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Challenging yourself!

The Benefits of a Challenge … a chiropractor’s view

I had been dreaming about this for years but had always found a good reason such as family commitments or work to put it off. Then, one day, I realised that it was becoming more difficult to bend down and get up again without using my arms for support. That was my ‘light-bulb moment’ – if I didn’t get on with it now, I may never do it – so I decided to start preparing for a major trekking expedition.

The GR20 in Corsica is known to be a difficult trek. It’s a waymarked route running from north to south of the island which goes through some very wild and beautiful scenery. Initially, I had some serious misgivings about the wisdom of the whole idea, especially given my advancing years (all 72 of them!) so there was no way I was going to do it alone. I therefore contacted a childhood friend who I knew to be a good mountaineer and asked him to accompany me. Having got his agreement, I was ready to start to prepare both mind and body for the challenge.

Never having done a trek of this kind before, I had a steep learning curve ahead of me. Fortunately, the internet is a valuable source of information for anyone preparing an expedition of this kind. The first stage was to obtain all the necessary equipment and to learn how to use it. I therefore set about borrowing, hiring or buying all the kit I was going to need. As I went through this process, I came into contact with a lot of people, whose advice, hints and tips proved invaluable to me as a complete novice.

As far as the physical preparation is concerned, the best way to challenge and train oneself is to practise hiking. Surrey is full of suitable terrain for this kind of exercise but Box Hill became my preferred training ground. My aim was to be able to walk without difficulty for a minimum of 7 hours per day with a rucksack weighing approximately 15 kilos.

Several people provided particular practical and psychological help during my preparation. Without wishing to name anyone in particular I will just mention a couple who own a small independent local sports shop where I bought most of my equipment, my trainer at the gym where I enrolled for regular training sessions and a couple of friends who accompanied me several times on my practice hikes. No doubt these friendly facilitators will recognise themselves if they read this article.

At the beginning I kept quiet about the challenge that I was setting myself as I was slightly concerned that I wouldn’t manage to achieve my goal. However, thanks to the support and encouragement of my wife, I soon changed my mind and decided to seek sponsorship for a local charity. After much reflection (there are so many worthy causes out there), I decided on TALK, a Surrey-based organisation which supports people with communication difficulties (aphasia) after a stroke.

I have often noticed that the time taken preparing for an important challenge seems disproportionally long compared to the time taken by the challenge itself. Fortunately, this is usually compensated for by the intensity of the emotions generated by the undertaking. Indeed, such was the case for my trek on the GR20. Interesting people, amusing incidents, breath-taking scenery, fascinating flora and fauna – all came together to make this one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

If you are in good health, my advice would be not to postpone embarking on this kind of adventure. It will be a source of both intellectual and physical stimulation. It will allow you to discover inner resources of which you were previously quite unaware. In addition, sponsorship can be a humbling exercise and you will realise just how generous people can be.

Alain and his co-adventurer at the end of the G20 trail along with a stray dog they rescued along the way.

Speaking from my own experience, and contrary to all expectations, I returned from this trek in better physical shape than when I departed and now it is no longer a problem for me to get up from a squatting position without the support of my arms. Why don’t you give it a try?


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