15. Arctic Trek to Challenge MS – Scott McPhillimy

Imagine traveling to the Arctic Circle in the dark and cold of winter. Imagine loading a sled with all of your necessary gear, attaching it to yourself, and hiking/snowshoeing with it all day. Imagine camping out on the snow at night, using your body heat to keep your water bottles and electronics from freezing.

Scott: Gym Enthusiast | Arctic Trekker | MS Warrior

I was thrilled to talk with Scott McPhillimy, a Badass who doesn’t have to imagine this scenario because he lived it. Scott just returned from the Challenge MS Arctic Trek, a three-day tour of frozen northern Finland to benefit the MS Society. Scott was the lone MS warrior in the trekking group.

As Scott shares on our podcast, he was active before his MS diagnosis. He became fit by playing soccer and running 10Ks and half-marathons. Then, MS left his right side very weak. Unable to participate in his favorite sports, Scott resigned himself to a more sedentary lifestyle. He watched his body grow thinner and weaker until he decided to get active again, this time in a way that acknowledged and worked with his condition. With the help of a personal trainer who specializes in clients with MS, Scott became a regular gym goer.

Scott describes how he uses his workouts to mitigate his MS fatigue: “It’s weird. It’s almost like the Wall Street model, where you need to spend money to accumulate money. I found spending energy, I got more energy back.”

In the past, Scott has participated in other athletic events to fundraise for MS. When he saw the Challenge MS Arctic Trek on social media, he knew he wanted to participate in the “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” Scott registered for the trek roughly one year before his departure. To train for the event, he focused on leg strength by climbing hills and mountains in his native Scotland. He also routinely pulled a tire to simulate the pulk, the sled that would carry his gear. Scott was concerned that the foot drop he experiences when his legs are tired would be an insurmountable challenge on the trek, but he found Turbomed’s ankle foot orthosis to be a “game changer.”

Scott shares stories of his trek and describes the woods and frozen rivers and lakes that he traversed. On his three-day trek, Scott walked for up to 18 miles per day, which made for long days, especially with the limited high-latitude winter daylight. He describes how the frigid temperatures complicated every task and shares his joy in getting to experience the quiet and isolation of the Arctic when he got to lead the trekking group. The trek concluded magically at the Arctic Snow Hotel.

Links from our discussion:

To contact us about the podcast or your own Badassery, email podcast@chronicallybadass.org. And, for your daily dose of Badass athletes who are redefining what it means to be chronically ill, follow @chronicallybadassclub on Instagram and Facebook.

Podcast music by: Caleb Ritchie

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