For the past couple of years I have been fortunate enough to be involved with some amazing trips, expeditions and adventures all over the world. Visiting these beautiful and interesting places is very special, as is the sense of achievement you feel after pushing yourself both physically and mentally.
For the majority of my expeditions the rest of the team has been all male. It’s just the way it tends to work out. I very much enjoy sharing these experiences with my male friends, as these are some of my closest friends, but I am also fully aware that most of them are naturally bigger and stronger than me. Strangely enough, I find this really motivating! I know that in order to keep up with the guys I need to train hard.
My most recent adventure was to Russia. With a big snow pack this year and a lot of hot weather, the river levels were extremely high. This meant that what were ordinarily difficult white-water rapids, were now much bigger, with more power and more consequence.
I therefore knew that this trip was not only going to be a big adventure, it would also be a big challenge. The rivers were going to be big, the rapids full-on, the gorges committing and the days long. Add to this that we would be in remote mountainous locations, where help would be a long way away, emphasizing the need to avoid mistakes.
So I decided if I was serious about going on this trip I would need to be as prepared as possible, meaning that I needed to be get very fit and very strong, quickly! This was another reason the trip appealed to me- I wanted something to train for and this was perfect!
The next few months included a semi-structured program of kayaking, running, strength work and long walks-with a kayak. Which got me a lot of strange looks from dog walkers!
Working at The National Water sports Centre in Nottingham this summer meant that I could fit in regular sessions on the white-water course to build paddle fitness and endurance, ready for those long days on the river.
I’m already a keen runner, so I continued to ensure I was running 5-10k at least 3 times a week. The boat walking part of my training was probably the toughest, especially in the hot weather we had this summer. Twice a week I walked 5k with my boat on my back, which was a great way of building strength and stamina. This was also useful for getting used to my new carry system, which as anyone who is short can relate with, can need several adaptions and alterations to get the boat balanced right without hitting you in the ankles!
The months flew by and before we knew it we were on a plane heading to Novosbirsk. Every section we paddled on the trip was much higher in volume than typical, with massive waves, holes and boiley confused water. We worked as a team to get safely down the river each day, and had a great time whilst doing so!
As well as needing to use strength getting through the powerful rapids on the rivers, we also needed our strength off the river. With no kit in, our boats weighed approximately 22kg. However, once loaded with a sleeping bag, group shelter, food, dry clothes, first aid and rescue gear, they quickly became much heavier. During a multi-day expedition we hiked for 5k with fully-loaded boats in temperatures in excess of 35ºc, to then get straight back in to paddling challenging white-water.
Although difficult at times, the trip was a great success. Full-on adventures and great team work made memories that will last forever.
Putting the training in before a big trip can make a significant difference to the success of each day on the river, as fatigue would not be helpful when you need those quick reactions and powerful strokes in demanding big volume water. Being stronger and fitter before the trip meant that I could enjoy myself on the river more and helped me to keep up with the boys!
None the less we all still came back thoroughly exhausted, but super happy!
Thank you to Mark Hirst and Anton Sveshnikov for organising the trip, as well as Aapo Halonon, Jake Holland, Chris Doyle-Kelly and Dmitry Ermolov for making it unforgettable!