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Published on November 27, 2013

Two Women Get Ready for Treks of a Lifetime with the Help of a KishHealth System Athletic Trainer

Two local sisters walked on the wild side: a five-day hike in the Peruvian Andes & a walking African safari.Chris Bade of Somonauk and her younger sister Veronica Phillips of Leland enjoy vacationing together, but shun all-inclusive resorts and cruises. Their vacations are literally walks on the wild side, a five-day hike in the Peruvian Andes up 15,000 feet to the 15th century Inca estate known as Machu Picchu and a five-day private walk in the African safari, deep into the Serengeti, a wildlife haven between Tanzania and Kenya.

Spectacular as those trips were, more impressive is that they completed them as older adults in their 50s and 60s. A desire to address their bucket list led the sisters to tackle these strenuous adventures. Already in pretty good shape with regular outdoor activity, they realized that the first trip to Machu Picchu in May 2010 would require their fitness levels to go up a notch or two.

They found the fitness training they needed with Chris Laurent, licensed athletic trainer, at KishHealth System Physical Therapy Center in Sycamore, where he has worked for 17 years. He focuses on sports medicine, helping people both prevent and overcome injuries. KishHealth System PT Center added private and group fitness training for adults and teens to the center’s specialties several years ago. Individuals can take advantage of this service without a referral or doctor’s order.

“As a physical therapy clinic, our staff members have state licensure as well as specific certifications and that allows a stronger medical focus for the well being of our clients. It is because of this medical focus that we feel our fitness/wellness programs offer a unique advantage,” Laurent said.

The sisters became confident in the expertise at KishHealth System PT Center after their mother had physical therapy there post hip surgery, and Chris’ husband had physical therapy there for shoulder surgery.

“We were impressed with the credentials and professionalism of the staff and decided to go that route for a personal trainer. We liked the idea of a professional trainer because they know exactly what you’re talking about when you tell them what part of your body you want to work,” said Chris Bade.

Laurent’s fitness plan for the sisters was implemented over a couple of years one day a week for an hour. It included cardiovascular endurance through elliptical training, upper body, lower body and core strengthening through exercises and equipment such as hand weights and exercise ball, and body weight activities.

“The initial focus was on general conditioning and eventually focused more on overall muscular and cardio endurance,” Laurent said.

 As the trips got closer, we transitioned to more leg strength and endurance activities including squats, stairs and jumps to improve their ability to handle extended walking.

“The nice thing about working with them is that they were focused on an ultimate goal and thus knew they had to continue with these activities. They were very willing to work hard and kept a very positive attitude. I could also gear it toward their very specific objective and that made it unique,” Laurent said.

The sisters especially appreciated Laurent’s ability to make the workouts fun by coming up with new things.

“What was nice about working with him was the variety in the workouts he sets up. And just when you think you’ve got your muscles trained, he makes you do something new and then your muscles are sore again,” Chris said.

The weekly workouts also proved to be motivation for continuing their training on their own. Chris, a retired AT&T outside field manager, would go on hikes at Starved Rock State Park. Veronica, a manager for Cargill, would walk, jog, and horseback ride in between her business travel. She also completed a couple of 60-mile breast cancer walks in Chicago.

Endurance was the key to maximizing their adventures, the reward for all their hard work.

“The trips would not have been nearly as much fun, if we hadn't had the stamina to enjoy it all. To be able to experience the full extent the areas had to offer, you needed to be in shape,” Veronica said.

Chris added, “You can push yourself to see what’s over the next hill and not feel exhausted.”

The sisters completed their private African safari in October, and couldn’t help but boast about something their guide said after the 10 miles they walked the first day.

“He said the group before us couldn't make it. They had to be picked up by a truck. He was very impressed with our fitness,” Chris said.

Next on their list: the national parks.


More about their trips

Hiking up to Machu Picchu involved walking seven to eight miles a day to altitudes of 12,000 to 15,000 feet. Veronica likened the exertion to walking up the Sears Tower every day. They took a route less traveled by tourists, allowing them to engage with the Peruvian villagers. Machu Picchu was on Veronica’s bucket list.

The Serengeti trip was the only walking safari authorized by the government to take a small number of people deep into the plains for incredible up close views of the animals. At altitudes of 4,000 to 6,000 feet, they saw everything but rhinoceroses. “It’s difficult to articulate how many hundreds of thousands of wildebeests, zebras, and impalas we saw, and hundreds of elephants,” said Chris, who had wanted to go to eastern Africa ever since her brother served there in the Peace Corps. The two women were accompanied by a cook, a guide, and a park ranger.

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