Zest's Laura Potter is put through her paces at 15,782 feet
Another day, another mildly terrifying challenge. This time it's a day of extreme exercise with Greg Whyte, the Greg Whyte who motivated Eddie Izzard through 43 marathons in 51 days, and encouraged Cheryl Cole, Alesha Dixon et al up Mount Kilimanjaro. Something tells me it's not going to be a leisurely stroll around leafy suburbia.The day starts innocently enough - a guided tour around the plush Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre where Olympic athletes, Wimbledon stars and the England football team come to prepare for competitions. But that marks the end of the 'low impact' section of the day. It's time to experience what it's like to be 15,782 feet up Mont Blanc. We enter a chamber that replicates both the temperature and the air quality at the summit of the monster mountain. I'm cold but other than that, I feel fine. I chat away to Greg and scoff at how poor Gary Barlow suffered with altitude sickness, then hop on a stationary bike and pedal slowly just to get a sense of how it would feel to exercise at altitude. Greg explains the importance of preparing your body - all his Kilimanjaro celebrities came to this very chamber to get a sense of how the altitude would affect them, and trained hard for the challenge - from 2½ hours of training in the first week to 25 hours in the final week. At that point I start to get short of breath, struggle to get through a sentence without gasping, and just a few minutes later I start feeling a little nauseous. My sympathy for Gary Barlow suddenly knows no bounds. Greg sees me turn a whiter shade of pale and decides I've got the picture. With that, we exit the chamber and make our way back to sea level, while I make a mental note that if I ever sign up to a mountain expedition, I'll definitely be giving Greg a call for some motivating words before I zip up my fleece.Next up - rowing. No gentle paddle along the Thames here, but rather an Olympic training session. I've read about these Olympic training sessions - they end with a poor, exhausted rower collapsing in a heap beside their machine. Fortunately there's a constant supply of Glaceau Vitamin Water on tap, which Greg tells me to sip from regularly to stay hydrated and top up lost vitamins and minerals. The challenge is to row at full pelt for 200m, then stop for a mere 30 seconds to glug down the Vitamin Water and catch my breath before starting again. After five sets I'm exhausted and leave the gym, leg muscles-a-quiver. Something tells me I won't be called up for the coxless fours at London 2012, but I have gained an even greater respect for professional athletes who push themselves to the limit - and for Gary Barlow!
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