Sunday, May 3, 2015

Wake up and live: Hiking can build confidence, health, endurance, stamina and fitness!

Shereen Teng clambering up rocks at Gunung Rinjani.

It took death and sickness to make one girl change her life... and start hiking.

Shereen Teng? That petite girl … a hiker? You must be kidding. This was the reaction of anyone who knew me well back then.

I was a couch potato-cum-workaholic who was glued to the TV during my free time. After work, I rushed home to watch my favourite Korean actor in action – Lee Min Ho. During peak periods, I spent hours in the office working like there was no tomorrow.

But in 2011, my life took a 360 degree turn and I transformed from a typical “girlish” lady into an outdoor person.

Let me reminisce what inspired me to transform my lifestyle back then. I had just joined a new company and firstly, there was shocking news about a lady there. After being diagnosed with cancer, she passed away three months later, leaving behind her two little children.

Secondly, during the first week on my new job, I worked until the wee morning hours even though I had very high fever. To keep my temperature down, the doctor jabbed me with painkillers. I was eventually hospitalised for one night due to an extreme allergic reaction (my whole body was swollen).

Teng (seated in orange) with her team mates at the top of Gunung Rinjani, Lombok, Indonesia. Photos: SHEREEN TENG

These two events woke me up. I didn’t want to die as a person with a meaningless life. And so I decided it was time to make a difference in my life and all those around me.

Being a Facebook addict, I browsed through many groups and found Boots n Fins, which organises activities such as hiking and scuba diving.

I decided to try hiking. Who knows, maybe I would enjoy it.

I signed up for a hike to Gunung Datuk, Negri Sembilan. There were carpooling arrangements, and I braced myself to meet a couple of strangers – YY Wong and Tamil Selvam – in front of Subang Parade. People thought I was crazy because I might end up being kidnapped!

But I had to take my chances. Being my inaugural hike, I was not prepared with the proper gear. Instead, I was just clad in a shirt, long pants and sports shoes. After an hour of driving, we reached the place. It was a very bright sunny day, perfect weather for hiking.

The initial part of the hike past a river was reasonably easy. Then, we had to ascent a very steep trail. My heart sank and I thought, “Why in the world did I sign up for this? Why torture myself?”

I hardly exercised back then and I worried if my legs could handle it. But step by step, I pulled myself uphill, stopping many times to catch my breath. Along the way, I met a girl called San San and her friends. It was strangely conforting to see that they were also exhausted.

After hiking for about three hours, I reached the top. The view was breathtakingly beautiful and I immediately fell in love with the place!

At the top of Gunung Kutu, near Kuala Kubu Baru, Selangor.

Then we had to descend and my leg muscles started to cramp. Oh no! We had to hike a long way back to reach the trailhead. I used all my strength and slowly pulled myself together. After hiking for an hour, I almost wanted to give up, but I had no choice – no one was going to carry me down.

San San and the other girls, kept on encouraging me and shouted, “Jia You! Jia You!” in Mandarin, which means “Do your best!”. Yet, I was exhausted and could hardly feel my legs. I felt as if I was crippled, sitting in a wheelchair.

Slowly, I kept on going, even though my legs felt like lead. After an hour more of sheer torture, I finally reached the bottom.

For a week after the hike, I could hardly walk. Yet it was the most memorable hiking experience ever. And it led me to many more adventures. Hiking has strengthened me physically and mentally. I have joined other groups such as the KL Hiking and Trail Running group.

I can hardly believe it … but I have made a difference in my life. I am overjoyed that I have succeeded in climbing many mountains, including Rinjani (Indonesia) and Annapurna Base Camp in Nepal. My journey in hiking will never cease. I am glad to say that I am no longer a couch potato!

If I can do it, I am sure everyone can too. Carpe Diem! Seize the day!

By Shereen Teng The Star/Asia News Network

Building stamina: A hiker goes from hill to Mount Kinabalu


Jason Lim made it to peak of Mount Kinabalu on his second try.

