My overriding thought about this week is "I wouldn't want to be a farmer!"
Coach Tom (along with his colleague, Javier from Be Fearsome fitness) decided that my wildcard challenge for this month should be 'farmer walks for 1 mile carrying 40kg'.
I must admit my first thought was 'One mile, that doesn't seem very far?!' Well I'm glad I let the experts decide, otherwise I dread to think how I would have got on!
I have an extra nod of authenticity to my South American challenge with this activity, as Javier, the trainer spurring me on is Argentinian. He had measured out a 50m section at Hyde Park and so I was to do 32 laps of that carrying a 20kg kettle bell in each hand.
This video shows one of my first 50m laps....you should have seen me by the end! It looks deceptively easy, but trust me, when the grips are digging into your hands (should have worn gloves!) and your arms and shoulders don't feel like your own, it takes every effort to hold onto the weights, but at the same time, every time you put them down you know it is going to be an even bigger effort to pick them up again. Javier was shouting his encouragement and reminding me to use my larger muscles (traps, lats, abs, glutes) to take the load and not to use my arms. I must admit that halfway through I was wondering if I was going to be able to pull this off. And as if that wasn't enough, to 'mix it up a bit' he also got me to do 20 x 16kg squats; 20 x 16kg deadlifts; 20 x 16kg rows and 20 x 12kg military presses. Muchas gracias Javier!
I had cleverly planned to meet up with a couple of cycling friends in Regents Park afterwards, this did involve a 10k detour, but one well worth it for a couple of lovely homemade, and I think well earned, banana muffins courtesy of Nikki.
I underestimated how much this challenge would take out of me the day or so afterwards, especially when I decided to bike over to Teddington for what I had hoped would be a recovery swim. The fact that it is a 21km ride each way is usually enough, but my god, the wind was against me at every turn. I have to question what BBC weather considers a 'moderate breeze' and likewise 'light rain showers' as I ran into an epic downpour on the way back - shouting out loud as wheelie bins careered across the main road in front of me, whilst rain lashed me in the face. To add to that, when in the river the flow was going one way and the wind the other, meaning that my tow float was bouncing around off my head and getting me generally tangled up. It also caused a bit of concern for onlookers when a large lump of driftwood bashed off my head causing me to abruptly stop and look up slightly stunned.
So whilst this week was not necessarily about the distance, I am pleased to say that having covered a total of 1886 km to date, I would now have crossed into Peru and passed the tiny town of Puerto Galilea in the Rio Santiago district. In such a remote area I could well have had to draw on my abilities to carry/push my fully laden bike through the terrain, so the 40kg challenge was definitely well timed (even though I am glad to see the back of it!)
The distances this week looked like this:
Farmers Walks with 40kg: 1.62km
For some added inspiration this week, I released my latest video conversation which I had recorded with Coach Tom. As a former Royal Marines Commando, I am always interested in how we draws on the skills he used in the military to challenge himself and others. Have a watch below for some tips on how we can all stay resilient and motivated in our everyday lives.
I was under strict instructions to scale down my distances this week as Coach Tom was concerned that I was overdoing it a bit. It's true I have become slightly obsessed with the amount I have been doing, as not only am I doing the challenge distances, but still carrying on with my strength and TRX training etc which means I have regularly been doing over 14 hours of training a week. Time to take it a bit easier this week (although I did still seem to cover 154.7km...)
The distances look like this:
It's been lovely to be in the river when the flow is calmer and the temperature is 8 degrees. I never thought this would feel 'comfortable' and it makes me happy to think about how much more I will be able to swim when the restrictions ease. Roll on the opening up of the Serpentine in Hyde Park again at the end of the month! Although that said, I have made a good friend and 'guardian lifeguard' during my Thames swims in the form of this little lady...
I also took the opportunity to scope out a new location a short distance from my partner's flat in the lovely town of Marlow. He teased me that I probably had my swimming costume on under my clothes as we went for a walk along the river...and I wish I had! Now here is a spot for the long awaited paddle boarding and kayaking too.
Meanwhile in South America, having covered a total of 1,729.4km I would currently be just past Logrońo and Sucúa in Ecuador. Sucúa is a small town with a population of just under 8,000 people, set in a humid, highly botanical region popular for jungle trips and river rafting on the Rio Upano.
As I continue south alongside the north west border with Peru, I will be travelling through the Parque Nacional Sangay. This national park contains three of Ecuador's most magnificent volcanoes. As such, had I actually been there, cycling certain elements would be very tricky and would include hiking sections and pushing or carrying the bike.
