The Power of People

The power of friendship can help you cope with being out of your comfort zone, stretch your limits and prevent panic. At the same time, it can make you feel on top of the world! In 2018, a group of 18 escaped to East Java with UFIT Retreats. It was truly a trip to remember and for some, it was the biggest challenge of their lives.

A new friendship blossomed between UFIT One-North Personal Trainer Lizzie Corbett and UFIT Client Clare, which helped them reach the summit of Mount Semeru. Read on to find out through their eyes the highs and lows of the trip and how the power of people can help push your limits.

L: In a world of social media, dating apps and fast food delivery services you can organise your next meal, date and day out at the touch of a button. Being able to sit in our literal and metaphorical ‘comfort zone’ has been made increasingly easy without the need for any social interaction. But standing at the top of Mount Semeru, 3,672 metres up, hugging a person I had only met 48 hours ago made me realise the power of people and the need to challenge ourselves on a regular basis to understand what we are truly capable of.

The view from the highest summit in East Java is truly spectacular. The series of volcanoes above the clouds in Indonesia is picture-perfect. But what’s the story behind that flawless Instagram-ready picture?

One of our Retreaters Clare joined us on our trip and had the journey of a lifetime. It made me realise the 3 important mental stages or zones a person will go through during a physical challenge.

C: In January 2018, I packed my life into two suitcases (and about 50 boxes) and flew 7000 miles to Singapore, the other side of the world. I had done a year abroad in Madrid when I was 20 as part of my University Degree but this was different. I was doing this alone and apart from a couple of work colleagues, I didn’t know anybody in the new country that I was about to call Home. I was a little scared and nervous about the new life that lay ahead of me, but more than that I was excited and eager to turn the page on my old life and start a new chapter in a new exciting country.

One of the first things I did when I arrived in Singapore was to join UFIT. My boss at work was a member and I started doing Personal Training sessions at Amoy Street with the lovely Francesca straight away.

When I saw an email from UFIT Retreats advertising a hiking trip to Mount Bromo and Semeru, I emailed back immediately to sign up. I am normally thoughtful when it comes to making decisions, to the extent that I practically overthink everything, but this time I knew I had to just go for it! I wanted to meet new people, challenge myself physically and mentally, do something I have never done before, and see some of Indonesia’s beautiful mountains. It was the best spontaneous decision I have made in ages.

Comfort Zone

L: Our first task in Surabaya on day 1 upon was to endure the 8-hour drive up to the start point of the trek. We were all in our comfort zones, and in the group of 18 I found myself chatting away with Clare and getting to know her personally.

How to tell when someone is in their comfort zone:

·       Calm and at ease

·       Comfortable with their surroundings

·       Low anxiety

·       Being complacent

·       Expressions of boredom


C: After spending my first ever night camping in a tent on the side of a mountain, our alarms went off at 11.30pm to begin our hike to the summit. I had approximately 1 hour of sleep and was absolutely freezing but I was in surprisingly good spirits at that stage! The first 2 hours were spent trekking through the woodlands then we began the climb upwards. So far so good.

Stretch Zone

L: Day 2 went by and Clare was already being pushed out of her comfort zone, despite the bitterly cold nights, “basic” toilet facilities, and early morning starts, she remained her high-spirited, cheerful self and set off to the summit of Mount Semeru with the rest of the UFIT Retreats gang.


How to tell when someone is in their stretch zone:

·       Excited

·       Energised but not overwhelmed

·       Engaged with new challenges

·       Motivated and focused

Panic Zone

L: With head torches leading the way along the volcanic ash pathways, it started to feel like we were taking 1 step forward and 2 back. Around 3 hours in the group decided to split up, as some wanted to make it for sunrise to capture postcard-perfect pictures. Clare made the decision to join the first group to make it to the top as quickly as possible. This was when we had the first “Mountain Meltdown” incident.

The pace from the guide at the front had picked up significantly and this made it almost impossible for Clare to catch up at the back. Eventually, there came a point where she was getting further and further behind those racing ahead.


C: We reached a point where the ground became sandy and every step seemed to bring us diminishing returns. I looked down into the pitch black darkness and saw a steep drop behind me. Going back was not an option. I thought about sitting and waiting on the side of the mountain but calculated that I would have to wait it out for 5 hours and I might freeze to death! I looked up and tried to estimate how much longer it would take to get to the top. When the guide told me it would be another 2 hours I was feeling demoralised.


L: This was the first time I had seen my new friend in a different light. The vibrant, positive character had now put on a different mask, a negative, underconfident one I hadn’t yet seen.


How to tell when someone is in their panic zone:

·       Frantic

·       Thinking irrationally

·       Scared

·       Loss of focus

·       Fight or Flight reactions

·       Stressed and anxious


As a coach and a friend, I could recognise that Clare was showing the signs of being in a state of panic, and it was now my duty to bring her back to focus on the task of reaching the summit I knew she had in her.


How to help someone who is in their panic zone:

  1. Ask a direct question – Was she going to ‘fight’ and make her way to the summit and ultimately bring herself out of that panic zone or ‘flight’, believing she couldn’t go any further and retreating back to the other group. She decided to fight...

  2. Re-focus attention to the task – Now we knew she was going to keep trekking I had to remind her of the end goal - the epic view at the summit!

  3. Take control of the situation – Fatigue was starting to take over, coupled with the fear of not knowing how long she had left to the top. Regular breaks helped make progress, always looking forward and emphasising it didn’t matter how long it took us as long as we get there.

  4. Motivate and encourage – It was my job to keep encouraging Clare, and I was chatting with her to take her mind off the negative thoughts.

C: I was really starting to tire, and I knew that I would struggle with another 2 hours of this incline. However, Lizzie started talking me out of my panic and told me I would be able to make it to the top if we broke it down into manageable pieces.


L: The sun started to rise and everything became bright again, the peak of the summit was finally in sight and we could see how far we had come. One last water break before the final climb and Clare was back to her normal, chatty self, albeit being slightly exhausted. We had finally made it… back to the comfort zone, but this time it was high up in the clouds on top of a volcano with no smartphones in sight, well just one to capture that perfect picture!


C: Slowly but surely, we continued to climb, and although it was tough and there were a few hairy moments, we eventually reached the summit! The feeling that I had once we reached the top is something that I’ve never had before and will never forget. Talking out loud and getting negative thoughts out of my head together with Lizzie’s encouragement and energy helped push me forward.


L: Everyone has different levels of comfort, stretch and panic zones. Being in our comfort zone is safe and it is where we can relax and rest from everyday stresses. However, we need to make sure we keep pushing our stretch and panic zones to be able to grow as individuals. That may be in the workplace, on the sports pitch, in the gym or in a social situation, we need to expand our comfort zones, and not be afraid to allow someone to help us through those scary situations in life – you don’t know what friends you will make along the way!


C: I was overwhelmed with pride looking down the mountain I had just climbed. I literally felt on top of the world! I was blown away at how beautiful and peaceful it is 3,672 meters above sea level. The views were breathtaking and the scenery was simply stunning. After such a fantastic experience, I am already looking forward to my next hike and would recommend to anyone and everyone to sign up for a UFIT Retreat.

This is just one of the relationships that birthed from the short trip we took to East Java. We tested our limits and patience but the greatest thing is seeing strangers working together, lifting each other up, overcoming fears and achieving what they never thought possible.

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Lizzie Corbett’s journey in the fitness industry started when she joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) of the United Kingdom as a Physical Training Instructor when she was 18. As a coach, she uses her military experience to unlock her clients’ potential, both mentally and physically. Her motivation lies in being part of her clients’ journeys to achieve their goals.