Kaya is taking on the toughest challenge of her life with the help of Ultimate Performance.
The 22-year-old is set to become the youngest woman ever to trek to the North Pole.
The gruelling two-week challenge will see Kaya pulling a 40kg sled for 10 hours a day in freezing -40°C weather conditions.
She will not only face freezing conditions and blizzards, but the constant threat of hypothermia and even the danger of polar bears on the expedition she is doing with her dad.
Barely a year ago, Kaya would never have imagined having the strength or mental toughness to take on such a challenge.
But completing an impressive 16-week body transformation at U.P. London City showed her what she was really made of.
A year later and she is putting her new-found strength and fitness to the most extreme test possible by trekking to the North Pole and raising money for the charity In-Visible on a GoFundMe page, which supports underprivileged children to grow up healthy and educated.
Here Kaya talks about how her original 16-week transformation helped her get in shape, and now how she is preparing mentally and physically for the challenge with her U.P. trainer.
What were your motivations for starting your original transformation at U.P.?
Before joining, I spent the past few years in and out of various commercial gyms, spending a considerable amount of time and money on personal trainers and unhealthy diets.
I decided to join U.P. not only to lose weight and get in shape, but also to learn about how to take care of myself and understand better how and what works best for my body.
Coming towards the end of my first year with my trainer, I can safely say that I feel it’s been a life-changing experience.
My trainer is incredibly knowledgeable and has helped me achieve results beyond what I thought was possible in so little time!
His attention to detail, passion and commitment to his clients is truly motivating and his scientific approach to diet and exercise really suited me as I feel like once you understand the logic behind it, then it’s much easier to stick to it.
He has pushed me to my limits and made me feel more disciplined, self-confident and focused. I can’t thank him enough!
It hasn’t been easy but it’s been the most rewarding experience for me. Aside from helping me improve my physique, it has seriously changed my lifestyle and perspective on health and fitness.
What results did you achieve at the end of this initial body transformation?
I used to be ashamed of my body. I would hide under oversized clothes, was very self-conscious and found it very difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Thanks to U.P., the way I see health and fitness has drastically changed. I don’t see it as a way to lose weight anymore, but more as a need for my mental wellbeing.
I could be having the worst day, but would end it with a huge smile after a workout.
I have definitely lost a lot of weight, dropped a good amount of body fat but mostly gained a lot of confidence.
I now understand how my body works and now know how to take care of it, which is something that will stay with me forever.
How do you compare yourself now and your fitness compared to when you first started?
I can confidently say that I am not the same person anymore. Physically, I am slimmer, definitely much stronger and more fit overall.
I also feel like it has considerably improved my confidence and my mood and mental wellbeing in general. U.P. changed me for the better!
What made you want to do this trek to the North Pole?
I’ve always thought of challenge as a way to grow and test yourself. When I was faced with the opportunity to go on this expedition, at first I was hesitant.
I had simply never even thought I would one day consider such an adventure. After weeks of internal debate, I thought if someone else has already done it, there’s no reason for me not to be able to.
Reaching this physical and mental confidence became a goal I set myself and what better would I want than sharing this with my dad?
What are the physical demands going to be of doing this trek?
Doing this expedition alongside people that have already ventured themselves in similar expeditions is truly intimidating.
Being not only the youngest, but also the only girl, is even more intimidating.
Aside from pulling a 40kg sled for more than 10 hours a day for two consecutive weeks, we will have to keep a regular pace and eat 6,000 calories a day, all of this in extreme conditions.
The ice isn’t always nice and smooth, we’ll have to navigate between open water leads, ice rubble and pressure ridges all of this in -30 to -40°C conditions.
What are you most excited about for doing this expedition and becoming the youngest woman to achieve it?
It’s hard to say but I think the thing I’m most excited about is getting out of my comfort zone.
It will definitely be challenging but achieving this and sharing this amazing experience with my dad will be life-changing.
After going through the tough pre-expedition training and the actual expedition with all its challenges, reaching the pole will surely be one of the most satisfying and rewarding feelings I will ever experience.
What are your biggest fears or the biggest challenges you will face?
