Right now, Turangi woman Lisa Kanawa should be in Antarctica, not sipping coffee in a cafe.

After all, the 30-year-old has spent almost two years putting in intense preparation for a 80-day 800-mile (1287km) trek across Antarctica to the South Pole.

There's been exercise - lots of it - a special diet, weights and strength work and a trip to Norway last year to begin the planning required for Your Expedition, an all-woman ski expedition led by polar explorers Ann Bancroft and Liv Arnesen. The expedition was scheduled for November this year, meaning that at this moment, Lisa should be on the ice.

So it was like having a rug pulled out from under her when she found out last March just before her second trip to Norway, that the South Pole expedition had been postponed.

With no word on when or if the expedition would take place, Lisa, who had been working hard in the buildup, says hearing the news was "tough" and made it hard for her to maintain her motivation.

"I just took four weeks off ...and then there was some uncertainty about whether the trip was going ahead so I didn't hear till June."

With a global recession in full swing and the costs of mounting the expedition in the millions of dollars, Ann Bancroft and Liv Arnesen were having trouble raising enough sponsorship money to allow the expedition to go ahead. So it was a relief in June when Lisa found out that the trip was still on, but had been put back a year to November 2012 to allow them time to find more funding. The biggest costs of the expedition are the flights to Antarctica and paying to have a plane on standby should anything go wrong.

The theme of the expedition has also changed, to raising awareness of fresh water access issues. The team is made up of six women from six continents (Lisa is the Oceania representative) and each woman represents the key water challenges on their continents.

The team aims to bring its messages of environmentalism, empowerment, education, cross-cultural communication and the ability of individuals to effect global change to 50 million youth around the world using special education curriculum plus interactive technology like Facebook and Twitter.

Lisa says before the postponement she was working out intensely under the guidance of Bodyworx Gym owner Chris Henderson to try to build up the strength she would need to pull a 90kg sled across snow and ice for up to 10 hours a day.

"Chris and I were training three or four times a week. I looked like Superwoman, I just had muscles on muscles," Lisa says.

Now she will have to begin the build up again, something that's been made more difficult by Chris moving to Australia - another blow.

Lisa admits she was "gutted" when she heard Chris's news but she is going to contact him via skype and he'll continue to put her training programmes together.

To be ready for next November she says she'll do aerobic events to increase her cardiovascular fitness but also concentrate on strength work and building her body up for pulling a sled in cold temperatures (Liv and Ann train by dragging tyres around). Lisa also needs to put on 15-20kg to ward off the cold and store energy, something she's struggling to do while she's exercising so much.

She says that although pulling a sled across snow, ice and often tricky terrain sounds tough, it's fine when they are on flat ground. But the expedition will have to go over the Queen Maude mountains en route, which are higher than Mt Ruapehu.

"It sounds hard, but it's only when you go uphill," says Lisa. "And trying to find a place mentally where you are enjoying it, looking at an empty horizon for six to eight hours.

"We've put 80 days aside but it shouldn't take 80. If we get ideal conditions we should take at least 10-20 days off that...in Norway, in about five hours we did 16km comfortably."

Lisa, who was previously a senior advisor for the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry's Maori strategy group, is nowdays based full-time in Turangi and consults on Maori environmental matters,  meaning she can pick and choose when she wants to work and allowing her the time to concentrate on her training.

She heads back to Norway in March to meet the two new members of the Antarctica expedition team, test gear, plan expedition routines and then put it all into practice by trekking, eating and camping in freezing conditions.

Lisa says she's been living with the idea of the expedition so long she sometimes forgets to take the time to appreciate the opportunity she's been given.

She says the hardest thing about the postponement was that extended the "on-hold" kind of life she was living while waiting for the trip.

"You don't plan a holiday, you try to make family life as static as it can be because you might be going away so it's hard trying to make plans at home because you can't really commit to too much. I think the hardest part was not knowing."

To learn more about the expedition, visit yourexpedition.com.