How Training For Bucket List Adventures Can Change Your Life

Adventure trainer Joe Bonington shares the top five adventures to add to your bucket list.

We’ve all got a “bucket list” of sorts and whether it’s running a marathon, swimming with dolphins or even writing a book, everyone has something they dream of doing in their lifetime. Whether we get around to doing it or not is another story, but according to Joe Bonington, son of British mountaineering legend, Sir Chris Bonington, pushing yourself to achieve your goals can be life-changing in more ways than one.

Helping to inspire ordinary people to do extraordinary things, Bonington founded Joe’s Basecamp, a first of its kind functional training gym based on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, to train clients for life’s adventures – think mountain climbing, desert marathons and long distance treks.

In a custom built facility, providing specialised strength training, functional movement training, cardio vascular training, trail running, CrossFit, indoor rock-climbing and altitude training, Joe has trained clients to go on to trek to the North Pole, compete in ultra-marathons, climb to the summit of Everest, walk the Kokoda trail, climb Kilimanjaro and trek to Machu Pichu, among many other things.

According to Joe, training for and completing these bucket list adventures has changed the lives of countless clients, as they achieve things they never thought possible. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re a high-octane adventure junkie or simply someone looking for a new experience, it inspires you to push the boundaries and really take a bite out of life,” he says.

Some of Joe’s clients are currently training to climb Everest, complete the seven summits, walk across the Arctic Ice Shelf and swim the English Channel.

“Not all bucket list items need to be hard core pursuits like climbing a mountain though. It’s just as rewarding for someone starting out to conquer an ocean swim, but trust me – you’ll be hooked on the high of success, and looking for your next thrill in no time.”

Stressing that bucket list goals can be set and achieved by anyone – it just comes down to the right training and preparation – here, Joe lists the top five adventures you should add to your bucket list:

The Kokoda Trail

The Kokoda Trail is one of the one of the most arduous jungle treks in the world and the 96 kilometre track is steeped in amazing WWII History, which makes this gruelling trek that much more fulfilling to complete.  “It’s a rugged trail with a lot of ascents and descents and the climate is hot and sticky, so strength training and training in the heat is key to acclimatising to this type of event,” says Joe.  “It will take the average person who has a base level of fitness around six months and someone who’s relatively unfit around a year of hard training to prepare for the trail.”

The Heron Island Swim

Set in the Great Barrier Reef, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, this three kilometre ocean swim is an awe inspiring event to add to your bucket list. The perfect way to “dip your toe” into adventure training, it’s a highly achievable and enjoyable event for everyone from accomplished swimmers to beginners, with the usually calm, strikingly blue waters ideal for spotting marine life. The swim takes an average swimmer around an hour to complete, and requires around six months of preparation for an able swimmer of average fitness. “Most of your training will be in the water, but focus on upper body strength and core strength when you’re out of the water,” says Joe. “Even though you’re supported by the water having a strong core makes you a much stronger swimmer.”

The Big Red Run

An iconic Australian event that’s not for the faint-hearted, The Big Red Run is an ultra-marathon stretching 250km through the Simpson Desert.  Completed over six days, participants run marathons by day – including a double marathon on day five – and camp under the desert skies by night. “This is an ultra-event that pushes participants to challenge their mental and physical limits,” says Joe. “A race like this requires a minimum of 12 months of hard training for someone of average fitness, following the 80/20 rule, where 80% of your training should be out on the trail, running, and 20% should be spent doing strength and conditioning.”

Everest Basecamp

The stuff that dreams are made of, conquering the climb to Everest Basecamp, Nepal, is a trek that tops the bucket list for many adventurers.   “This isn’t a light-hearted trek,” says Joe. “With Basecamp situated at 17,536ft, it’s a mini-expedition that will test you in more ways than one.” According to Joe, the golden rule for completing an altitude event is to “get as fit as you can, so you can go as slow as you can”, as there is a direct correlation between exertion at altitude and altitude sickness. Joe recommends pre-acclimatising using an altitude chamber, like what’s found at Joe’s Basecamp. “The best way to train for Everest Base Camp is to get a solid cardio base training outdoors and strong legs through strength training in the gym. Altitude training in the months prior can really help as well,” says Joe.  A person of average fitness will need to dedicate a solid six months of hard training to the cause to successfully complete the climb.

Hawkesbury Classic

An overnight canoe race that that stretches 111km down the beautiful Hawkesbury River, more than 600 participants gather each year to paddle by moonlight from Windsor to Brooklyn in New South Wales.  “This is an endurance event that can take between 10 and 15 hours to complete, so you really need to put in the hours when it comes to training,” says Joe.  The prime focus for dry land training in an event like this should be upper body and core strength, so Joe recommends weight training both max strength fewer reps, and strength endurance. If you can’t access your watercraft on a regular basis, make sure you are using a Concept 2 rower and ski erg machine on a regular basis to help with the cardio endurance element. “You really need to be mentally prepared for this event though, and prepare yourself to push through “the wall” with positive mental mantras. It’s a long night!”

Article written by Joe Bonington for What’s New in Fitness Magazine – Winter 2015 Edition

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