Going to the most remote place on earth is scary. Combining this with extreme and unpredictable weather, polar bears and risks of severe frostbite makes it even more fearful.
The biggest challenge will be finding my pace in order not to get hypothermia (too fast would result in sweat – and sweat is our worst enemy in polar regions; too slow would result in freezing).
The discipline and methodical approach to setting up camp, preparing meals and finding the right level of comfort to get good rest are also challenges I’ll be facing.
Yet, the biggest of fears I have is going to the toilet. I’ve been told that the easiest “solution” is to “go as quick as possible” – I’m not sure how reassured it has made me.
Many have asked me “why the f*** are you doing this?” But I believe that facing these fears and challenges will shape me as a person.
How has working with U.P. helped you prepare mentally and physically for the challenge?
If a year ago you had told me that I was going to do this, I would‘ve no doubt laughed in your face.
None of this would’ve been possible without my U.P. trainer.
Not only has he helped me get fit enough to feel capable of doing it, but he has also given me the confidence to sign up for it in the first place.
I will be forever grateful for all the invaluable insights he’s given me that have helped me drastically improve both my physical and mental resilience.
Can you describe what an average day will be like for you on the North Pole trip?
A typical morning would start by waking up at around 7 a.m., melting ice for our daily water consumption (3-4 litres), having a calorie-dense breakfast and end with packing up our tents and personal belongings on our sleds.
Once all is packed, we’ll begin our way North, walking up to 10 hours a day with no more than 5 minutes “snack breaks” every 90 minutes.
Once we’ve made good progress on the ice, we’ll end our days setting camp and preparing a warm meal and hot cocoa with a whole tub of melted butter (you need the extra calories to stay warm at night) before enjoying a good night’s sleep, bearing in mind that the water below us is constantly moving and might bring us a few kilometers back.
How much tougher has the training been preparing for the North Pole?
It is definitely much tougher than a usual workout session. I used to think that my workouts were deadly and would come out of them dripping of sweat.
I would’ve never thought it could get any harder, but my trainer definitely proved me wrong!
How has the training helped with your mindset or mental toughness since you began?
Mental strength is the most important part of the expedition, but also the one I was apprehensive of the most. Training with U.P. has taught me that there is no such thing as a limit.
By constantly pushing me to what I thought my limit was, he has proved to me that I can always give more. I’m now confident enough to know that once on the ice, whatever obstacle comes my way, I’ll be able to get through it.
What have been the biggest benefits or most enjoyable parts of training with U.P. for this?
Without any doubt it has been training with U.P.! I never thought I would enjoy going to the gym, let alone look forward to it.
Not only he makes the workouts fun and enjoyable but also his invaluable and vast knowledge and tips have been crucial in building up both my mental and physical strength.
If I were to do it all again, I wouldn’t ever even consider doing it with anyone else.
Kaya’s trainer explains her training and nutrition plan for preparing for the North Pole.
Kaya will be eating up to 6,000 calories per day during the expedition to sustain her energy during the mileage covered. Our aim was to build her back up from her dieting phase at the end of December and gradually bring her calories up enough to a small surplus.
This way we are able to minimise the chances of her storing too much fat and ensure that she is using these extra calories as fuel as her phases of training increase.
Kaya and I have discussed that she may lose some definition in this process, however, this is perfectly healthy and will aid her during her expedition.
As you can see Kaya’s phases of training gradually increase in time, sets, frequency and intensity. This will ensure we build up her cardiovascular levels and strength over time so we don’t run the risk of peaking too early.
Kaya does 3 workouts per week with Ultimate Performance and the rest of it on her own. There is no specific training we can do for this expedition as it is so unique, so we have taken a military fitness approach with hitting it from all angles as this gives her the best chance of preparing herself for the mileage involved in the polar trek. Being ex-Royal Marines, I have a great deal of experience in long weighted expeditions and operations that require both physical and mental toughness.
So I have been advising Kaya on her mindset approach to this expedition and how she can manage her mental state during the 10 days. We’ve been doing this through practising breaking down her sessions into manageable mindset chunks instead of thinking too far ahead in the session.
She will then apply this to the days where she can focus on 5 miles at a time.
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