“I love challenging activities, I love outdoors, so for me, uh, I can't explain it, just the feeling of, 'oh my gosh, I did that, I accomplished that, it was super strenuous but you know, let's do it again next year.' ”
Tip 1: Make use of the outdoors - free exercise.
A decade ago, Eva Gabourel or “Everz” as I have known her since our high school days, decided that she would lead a life journey of health and wellness. I imagine myself interviewing her at that time and asking how long she thought she could keep to it. Eva would have probably answered, "for as long as I can!" I would have believed her then and I would be as impressed at her diligence to keep at it, but not surprised.
Anyone who has met Eva, studied with her, worked with her, trained with her, or simply remain in her circle of friends over time, KNOWS that when Eva sets her mind to something, she will not only achieve it but will do so to the best of her ability. Over time, she has actively participated in countless sports activities such as cycling, canoe racing and hiking which brings me to my favorite, her hiking the Victoria Peak, not once, not twice, five times. Five!
How her fitness and wellness journey started.
Eva’s workplace started a “Fun Day” sometime around the company's anniversary in June. The company organized an all-day sports day, during which the entire staff would be broken up into different teams and play against each other. To encourage women to participate in the games, the organizers would say that each team would need to have at least one woman. The activities were running, relays, cycling and such. “I was very competitive”, Eva remarks. Surely, the organizers didn’t have to ask her twice about joining teams.
“We had a lot of fun playing games at work. We started doing football, basketball, volleyball during lunchtime at work. For a while there was a girl that also used to play”, shares Eva. Soon, however, Eva was the only one that ended up playing football with the boys at work.
Her workplace continues to encourage staff to make use of the in-house gym and trainer. They allow staff to take 30 minutes at any given time and use the gym - and we are not talking about 30 minutes during their lunch time. She normally schedules her gym time based on the given day’s work load.
During our interview, I can’t help to ask, “Are they hiring?” She laughs. I miss the part when/if she answers because I start grinning at the thought of receiving a "Join Us" email. Darn it.
Tip 2: If your workplace offers paid or free gym, take advantage!
Throughout the years of knowing her and keeping updated on her life through social media (Thank you, social media!) I know that she is very much engaged in community sports activities. She doesn’t mention it during the interview, but she has been a rower for the Belize Ruta Maya Challenge, the most famous canoe race in Central America, if not the world.
She does share that she has been part of an NGO's fundraiser for which she would ride a bicycle from San Ignacio to Mango Creek or Corozal (northern Belize) to Roaring River’s golf course (western Belize). To avoid the sun, they would leave around midnight and ride throughout the wee hours of the morning to their destination. “It was hard but I really got into it!” she exclaims.
Tip 3: Join community or group sports activities.
Can you guess the different activities she also enjoys with just looking at the following pictures?
If you know the inquisitive Mays Alejandra, you know that I would have easily spent more than a couple of hours yearning, searching, squeezing for more information. I had so many questions for Eva that had been piling up throughout the years. Luckily for all of us, I focused on my favorite Eva Sports Activity: Victoria Peak Challenges.
“The first time I went, I went with a group of coworkers to Victoria Peak. I did it one time and I said that I would never go back. Never doing that again.” Five years later she was up for the challenge again, and again, and again. Did I say five times total, already?
The second time around, she went with a smaller group, a mixture of coworkers and some friends. “I was in the best shape of my life.”
Highlighting her journeys to Victoria Peak
They went on a Thursday, camped at the cockscomb office, at a haunted looking building (would you be scared to probably encounter La Ixtabai or La Llorona there? I would!). Then they started out around 6:30 am or 7 am to hike 19 kilometers to get to the "base" to camp out again. They cannot lag behind for it takes almost an entire day. Walking through an almost flat terrain for the first 12 kilometers, then they got there before dark and rested.
“You camp out, build a fire, eat the food you take, things that survive a couple of days: powder buns, johnny cakes, deep fried chicken and ramen.” There are no mosquitoes, she says, but there could be Jaguars and wild pigs. “The guides are put at the front and the back so they get attacked before us,” she jokes.
