by Diane Westaway
In the year 2000, I attempted to climb Mt Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the southern hemisphere, with a team of five other climbers and two guides. As a result of conflict, inexperience and poor leadership, disaster struck. The group became separated and had to battle one hundred kilometre per hour blizzards while struggling without guides to a 20,000 ft high camp. We were forced to retreat, without reaching the 23,000 ft summit and without achieving our goal.
This difficult, but extraordinary experience changed my life forever. The awesome power of goal-oriented adventure fitness struck me and I knew that I had found my new passion. Five years later, I trained, encouraged and guided thirteen middle aged Aussie mums and two grandmothers, to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, the world’s highest freestanding mountain.
During training we visualised summiting and watching the burnt orange glow of the sunrise over the African desert. The reality of the challenge, however, found us convulsing with waves of diarrhea and vomiting in a life threatening blizzard. The wind and sleet was so strong that some of the team crawled up the bleak icy peak. Eventually though, all fifteen stood proudly on the summit. Fifty year old Amanda, the general manager of a major corporation and a marathon runner, summed up the experience concisely, saying: ‘Climbing Kilimanjaro is the best thing I’ve ever done.’
Forty year old career mum Megan said: ‘I was told I was a princess and that I’d never do it. Well, now I’ve proved that even princesses can climb high altitude mountains.’ Megan was photographed on the summit with a tiara on her head!
This achievement re-wrote the record books for the mountain. Accepted wisdom says that mums don’t climb mountains and that grandmas definitely don’t! Statistics also show a one in four success rate for conquering Mt Kilimanjaro; it’s unheard of for an entire group to summit, let alone a group of fifteen Aussie mums!
Why did these women succeed where others have failed? Because of their training, both physical and mental, and their team work. This is where you, as a fitness professional come in. You have the knowledge and skills to train people for life changing adventures.
Ordinary people: extraordinary goals
Ordinary people achieve extraordinary goals because you, as a fitness professional, inspire and train them to do so.In this industry we see this on a daily basis as we train individuals who have neglected their physical wellbeing to achieve levels of fitness that they would previously have thought impossible. Adapting this training to adventure fitness challenges can change both you and your clients’ lives forever, and give fitness training a new purpose. And after the training it is possible for you to lead them on these adventure challenges, have a fantastic time and maybe even have all your expenses covered.
In addition to supporting the aesthetic and health goals of your clients, you will provide them with an experiential event. According to Jim Josephson, owner of Climbfit in Sydney: ‘The people in this gym who go on adventures are on fire. They come back pumped and inspired for the next challenge.’ Running an adventure challenge business, and leading expeditions is not an easy task, but the rewards are immeasurable. It took me six years to develop my business model, which I will now share with you.
Start with the goal – your client’s goal. Develop the plan according to your client’s interests and make it daring, exciting, adventurous and physical. Talk to your clients and brainstorm until you come up with some options suited to your market. Find something that excites a few of them and the enthusiasm will be contagious.If your clients are mostly corporate men, you might aim for the world’s Seven Summits, climbing the highest mountain on each continent. Alternatively, a mountaineering course in New Zealand or ice climbing in Antarctica may present themselves as options.
If you have mostly single or corporate women as clients, climbing Mt Kilimanjaro in Africa, the highest freestanding mountain on earth, Mt Elbrus, the highest mountain in Europe, or Mt Kinabalu, the highest mountain in Borneo, could be considered.
For the mums market, you might start with Fansipan, Vietnam’s highest mountain, the Milford Track in New Zealand or Machu Picchu in Peru.
Keep an open mind about your clients, and don’t let their age, sex or physical appearance limit the possibilities when planning adventure challenges. Eileen is a small, pear-shaped 56-year-old who presents an unlikely image of a ‘Seven Summiter’, but her strength and incredible commitment are evident by the six hundred kilometres she travels twice weekly to training. Once a plan has been established you will find that people rise to the challenge.
Plan and execute a training program
Once your team’s goal has been established, the enthusiasm and excitement will be infectious. Get online to research and read everything you can about the adventure, and encourage your clients to do likewise.
The next stage is planning a training schedule for the adventure. Individually assess your clients and work out an appropriate time frame to prepare for your challenge. Use your professional skills to provide a safe, sequential supervised fitness program specifically designed for the journey ahead.
You will need to train your team up to three times a week for activities which might include fitness walking, trekking, jogging, strengthening exercises and stretching. The workouts should be strongly goal oriented, and programs should run for the three to six months leading up to the specific wilderness adventure. It is also useful to occasionally bring the team out of its comfort zone to take on additional challenges such as canyoning, abseiling, rock climbing and mountaineering.
You will teach your clients how to establish a fitness base, and will then build on this with ever-increasing intensity to fine tune their bodies for the fitness challenge ahead. When the team finally sets out on its adventure, every muscle and joint will be prepared for action.
If you are interested in leading a team of clients on an adventure challenge, then outdoor adventure companies can show you a proven system of training tailored to your choice of adventure, and guide you through the program, preparation and equipment requirements to suit your group’s challenge.
Some companies take the cost of your own trip into consideration when you book your team on the adventure. This can ensure that your personal trip costs are covered, enabling you to accompany your clients and enjoy the adventure challenge with them at no cost to yourself. Alternatively, you can put the entire adventure together yourself and develop a ‘lifestyle’ business to keep you and your clients happily adventuring for years to come.
Developing the necessary skills
If you are interested in getting involved in the adventure fitness industry, you have a couple of options to obtain the necessary skills. You can enroll in outdoor industry courses, including bushwalking, trekking, bush navigation, mountaineering, bush survival, bush first aid, abseiling, rock climbing and vertical rescue. Alternatively, you can join a Fitfa Adventure training course which will teach you everything you need to know to run your own adventure fitness programs. These courses will include training in:
• adventure fitness goal setting
• technical gear selection and requirements
• basic wilderness navigation
• basic bush first aid
• trekking and pack walking
• rogaining (team bush navigation)
• camp cooking and group gear
• charity adventure challenges
• corporate adventure challenges.
You can contact Fitfa Adventure on 0419 612 704, or e-mail e-mail email@example.com
Diane Westaway, BEd GradDipJournalism
A highly qualified fitness professional, Diane is a former National Gymnastics and Aerobics Champion, Fitness Leader of the Year and current National Masters Bouldering Championship Runner-up. She is the Director of Fitfa Adventure and is trained in trekking, navigation, mountaineering, abseiling and rock climbing. If you’re interested in finding out more about Fitfa Adventure Challenges check out www.fitfa.com, ring Diane on 0419 612 704 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
NETWORK • SPRING 2006 • PP59-62