There’s no escaping the fact that Mt Toubkal in the Moroccan Atlas Mountains is a whopping great big mountain and that climbing it needs to be taken seriously!
As the highest mountain in North Africa, it makes sense to get properly fit BEFORE heading off to climb the beast.
Preparation for Climbing Mt Toubkal
I’m joining a group of 24 friends all aiming to climb the mountain to raise funds for MacMillan Cancer Support. I’ve committed and I can’t let the team down, so here’s how I’m going to make sure I’m not a hindrance on the trip.
Step 1: Visit the Doctor
First, I had to face the fact that I’m over 50 and I’m (much) less fit than I used to be. A visit to the doctor seemed like a good plan. I needed to check whether my aspiration to go and climb a mountain this year was achievable (with appropriate preparation and effort) or total insanity.
After the spectacular embarrassment of standing on the scales in the doctor’s surgery (holy crap!), I knew had some things to work on. The cold, hard truth is that I need to:
- Shift at least 50 lbs (where did they come from???)
- Increase my lung capacity (it’s quite handy to be able to breathe up there where the air is thin…)
- Improve my cardiovascular fitness (too many years of driving a desk)
But she also said this was an awesome challenge and there was no medical reason not to embrace the opportunity. I’m booked to go back in to see her in three months for a progress check…
Step 2: Understand the Physical Challenge
Here’s what the schedule includes:
Day 1: Fly to Marrakech
Arrive around midday, allowing time to explore the Marrakech medina (old walled city) before being picked up for the transfer to Imlil and dinner. I’m pretty confident about this bit!
Day 2: Trek from Imlil to the Toubkal Mountain Hut (3207m)
A 16km up-hill hike (yikes!) which should take six hours, but will feel tough because of the altitude. It’s a walk, not a race, with regular breaks to refuel and a stop half-way for lunch.
Day 3: Summit Day (4,167m)
The day starts before dawn with a three to four hour hike to the summit to watch the sunrise. Then it’s the six to seven hour hike back down, past the Refuge and all the way to Imlil. A long day, with up to 11 hours of walking at a gentle pace and regular breaks, but all worth it for that view from the summit and the sense of achievement!
Day 4: Heading Home
Transfer back to Marrakech for the flight onward to home, where I may take up residence in the bath!
Step 3: Create a Fitness Plan
I scoured the web for inspirational posts about how to get fit for a mountain climb, but couldn’t find anything geared towards an unfit, boomer woman. So, I invested in me and hired a personal trainer to coach me to optimal fitness, a big step for me.
The first meeting felt a bit like taking my clothes off in public as I ‘confessed’ my weight and BMI (OMG!!), then waited for him to laugh at my plan. Luckily, he was positive and suggested that my plan was totally achievable. Hoorah!
I paid my deposit for the trip and signed up for some intense training on the spot.
Step 4: Get Some Proper Training Gear
After shuffling round a local 5k Parkrun in el-cheapo ‘trainers’ from Sainsbugs, I ended up with a nasty case of tendonitis. I also looked like a tomato ready to explode, as I overheated in the crappy old leggings/t-shirt combo I unearthed from the dark recesses of my wardrobe. Plus there was the exquisite embarassment of the leggings deciding to roll down my belly at every 10 paces, so I constantly had to hitch them up or risk frightening small children!
I realised that the time had come to buy proper, supportive running and fitness shoes, a new sports bra (not the 10-year old one in the drawer!) and some fitness clothes that wouldn’t make me feel like I might spontaneously combust. I didn’t want to spend a fortune on gear I hoped would soon be too big for me, but I did want kit that would work.
Step 4: Follow the Plan!!
Having shelled out for new gear, for the trip to Morocco itself and for four months of personal training up front, you would think I’d find it easy to stick to the training plan, but it wasn’t. It was ridiculously hard and I almost gave up,
several many times.
The fitness plan:
I have seven and a half months to get super fit, ready for Morocco! I’m aiming to lose 7lbs per month, which should be about 50lbs by the time of the trek. It’s a big ask, but here’s my plan:
10k steps EVERY day! Plus:
- Mondays: 60 minutes circuit training and thigh killer bootcamp
- Tuesdays: Rest Day
- Wednesdays: 30-minute run/walk
- Thursdays: 1-hour swim
- Fridays: Rest Day
- Saturdays: 5k parkrun
- Sundays: Build up hill walking time, carrying my day pack loaded with 2 litres of water
- FEB (Month 1): 1-hour walks
- MAR (Month 2): 2-hour walks
- APR (Month 3): 3-hour walks, some on the steep, beautiful cliff paths on Jersey
- MAY (Month 4): 4-hour walks, with a ‘practice climb’ up Mount Snowdon in Wales
- JUN (Month 5): 5-hour walks
- JUL and AUG (Months 6 and 7): 6-hour walks, with a ‘practice climb’ up Scotland’s mighty Ben Nevis in July
- SEP (Month 8): Bring on Mt Toubkal!
There are some simple daily changes I’m making too. I’m making more healthy eating choices, drinking more water and walking more that I have done for years.
Check back again to see how I get on with the training and on the mountain 🙂
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