was “DO NOT GIVE UP”. I was told that the trail walk is entirely a mind game. And, as we progressed, I came to learn that exactly.
This was psychologically THE MOST testing activity I’ve ever done in my life. Most participants’ bodies break down at the 30 km mark. This largely happens due to non-practice and not realizing how your body reacts to an extreme strenuous activity.
Post 30km most end up having knee issues, ankle pain and blisters on their feet. Irrespective of your fitness levels, the game is to constantly fight off the pain you’re feeling, and move FORWARD. As I continued my walk, I realized that I’d never done something so grueling in my life.
There were some stretches in the trail walk that were SO intense, that I was almost sleepwalking. My mind had switched off entirely, it was the middle of the night, my hands were numb and frozen. But, my legs kept moving forward. My legs were the only entities active in my entire body.
And this was just ONE of the many testing moments.
Every trail had its own challenges. There was a trail that was an entirely upward climb. There was a trail conquered in lava-esque afternoon heat. There was a trail conquered on an open, ice-cold tar-road in the middle of the night. But, more than anything there were countless instances of pain and challenge. I can’t stress on how big the psychological aspect of the walk is. Training from an endurance standpoint will only get you so far. The real test was conquering the pain, the heat, the cold and your dead lower body.
What I honestly believe as a weight training coach is that weights do not only help you look good. Barbells and dumbbells are making you a STRONGER HUMAN BEING. Your muscles, your nervous system AND your grit is getting worked with every set you perform in the gym. My concern before the walk was “would I be too stiff or too bulky to complete the race.”
But, if anything, I believe that weight training played a role in helping me overcome the pain barrier. And, when we’re talking about a 100km trail walk, pain is your biggest enemy. There were countless fellow walkers with me who had to take breaks, had to rest at check points and had to get physiotherapy done on themselves. Of course I had instances like this. But, my instances were relatively fewer than my fellow conquerors.
This is where I feel like my elevated strength levels paid off. Despite not practicing much from an endurance standpoint, I was able to complete the entire walk in 36 hours. 12 short of the time limit. A great achievement for my first trail walk. But, this achievement was nowhere close to the REAL prize.
The trail walk showed me a new form of fitness. Yes, the endurance training is something new, from a physical perspective. Endurance walks like these make your mind and focus ROCK SOLID. 100km is not a number for me anymore. It’s a trophy.
When you actually overcome ONE HUNDRED kilometers, it is indeed a ‘Big Deal’. Your feet will be blistered up, your knees will be jammed solid, and your ankles will feel like they’re 150 years old, but your mind – Your mind will feel like its limits have been expanded.
The only way to expand your limits is to push yourself to their edges. And that was what this trail walk was for me. It was a test, a foe and most of all a teacher. Remember your biggest challenges are your biggest gurus. In my entire fitness-life, there hasn’t been a challenge of this magnitude. There hasn’t been an experience that has toughened me up so much.
This is the beauty of fitness. I am one step closer to being the BEST VERSION OF MYSELF – thank you for the opportunity GOQii and Oxfam India.