The physical impact of a high stress office job in Chester, England left Heather Branigan in the same position as millions of business people around the world: inactive, out of shape and overweight. Fed up with her circumstances, Branigan decided that she wouldn’t spend the autumn of her 30s, “Feeling like a sluggish and overweight workaholic.” Still, she never imagined she’d be summiting the highest mountain on the African continent, Mt. Kilimanjaro, just 12 months later.
Ready for change but lacking a roadmap, Branigan had a chance encounter with an old friend, Ben Fildes, the owner of S3 Fitness in Chester. FIldes had offered her a free trial membership many times over the years and she’d never considered it. But this time, she finally took the TRX Master Trainer and certified UK Strength and Conditioning Coach up on his offer and started training.
Completely new to working out, she quickly took to the TRX Suspension Trainer and Rip Trainer that Fildes made the center of her workouts. “I immediately felt completely at ease and extremely motivated to hit my goals, I had never used the kit before so Ben took me through it step by step,” she says. “I loved the way it could be adapted to suit beginners and experienced gym goers alike.”
The inspiration to take on the 5,895-meter African monster came later when Branigan’s employer, MoneySuperMarket.com (MSM), put out a call for volunteers to take on an “epic” challenge to raise money for a good cause. The chosen charity for 2014 was Mind, an organization that provides support, information and services for those struggling with or affected by mental health issues—a cause Branigan had a personal connection with among her friends and family. Some of her coworkers formed a “Team Kili” and Branigan jumped at the challenge—even though it wasn’t something she’d ever thought about doing.
“It wasn’t my thing at all,” she said. “I wasn’t the slightest bit outdoorsy and hadn’t even camped since I was at school. But I wanted to commit to something I knew would take me out of my comfort zone and would be challenging both from a physical and mental perspective, so this seemed like the ideal opportunity.”
For the three months leading up to her climb, her training consisted of eight workouts a week with a rest day every Thursday. She used Sunday for her most intense training day, where she doubled down and did a five-hour hike in the morning, followed by a TRX strength training class in the afternoon.
When the time came to make her ascent, Branigan felt nervous but confident. Over the span of eight days, Branigan, her friend Emma Parry and 12 other climbers, braved hypothermic conditions, shortness of breath and high-altitude headaches to reach the summit. Though the climb was physically difficult, Branigan felt prepared for it and when the going got tough, she drew inspiration from knowing that her effort was helping to support a cause that she believed in. In the end, Branigan and Parry consolidated their efforts and exceeded their fundraising goal, pulling in over £3,900.
Branigan, now the fittest she’s ever been, has lost nearly 30 pounds since she started training with TRX. Her advice to anyone chasing down a fitness goal with TRX? “You need to be supported by an experienced, knowledgeable and enthusiastic coach. You can achieve all of your fitness goals with this one piece of kit and the best things is that you’re constantly improving and developing.”
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