After struggling and sweating buckets, climbing a modest hill, one hiker has since done Kinabalu three times.

“Let’s climb Mount Kinabalu,” said a friend. That’s how it all started for my big climb up there.

Since joining the workforce in 2001, life was mostly about work and then spending the hard-earned money on food, gadgets, holidays, etc.

Exercise decreased and pounds were beginning to build up, no thanks to my job which sometimes involves hours of “yum cha” (tea drinking) business development sessions.

Mount Kinabalu first struck my interest when my colleague showed wonderful pictures taken during her climb to the summit. And in early 2008, when Ben, one of my “yum cha” kaki, suggested a climb to Mount K, I promptly agreed.

This was the beginning of my hiking journey. Prior to that, I had also noticed that my fitness level was at the lowest level since school days. Joining the trip was a way to push myself to be fit again and to prove that I still had what it takes.

Our training brought me to Bukit Tabur, Apek Hill and Batu Caves (all around Kuala Lumpur) as well as Gua Tempurung (Perak). These were places which I would not have thought of going if I had not taken up the challenge.

I still remember our first hike at Apek Hill in Cheras, KL. At the end, I felt like I had just gone through a detox programme, after sweating out what seemed like litres of toxins from my body. Though it was really tiring, I felt completely “refreshed” and knew that there was a lot more to be done.


Jason Lim (centre) with his friends on a training climb up Bukit Tabur, near Kuala Lumpur. Photos: Jason Lim

Among all the places I’ve climbed, I would say Bukit Tabur has probably the most wonderful scenery. It’s also challenging enough to build your endurance and stamina.

We had about six months to prepare for our big climb. For anyone planning to conquer Mount K, I would say it’s good to train up your stamina consistently. However, my training regime was not very consistent – I paid for this later.

Our climb was on Aug 30 and 31, 2008 (Merdeka Day) and the seven of us rented a van to send us to Kinabalu Park from Kota Kinabalu (KK) city before sunrise.

The climb started in a joyous and excited mood, but close to the third kilometre of the trail, accident struck. The trail was wet and slippery from an earlier downpour and Ben accidentally slipped, fracturing his ankle. The team were shocked and sad for him as he was the one who had pulled the group together for this trip and made all the arrangements. He had to be escorted back to Kinabalu Park by our guide, and eventually transferred to KK for hospital admission.

Our spirits were a bit down but we continued our journey and eventually the last of us reached (the halfway point of) Laban Rata around 4pm.

Rain started to pour midway and we had to put on raincoat for the last half of the hike.

The journey to the peak started around 2:30am the next day. Of the six of us, only four completed it. One of us suffered from altitude sickness not long after starting the climb, while the other one who didn’t make it was myself. I gave up about 500 metres away from the peak.

But having made it that far, I was still very proud of my achievement, though there were some regrets till this day for not completing it. At that time, somehow I just didn’t feel like I had the stamina. Now you know why I say consistent training is important.


Drenched with rain at Laban Rata, halfway to the Mount Kinabalu.

We continued our regular hiking sessions after his recovery, and less than two years later, I went back to Mount K again with Ben and different group members. Better prepared and trained this time, I eventually made it to the peak this round. However Ben didn’t due to altitude sickness.

But the most important part of it was, both of us had tried our best. And along the way, we built a friendship that we treasure. Thanks Ben for bring me back to fitness!

The climbs up Mount K have definitely brought back the “exercise mode” back to me. I started running, cycling and hitting the gym more from then on.

As for my health, I have managed to prevent my blood pressure level from going up further, and my stamina has also improved so much. I did a third Mount K climb in 2012 and the time taken to reach Laban Rata was 25% less than the first climb.

I have come so far since my first training session at Apek Hill where I was struggling to just keep up with the other regular climbers who were mostly uncles and aunties!

By Jason Lim The Star/Asia News Network

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