So, it must surely be time for this months challenge on that theme? And so it was set:
"Farmers walks of at least one mile in one session carrying 40kg"
For those not familiar with what 'farmers walks' are, they are also known as 'the farmers carry' and are one of the original, all round exercises for a total body workout. As you have to carry a significant weight in each hand, it challenges balance and stability, as well as working a wide range of muscles including abs, shoulders, hamstrings, quads and also grip strength. Very much replicating what it might be like to carry a fully laden hybrid bike!
Let's see how I get on next week....
After a heavy few weeks of mileage and weight challenges on the bike,I was starting to feel it, and taking some advice from a good friend, decided it was time to 'go with the flow' and listen to how my body was feeling.
That said, the 170.4km I covered were a lot harder than they should have been, as the calm sunshine on the Thames at the start of the week soon turned to 40mph gusting winds by the end of it! It's a bizarre feeling to be pedalling hard and barely going at 15km/hr one minute with the wind in your face, to then whizzing along at 35km/hr with a gust behind you.
But it's all good in terms of creating a realistic experience, as the last time I remember wind conditions like this was actually in South America in 2017 where we battled against it for the final 100km of our climb between Argentina and Chile buffeted by winds of over 40mph as this little clip confirms..
The 'lower' kms covered break down like this:
I took the opportunity to do a ride along the Grand Union Canal this week thinking (wrongly) that the flat conditions may make it easier in the wind. It's always a wonder to me how the landscape changes as you go west along this path. From the section which passes over the North Circular Road (always a bit surreal to see traffic streaming past on a dual carriageway beneath you), to the calm peaceful stretches near the Ealing parks. And yes, that is a ladybird bell on my bike - every serious athlete has one ;)
By now, with 1,575km covered in total, I would have passed the capital of Ecuador, Quito, and be traversing the Llanganates National Park. This park is famous for the 'Treasure of the Llanganates' referring to a huge amount of gold, silver, platinum and electrum artifacts supposedly hidden deep within the Llanganates mountain range of Ecuador by the Inca general Rumiñahui. The park also boasts the 4570m high peak of Cerro Hormoso (or beautiful mountain). It is the landscape here that really speaks to me as it looks nostalgically like the rugged beauty of my homeland in Scotland (albeit it very different in climate!) At the moment I am pining for any holiday, South America is the pipe dream, and Aberdeen a slightly more realistic one, surely this year I will get there??
Following the theme of listening to what my body and mind needed this week, I had been taking some tips from a two part conversation that I released with resilience coach Cath Kane on Challenges Change and Curveballs: Strategies to stay grounded despite the pandemic. Even though she was in Washington DC during the whole of 2020, she definitely kept me sane with our regular coaching calls and 'Enterprising Women' group chats. I am delighted that she is now back in London and we are hosting a webinar on Tools and Techniques for Radical Self Care later this month. Have a look at my webpage for more details and how to sign up for this FREE event!
This week brought with it many contrasts, including another dip in temperature, and some subsequent misty morning swims in the Thames. The flow rate in the river might have dropped, but equally the temperature change was making for some shivery dressing sessions on the river bank! I have to say though that these little river swims are something that I really look forward to. Seeing some friendly faces, and even inspiring one man who had been passing by and watching us with interest, to swim in open water for the first time. He's now hooked, which gives me a great sense of satisfaction to be able to pass on some of this joy to someone else.
Total distance this week is 218.45km (a new record!) which breaks down like this:
But away from the moody weather, I would currently have crossed into a new country - Ecuador! Translated as 'Republic of the Equator' this country is bordered of course by Colombia in the north, Peru in the east and south and also includes the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific, about 1,000km west of the mainland.
I would be arriving at Ibarra, a city in northern Ecuador which lies at the foot of the Imbabura Volcano, and on the left bank of the Tahuando river. Its colonial whitewashed buildings have given it the nickname La Ciudad Blanca, or The White City.
An interesting culinary fact of the area, is the the 'helados de paila' or handmade ice creams and sorbets were originally made during Incan times using the snow or ice from the nearby Imbabura volcano when it was snowbound.
Something which cast a major cloud over my week though as a Director of my own Limited company was the much anticipated budget announcement. Being part of the #ForgottenLtd group, I have been supporting their tireless campaigning over the past 12 months to get the Government to recognise the 3million plus people in the same situation as myself who have had next to no financial support during the pandemic.
I can't stress how utterly let down and disappointed I was to see that we have yet again been ignored. This clever YouTube 'advert' below sums up our Chancellor's attitude to us. If only I could have made myself a pair of headphones to drown out the Government over the past year.
BUT, onwards and upwards, and the challenge continues (in every sense!)
Denise Yeats is an events director, communications consultant, endurance athlete and avid adventurer.