Integrating Kilimanjaro Training into Daily Life

by Olatunde Gbolahan
You ever have that feeling like there is just not enough time in a day? If I’m ever sitting around not doing anything, I feel like I should be doing something else. Walking the dog, attending a meeting, dropping off the kids, picking up the kids, swimming at the pool, heading to the gym… and the list goes on and on and on.
When did I get this busy? August 2017 to be exact. For the past year, I’ve been training to summit the tallest free-standing mountain in the world, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, at 19,341 ft. From the beginning, my biggest concern was the altitude. I live in Austin and the highest elevation we have is a whopping 489 ft.

To help prepare, I researched and learned that swimming helps prevent altitude sickness through breathing and breath control. I added swimming to my list of training activities. When I started swimming, I could not swim for more than five minutes at one time, but I set a goal of being able to swim continuously for one hour, three time a week. Anyone that knows me will tell you that I do not struggle with achieving goals I set for myself. My struggle is often achieving goals at the detriment of all else. I am proud to share that for the past two months, I have been consistently swimming my hour laps, 2-3 times a week. I’ve been dealing with sickness and anemia, but still I make it to the pool consistently. To ensure that I did not achieve this at the detriment of all else, I have been following three pillar practices.

My first pillar practice is that I have to schedule the important things, like dedicated one-on-one family time.
My father/daughter and wife/husband date nights are non-negotiable. I wouldn’t be able to do this expedition without the support of my daughter and wife, so these repeating events in my calendar and are not overwritten. There have been times that we had to resolve to a simple meal out and conversation instead of the more active trampoline park due to fatigue, but these have been some of the best outings in my opinion. I have gained greater insight into the minds of my family.

My second pillar practice is using daily life events as training opportunities. For example:
When I walk the dog, I do it with a weighted, 35lb pack.
When the tractor has a flat, I change the tire myself and use the opportunity to get my squats and core workout in. Farm work is a great workout. Nothing gets your core and large muscle groups worked like flipping tractor tires on 250lb rim.
When managing my apiary (bee farm), I’m cutting down trees, putting up fence posts, running barbed wire, lifting and pushing/attaching three point tractor implements, pushing a mower, and/or lifting and relocating hive bodies.
When I am doing my Outdoor Afro events, I use them to train. Thursdays after work we have been hiking the Violet Crown trail which is an out and back that goes from South Austin to Central Austin. If we are able to do the entire trail it would be about 11 miles. So far, we typically average about 6.5 miles with a group due to darkness. My record mid-week after work hiking distance from two weeks ago is 10.2 miles.

My third pillar practice is to use what I have.
I’m fortunate to work for a company that actually has an on-site gym that offers great equipment and group classes. When the weather is too bad to go out, I’ve been able to use the gym to do stairs with a weighted pack. I also participate in the bootcamp group class twice a week.
So, how do I manage to train while still taking care of the many responsibilities of life? Just like I plan to do the mountain. One step, one breath, one activity, one achievement at a time, while trying to make sure not to miss the important things. I don’t want to summit at the detriment of experiencing the climb.