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When Dylan Staniec is not camping, hiking or sailing, he is likely coaching travelers via Sea To Summit Training, his virtual, one-on-one personal training service. His clients all have one thing in common: a love of nature and outdoor adventure, whether it be backpacking in the summer, gearing up for the next ski season or preparing to hike Mount Kilimanjaro.
Active travelers have long aspired to achieve physically demanding feats, many of which require advance preparation.
Here, Staniec details his fitness background, gives his take on how clients can train effectively for Mount Kilimanjaro, and shares what to keep in mind when looking forward to an epic outdoor adventure.
What led you to specialize in personal training for outdoor enthusiasts?I owned a CrossFit gym for seven years. But as I started to understand the human body and each person who came through the door, I began to realize that there were a lot of shortcomings to the idea of group fitness, or to the idea of applying one fitness program or one approach to all.
At that point, my primary goal for my own fitness was no longer about competition, but about being strong and healthy in order to enjoy my hobbies. I was drawn to people with similar goals, and I felt I could relate to them better than competitive athletes. So, I sold the gym and switched directions, which is how I ended up specializing in working with the outdoors community. The common thread with my clients is that they like spending time outside, and they want a workout to support that.
How has your business changed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic?I’m at about 75% of the clients I had before the pandemic. Almost all my clients are unable to access commercial gyms, and thus have had to switch to working out from home. As far as what I can offer at this time, not much has changed. Anyone who wants to train for an outdoors-based goal can have access to a completely individual program delivered through a mobile app called TrueCoach. The only difference now is the availability — or lack thereof — of equipment. For people who have no equipment, there are a few simple items widely available online that can make a home program very effective. Some folks have chosen to go all in and set up a full (or partial) home gym.
Everyone who was training to climb Mount Kilimanjaro has postponed their climbs. A few have also postponed workouts, but others have continued.
Speaking of Kilimanjaro, you’ve helped about 15 clients — including me — prepare for the climb. Is there a training formula that sets someone up for success on the mountain?So far, everybody has made it to the top, and all my clients have climbed with [U.S.- based tour operator] Tusker Trail. On one hand, you have the mountain and the trek itself, which contains its own set of specific demands. The other part of that is the individual person and their current state of fitness. What I do is create a program to bridge that gap between the demands of the mountain and the current state of the individual.
What advice would you give travel advisors who have clients interested in Kilimanjaro?Generally speaking, I think just about anybody could do it. But the amount of time it might take one person to prepare may be dramatically different from someone else. I would say to be careful about what company you choose, and make sure its safety standards are on point. Kilimanjaro is the beginner’s mountain. There’s no technical climbing, but it’s not without risks.
Then, start getting in shape the minute you think you might want to do it. Start walking, even if it’s just around your neighborhood. If you want to climb Kilimanjaro, you need to be ready to spend five to seven hours per day on your feet for about 10 days in a row. As simple as that sounds, most of us don’t come anywhere near that.
Finally, test the gear you’re going to use. I’ve worked with people who bought $1,000 worth of gear, and it didn’t fit.
As stupid as it sounds, a blister on your foot can ruin your entire trip. Travel advisors should emphasize to their clients not to wait until the week before the climb to try out their gear.
What makes Tusker Trail stand out as a topnotch tour operator for Kilimanjaro treks?I love partnering with Tusker Trail and its founder, Eddie Frank. He really was the one who set the standard for safety on Kilimanjaro. That may not be obvious for someone looking into companies, because so many operators are now emulating what he has done.
When I climbed Kilimanjaro with Tusker Trail, nobody else was doing what Frank does in terms of training his guides and preparing them to deal with emergencies. Frank and Tusker Trail were the ones who brought all of that to Kilimanjaro.
Tusker Trail is currently operating Mount Kilimanjaro climbs. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company has introduced a new flexible booking, postponement and cancellation policy. Clients can book a trip without a deposit until Nov. 1, 2020, and cancel or postpone without any punitive fees.
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