Dave Hart spent 24 years in the Royal Marines – including 20 years as a physical training instructor – before becoming a World Challenge Expedition Leader in 2008.
Dave has worked on a wide range of expeditions across the world, drawing on his experience of operating in all kinds of extreme environments as a Marine.
"A lot of the Challengers I talk to during the 'Meet the Leader' sessions almost see the expedition as a holiday, they don't understand just how difficult it could be," said Dave. "The research they do into the country and the expedition looks fantastic – and it is – but the reality is that it is a challenging experience.
"Being fit not only helps Challengers to cope with the environment and physical demands of the expedition it also helps psychologically. Throughout the training period you need to start pushing yourself, going beyond what your body is used to. If the body is more prepared, then your mind can act on muscle memory, going back to what it knows and what it has experienced before, when you are facing challenges in a new and extreme environment. At the end of the day it is about a coping mechanism.
"Challengers don't have to be athletes but they do need to build up their level of fitness before they go; not just cardiovascular fitness and stamina, they also need to get used to carrying weight and walking with their kit. My advice to any Challenger would be to spend time on your feet; a 2k walk isn't far enough, can you do 10k? One night out camping might be easy but can you do two or three nights, walking in between?
"I think that it is every Leader's responsibility to meet the team before the expedition and to emphasise the importance of fitness in tackling the challenge ahead of them. It is not about setting crazy, unrealistic goals. We don't expect Challengers to have the fitness of elite athletes, we just want to make sure that everyone sets off on their expedition knowing they have done the best they can to prepare for the challenges ahead, so that they can cope with whatever is thrown at them, and most importantly so that they can enjoy the experience and make the most out of it."