The head of marketing for The Gardens Mall underwent an extraordinary journey that tested her limits to reach the Base Camp with her husband Michael Helfman. Here, she shares seven tips on how she went from ‘unfit’ to ‘mountain climbing fit’.

1. Start by finding a fitness regime that works for you

“I was never a fit person. As I grew older, I realised my health was going ‘downhill’. Yet it still it took me a while before I begrudgingly told myself I needed to exercise. Three years ago, I read this article about these two fitness gurus named Karena Dawn and Katrina Scott who were taking the Internet by storm. They were pioneering a movement known as Tone It Up—publishing workouts and nutrition plans online for you to follow. It was all about eating healthy and staying fit, and I wanted to do that. That was how my fitness journey began. I would do a workout at least once a day, seven days a week, from cardio to toning to outdoor activities. I even cooked my own meals!”

Also read: How to start a new exercise routine, and stick to it

2. When you feel confident enough, just do it!

"My husband Mike and I did a trek through Annapurna before we got married, and at that time, I was very unfit, but somehow I still made it. He then said that he wanted to try EBC one day, and I told him to go with his friends because I wasn’t going to do it. However, after starting the fitness regime, I thought I could do it after all. Last year, sometime in May, I decided not to procrastinate anymore and went for it. I thought to myself, if not now, then when? That was all it took for me to make up my mind. We found a few friends and we confirmed the trek."

3. Work hard for that climb

"After that, there were no more excuses, I had a goal that I needed to keep working out for. I trained myself and sort of tailored workouts for myself. Of course, no one needs to train for a year. If you give yourself three to five months, it should be fine. A word of advice—Plan your exercise routines across different disciplines. Aside from improving your stamina, cardio, endurance and leg strength, do not forget nor neglect your shoulders and arm strength."

See also: Hannah Lo's 9 tips for caring for your spiritual wellbeing

4. Be mentally prepared

"While the physical training for the trek was intense, it was the mental strength that helped me through the climb. I would advise potential trekkers to be prepared, that the journey will push you to your limits physically, emotionally and mentally. The trek to EBC can be long and strenuous, sometimes climbing uphill for one and a half to two hours straight. You will also have to rough things out. Thankfully, because of my research before the trek, I was already ready to rough it out, with the very basics in terms of accommodation and toilets."

5. Do not take altitude sickness lightly

"Sometimes during the climb, I would see helicopters flying in and out, evacuating people, especially those who were suffering from altitude sickness. You can be the fittest person and still get altitude sickness. It is not a joke when the sickness hits. Especially the closer you get to base camp, the thinner the air feels. I think being mentally positive also helped me in getting to base camp and back. I started suffering from altitude sickness at about 4,200m, having headaches, feeling nauseated and vomiting. That evening, I couldn’t even get out of bed. During the night, I told myself I had to get well and couldn’t let this stop me from reaching base camp. Somehow, the next morning, I was feeling fine and soldiered on."

6. Don’t do it all by yourself

"If possible, be sure that you are trekking with positive company. When the conditions are hard, you need to keep going. The only way to do so is to be among good vibes. Surround yourself with people that motivate, encourage and support you. That was what my husband Mike did. Having a workout partner, and someone who would follow you for the climb, is always an advantage."

7. Enjoy the Experience

"I cannot describe the feeling of finally arriving at Everest Base Camp. I cried, no, I bawled. I spent the whole trek up the mountain entirely focused on the journey that when I reached the destination, it hit me, what I have achieved. It felt surreal. To me, it was not just an item to tick off my bucket list. It was so much more than that—it was a transformative experience. I don’t think anything else can top that!"

Photos: Gabrielle Tan-Helfman

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