Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Strength. Stamina. Spirit.

Now that I'm just about 20 weeks away from my third trek up Kilimanjaro, a lot of people have been asking me about my training routine. Getting fit is my life's work but with this upcoming challenge I have kicked it into high gear.

Getting to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak at 19,343 feet, takes a mix of strength, stamina and spirit.

First, I need the strength to support my body. Somehow, this is the first thing I omit from my workouts. I favor cardio in all forms than strength training. However, when I add it in twice a week (as per my trainer Heather Worthy,, I feel able to support my body better.

Second, I need stamina. The journey up Kilimanjaro is five and a half days up and one and a half days down (you walk up slowly so your body can acclimatize, you race down because you really want a hot shower and a cold beer). Summit day alone is 12 to 15 hours of hiking, which begins at midnight, takes you to Uhuru Peak and half-way back down the mountain. So each week I include some endurance activities such as Spinning class and a long hike. I mix in lower impact cardio (such as walking or the elliptical trainer) because of my size.

Third, I need spirit. I work with my yoga instructor Reina Tendler to train my inner-self for the journey ahead. I love yoga for a lot of reasons. First, it helps me focus on my goal (or intention) by visualizing it. I gain flexibility and strength in yoga. There is a tremendous amount of breath work, which at 19,343 feet (where there is half as much oxygen as there is at sea level), it is important to feel like you are in control of your breath (so it doesn't control you). For me, the real power in yoga is how I realize I have everything in my body to succeed.

Each week, I try to up the intensity or duration of each activity so I'll be ready for Kilimanjaro in August. Also, I'll be "checking-in" on Facebook to hold my self accountable for my workouts. (Click here to add me as a Facebook friend)

Here's a look at my current routine:

Monday: Low impact cardio + strength circuit

Tuesday: Interval training (2 minutes walking up hill, 2 minutes jogging, repeat)

Wednesday: Low impact cardio + yoga

Thursday: Spinning

Friday: Rolling staircase/uphill walk + strength circuit

Saturday or Sunday: Long hike

Off to the gym I go!

(This is Kara's personal routine. Be sure to consult with a doctor before taking on a physical activity.)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring into a BetterU

I decided to use the first day of Spring to sign up for the American Heart Association's free 12-week BetterU! I have about 20 weeks until my next trek up Kilimanjaro and I figured it would be great to have an awesome online health coach along the way.

Want to BetterU with me? Tell me after you sign up at and you could win some great prizes along the journey.

BetterMe Coaching Tool: "The Go Red BetterMe Coaching Tool is the perfect companion to the Go Red BetterU 12-week program. Every day, you'll get tips, reminders, and more sent directly to your tool. You'll also be able to chat directly with other members of the program on the “Wall” share tips, motivational quotes, and work through barriers with others. You can also access and edit your journal entries directly from the tool."

Saturday, March 19, 2011

3.20.11: Tribute to U2

Last night my husband and I had a great time seeing A Beautiful Day, which is a New York-based U2 tribute band.... I thought it was due time that I give my own tribute to U2, especially to frontman Bono.
I had used hiking as my path to wellness for many years. I started with flat trails, then moved to molehills, mountains that once left me winded and even down (and thankfully up) the Grand Canyon. However, after conquering the Grand Canyon, my I started to feel a little lost in my training.
I started going to the gym and do a 28-minute fat burning cycle on the elliptical trainer (without breaking a sweat), or skip my strength training sessions for yummy yoga. I decided I needed a new challenge and it had to be Mount Kilimanjaro.
Mount Kilimanjaro is the epitome of hiking challenges. It is Africa's highest peak and it is the largest mountain that you can hike to the top of. In other words no ice axes, ropes or supplemental oxygen are required. However, it is still an arduous task -- a grueling 5 and a half journey to the top, as you are stripped away from most of you comforts (your warm bed, your loved ones -- and a shower!)
I decided if I was going to take on this challenge, I was going to do it for a cause bigger than myself. It was because of Bono's use of his voice -- for not only his music -- that I learned about the AIDS crisis in Africa.
I was particularly taken by the plight of AIDS orphans in subsaharan Africa -- healthy children who have had a generation of parents, leaders and teachers stripped away from them by the deadly disease. To give you an idea about how many AIDS orphans there are in sub-Saharan Africa, prior to my first Kilimanjaro hike in 2007 there were 13 million. As I am about to take on my third hike, there are 18 million.
I found Global Alliance for Africa, a Chicago-based organization devoted to helping AIDS orphans through empowering programs such as education and microfinance. I signed up to date have raised more than $15,000 for their programs. I will raise $1 per foot of the mountain -- $19,343 -- through my next trip up Kilimanjaro. Click here to learn how to make a donation.
Now, as I gain some spotlight for my endeavors, I try to use it for good as well. Here is my latest live television interview and essay in Self magazine talking about my journey to wellness, hoping to inspire others to be active with their bodies and in their communities.
So thank you Bono for making me aware, inspiring me to do better and teaching me to use my voice in a positive way.
I'll be speaking 7 p.m. Tuesday (March 22) at Interweave in Summit, NJ about how to take Action Steps.
You can find my book on Amazon or on my website.

Monday, March 14, 2011