Prepping for a Climb to See Gorillas

Lise Diebel

Article is copied in full from The Hamilton Spectator. You may download a pdf version directly from the Hamilton Spectator by clicking here to download.

February 05, 2008 - Special to The Hamilton Spectator

HER MOTIVATION: "I just went ape," says Ancaster senior Joyce Oliver after seeing travel magazine photos of Africa's mountain gorillas in the wild. "I've always wanted to see them."

On Feb. 13 she leaves for a two-week trip to Uganda with ElderTreks, an adventure travel company aimed at people aged 50-plus.

The 73-year-old grandmother will trek through the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to spend time with the mountain gorillas.

Oliver has been working out regularly for the past eight months in preparation for climbing mountain switchbacks in search of these rare animals.

HER LIFESTYLE: "Africa is a passion that's come out as I've gotten older," says Oliver, a widow who has travelled there twice before.

The first trip, eight years ago, was to South Africa, and the second was to Kenya and Tanzania. She has seen elephants, zebras and lions in their natural habitats.

But never gorillas. "That's why this trip is so exciting for me."

Oliver caught the travel bug later in life.

"The last trip was to Israel and I came back in a wheelchair. My hip really gave way."

After hip replacement surgery in November 2006, she set her sights on Uganda.

HER WORKOUT: Oliver's daughter warned her that if she planned to trek up Uganda's mountains in search of gorillas, she had better get in shape.

Eight months ago, Oliver contacted Hamilton personal trainer Donna Fleischman who got her on track with a fitness regimen. Oliver follows the three-day, rotating program on her own at home.

Day 1 she walks for 20 to 30 minutes, followed by strength training exercises for the chest and triceps using hand weights. Day 2 she climbs stairs for cardio, followed by strength training for the back, shoulders and biceps. Day 3 she rides an exercise bike for 20 to 30 minutes, with strength training for the legs.

All three days she does abdominal exercises using a stability ball as well as stretching and yoga moves. Once a week she takes a 90-minute yoga class at her local seniors' centre.

HER CHALLENGES: Altitude changes and African unrest.

"My yoga teacher says to practise my breathing. That will probably help (with altitude changes)," says Oliver. "And I'm just hopeful (our tour group) can manage to go with what's going on in Kenya because Uganda is right next door."

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