Former international pony dressage rider Katy Willings’ latest update on her progress training for the Mongol Derby

It’s been a decent first week’s Derby training. In a flurry of adrenaline i went to the gym TWO DAYS RUNNING in my lunch hour at work. This is another military-style operation which involves a series of calculations of the sort “how sweaty am i going to get/how many more minutes can i keep this up/when will colleagues notice i am awol/what chance of seeing Carlos the fantasy spinning instructor if i just loiter by this here weights stack a little longer?”

I explained the concept of the Derby to one of the trainers whilst on the ergo, and he said we could do a training session to target my riding muscles and also consider some other stuff to get a programme together for me. So day two involved some strategising. Obviously, losing weight will be a priority, he said. Was that so obvious, I mused, whilst trying to make a plank with elbows on one swiss ball and feet on another. Hmmph. Lots more fairly undignified exercises followed, generally involving an unstable surface (half Swiss ball) and pulling a cable weight in a big arc across the body to make my core muscles work extra hard.

Other homework: all endurance work to be done outside, ideally in the heat of the day, to get used to the kind of water loss I’ll be dealing with. I was able to simulate this most effectively today by going for a long run in Oxford with a steaming hangover, hence compounding the dehydrating effects of sun and sweat to a level I can only describe as ‘blinding’. A big group of friends had gathered for the memorial dinner of Elis White, whose sudden death last year was the catalyst to my adventures in India, and hence my Derby entry. We had the kind of night he would have thoroughly approved of, and I am sure he had a good laugh at my wobbling 6 miler this afternoon, while all my mates had another Bloody Mary.

I will be reporting back to Bruno, he of the compound exercises and the diet advice, tomorrow. I don’t think I’ll mention the 3am chips and cheese. Probably just focus on the running…