The phone alarm pierced the silence while it was still pitch black in our bedroom. Rory and I groaned and blinked ourselves awake, then without a word tiptoed down to the sittingroom, deftly avoiding the creaky stairs, like naughty children in search of midnight snacks. Except, this was less about the midnight snacks, more about the early morning squats.
This is what happens when you have no time in the day to train: you’re forced to squeeze it into what I generally consider the night, i.e. before 7am. But perhaps this is no bad thing. No child should have to witness their parents in the act of bird-dogging. Imagine if they told everyone at school that they’d caught mummy and daddy planking together on the sittingroom floor? They wouldn’t understand. Truth be told, I don’t understand.
The thing I don’t understand the most is how anyone could ever enjoy this sort of thing.
On day 1 of the ‘Arctic Trek Training Plan’ we started with the plank. Propped up on forearms and toes, we each held our bodyweight for as long as possible. I managed 37 seconds, Rory 1 minute 28 seconds, before we both collapsed in an exhausted sweaty heap.
Moving on: the bird dog. This involves getting onto your hands and knees, then raising one arm horizontally in front of you (à la superman), while lifting the opposite leg straight out behind you. (I have to assume this is the dog bit. If only we had a lamppost in the sittingroom I could fulfil two early morning functions in one go.)
Oddly, I could do this no problem with my left hand and my right leg, but not at all the other way around. I spent a not-so-good ten minutes wobbling about on all fours, faltering, repositioning, trying to get my balance. I’d like to say this provoked a fit of giggles. It didn’t: it made me remarkably cross. So I gave up.
What’s next? Glute bridges. Modified bicycles. Leg lifts. Side planks. All miserable.
Shoulder alphabets: lying face down on the ground and making the shapes of letters with your arms. That sounded more promising, except they only wanted me to work with the letters I Y T and W. So I went a bit Countdown with it and added two more vowels and a couple of consonants. Now I can spell out SWEATYBITS. This might not be doing much for my training, but it keeps me amused at least.
Why am I doing all this?
Because of the pulk. For those unacquainted with Arctic trekking, the pulk is the sledge that carries the kit, which will be attached to a harness around my waist so I can drag it across the snow. For three days. Have you seen pictures of people dragging tyres across a beach? I’ve got a horrible feeling I should be doing that. For now I’m just concentrating on finding my core, and seeing if it will forgive me for ignoring it for 40 years.
Since our initial training attempt I have to admit some of the exercises have got easier. I can now manage over a minute of planking and perform a glute bridge without my leg going into spasm, so I guess I’m getting stronger. But none of it gives me a buzz. It’s still mind-numbingly boring. And I still can’t manage a single push up.
So that’s my goal. Something to keep me motivated when the 6am alarm goes off. By 1st February, when I hop on a plane bound for the Arctic, I will be able to do a full press up.
I have another ambition. I would also like to have raised between £500 and £1,000 for CHAS.
A couple of months ago I had the privilege of visiting Robin House, one of the two children’s hospices run by CHAS. What struck me on this visit – and I know I’m not the only person to find this – is that even against a backdrop of immense sadness and pain, the hospice is so full of warmth and laughter and creativity. Of life and hope and joy.
And yet, the heartbreaking truth is that CHAS can’t be there for everyone who needs them. They want to be, but they simply don’t have the funds.
Each week, three children in Scotland die from an incurable condition. Three children a week. Right now, CHAS can only reach one of these families.
To reach them all, CHAS need to double their fundraising income over the next five years. Some of it will come through hefty corporate donations. Some from big fundraisers like the CHAS ball. But lots of it will have to come from the generosity of people sponsoring fools who sign up for things like Arctic treks.
So: 1 push up and £1,000 raised for CHAS. If I can achieve both of those things, I’ll consider that this whole exercise will have been worthwhile.
If you’d like to help me with the fundraising bit, here’s my JustGiving page