A Con­quest of Self

It took an in­tense ex­er­cise regime, dis­ci­pline, men­tal strength and tons of willpower for Gabrielle Tan-helf­man to change her ‘un­fit’ lifestyle in or­der to reach the Ever­est Base Camp. Here, she re­counts her ex­traor­di­nary jour­ney

Malaysia Tatler - - CONTENTS -

Gabrielle Tan-helf­man shares her re­mark­able jour­ney of reach­ing the Ever­est Base Camp

Iwas never a fit per­son. I never be­lieved in ex­er­cise and I would pre­tend I didn’t know what the word ‘gym’ was. As I grew older, I re­alised my health was go­ing ‘down­hill’, from my low­er­ing meta­bolic rate to gain­ing weight faster. 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. The hard­est part of get­ting fit is al­ways start­ing, and the sec­ond hard­est part is con­tin­u­ing your regime. I re­alised, af­ter join­ing the Tone It Up com­mu­nity, my stamina was get­ting bet­ter and I en­joyed ex­er­cis­ing out­doors, es­pe­cially hik­ing. Which was where it all started. That was when I re­alised I needed mo­ti­va­tion—some­thing to push me out­side of my com­fort zone. My hus­band Mike and I did a short 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 Ever­est Base Camp (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 saw EBC dif­fer­ently. Maybe, I could do it af­ter all. Last year, some­time in May, I de­cided not to pro­cras­ti­nate any­more and go 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. That’s when I started train­ing for it. There were no 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. While the phys­i­cal train­ing for the trek was in­tense, it was 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. Some­times dur­ing the climb, I would see he­li­copters fly­ing in and out, evac­u­at­ing peo­ple, es­pe­cially those who were suf­fer­ing from alti­tude sick­ness. The high al­ti­tudes are also a huge deter­rent, 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. 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.”

"It was not just an item to tick off my bucket list"

TRIAL OF STRENGTH Op­po­site page: Gabrielle and her hus­band Michael Helf­man; Gabrielle over­came her fears dur­ing the climb, com­ing out of it a dif­fer­ent woman

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