The next day, they wake up early again, shower and drink coffee. They move from kilometer 19 to kilometer 27 and take really light snacks and water. “You never take enough water. You have to drink from the fresh water creeks putting in chlorine tablets or drink it straight. The guides say the water is purer than anything you drink down there, its probably true.” She drank it pure.
They leave at 7 am and arrive at 11 am, stay at the Peak for one hour and then hike back to camp arriving at evening. Over the next two days, they make their way back down towards the haunted house.
Tips for those considering the V. Peak HIKE
"Ramen is like holy grail up there. We look forward to eating ramen up there after you have hiked all day. Seriously! We get creative with it, we add happy cow, pepper, canned sausages...”
Audubon society publishes how to train to survive V. Peak.
Do up and down steps at your house every day. second day is steep up hill, hard on the calves, do cardio, skipping, running, brisk walking - has to be brisk.
Carry back pack, tent (but hammock is better), extra clothes, first aid kit, hammock, 15 pounds at least.
Hiking boots are recommended - break in or blister, band aids, mole skin - a piece of tape that sticks to wound, really protecting your skin, don't take off until hike is over.
Back to Health and Wellness: So how does one remain committed to oneself?
The key? Persistent exercising. From 2012 to present, Eva has stuck to exercising 5 times a week. She thinks it rare when she misses or the trainer goes on holiday.
"I do it because it feels good, it gives me energy, it keeps the weight off. I love food."
“You don’t want somebody to do a diet for two weeks and then pig out after two weeks. You want them to change their lifestyle so that they can do it consistently, long-term.”
"It's a consistent thing that needs to happen that will not happen overnight. The lifestyle change will include sacrifices meaning not buying too much meals at the market."
"It pays off with your own confidence, with your own health, being in better shape for those who have kids, you can keep up with your children, deal with disease without having to take medication."
She also encourages us to take advantage of those people or groups that offer exercise sessions and customized meal plans in our communities.
If you really must know, Eva uses one machine that enables her to carry out 3 focuses - arms and shoulders one day, chest and back the other day, and legs the third day and she repeats those three in a cycle. She only has 30 minutes to take advantage of the work's gym and free trainer, so she follows the trainer’s advice and does it as fast as possible and that becomes her “cardio.”
Special Diet Tip:
Add chia seeds to your water!
How does it feel to be complimented?
"Because it's weight training, I see a lot of muscle definition and like, like, I love my arms, how toned they are.” You don’t see it until somebody tells you or... like I went to my um, the salon where I do manicure and pedicure and I just reached out to the shelf and picked up something and then, the girl says, “Wow, your arms are so toned!” and I’m like whaaat? And then look in a picture and think oh wow, they really are toned! So yeah, it feels good when somebody notices. I like that my clothes fit how I want them to. I like that I could still indulge in food that I like caz I know that I’ll burn it."
If you were to offer fitness and wellness advice to the community at large, what would it be?
"If the community around a person who values fitness and wellness is not willing to change, it’s hard.
I would say teach it at school. But then, the kids are not the ones preparing the meals at home, it's the parents. But if you start there, those kids would grow up to be more health conscious and then their families will be healthier so I guess that's where I would start, at school. Health and wellness, exercise and dieting."
To this day, Eva remains committed to a healthier lifestyle and keeps encouraging all, through her actions, to start slow, but start surely.
Thank you, Eva! Thank you for consistently inspiring me! And for those of you reading, how many implicit tips did you find while reading?
When we think of exercise, the lot of us imagine ourselves doing it but yet can also think of a million excuses why we cannot start a regimen. I always say I will exercise in the morning, exercise in the night, go for a walk, use my probably already rusting spinning bike, run around the park while Bee and Zee play at the slide, do some quats during lunch, my list of possibilities is endless.
I look for inspiration among my friends, those I follow on Instagram during the swift visits while hiding the phone from the toddler. I admire them, those that are committed to getting lean and looking great. I can do it, I tell myself. Tomorrow morning. For sure I will.