I’ve never been a ‘sporty’ person. Sports day at school was my idea of hell and there wasn’t a single event that I was good enough at to compete. Sprinting? I’m not fast enough. Long distance running? I have borderline asthma; not severe enough to need an inhaler, but definitely a problem when it comes to moving at any speed faster than a walk. Long jump or high jump? I’m 5 foot 2 inches tall. (If you’ve ever heard me say I’m 5’4”, it was a lie, and one I tell often.) I can barely lift a shotput, the discus was bigger than my hand and the javelin was almost twice my height. I had no chance.
In my first year at secondary school, we were told by our PE teacher that we had to choose an event to compete in. I knew a girl who was a couple of years above me at school and she suggested I put my name down for the shotput as it was the furthest event away from the running track and nobody could be bothered to walk back to watch it. Perfect. The last thing I wanted was an audience; I was a very shy child, as well as being absolutely rubbish at sports. On the day, it went about as well as I expected. I lost spectacularly; and then, strangely enough, was unfortunate to be off sick for every sports day after that!
A few years after I left school, my friend and I decided that we would try jogging. We went walking together with our dogs already so thought we could manage it – we’d just go at our own pace, building up the distance and speed over time. (Ooh, that’s brought back a terrible flashback of learning physics at school – “speed equals distance over time”. Incidentally, that’s the only thing I remember from those physics lessons.) We were doing ok, until my friend invited an acquaintance of hers to join us one day. I said that was fine, the more the merrier, except he hadn’t told us that he was a semi-professional runner.
I thought I was going to die. It was raining fairly heavily and, at one point, the road was completely flooded over so we had to stop and make our way carefully through the flood. I have never been so grateful for rain and wet feet. We ran almost five miles, (we had previously never made it more than a mile in one stretch) and we swore we would never invite anyone else to run with us again.
My fitness levels have fluctuated over the years, increasing with different job roles where I have been on my feet a lot, then decreasing after having my two children, when some days I’m lucky if I manage to brush my teeth and hair in a morning. I was at my fittest in the summer of 2011; I was twenty-one at the time and working long shifts at a local hotel/restaurant so I was always on the go. That was the year that I completed the Keswick to Barrow for the second time, beating my previous time by a country mile. (For those who haven’t heard of it, the Keswick to Barrow is a 40 mile walk from, oddly enough, Keswick to Barrow. It began in 1966 and has run almost every year since, raising millions of pounds in total for charity. I would love to write more on the K2B if I could, perhaps later and in another article.) In 2011 I was at my peak. I am possibly at my most unfit now.
Recently, I started walking again. My friend; the same friend I went running with, recommended a daily walk to help my mental health. (I developed post-natal depression after having both of my children – more on that in another article – and the thought of ‘exercising’ was just too much, but a short walk sounded manageable.) So, I started to make sure that I got out for a walk at least once a day and, not only did it help me mentally and physically, but I found that I was really enjoying it. My friend and I would record video messages to send to each other on our ‘mental health walks,’ just to keep in touch as we’re both incredibly busy and rarely find time for a phone call at the moment, let alone to see each other. It was really helpful in keeping us motivated. Then I spotted an advert on Facebook – The Conqueror Challenges.
They’re a company who are striving to motivate people to exercise more and the advert I saw was for their ‘Lord of the Rings' themed challenge. You download an app, choose a challenge and place your order. There is a huge selection of challenges, mostly based on real places like ‘Mt Everest,’ ‘The English Channel' and ‘Route 66.’ Once you’ve signed up, you can log any distance-based exercise that you do and travel along the virtual map, collecting ‘postcards’ as you go. Once your challenge is complete, you’re awarded a medal and they are beautiful. To tell you the truth, I am quite a fan of the Lord of the Rings, and those medals were the main reason I signed up, alongside my friend. We have completed ‘The Shire’ and are currently on our way to 'Rivendell'.
My medal arrived in the post yesterday and I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited to open a parcel. I’m now on a mission to collect every medal, so I’m sure I’ll be as fit as Mo Farah in no time! I’d advise anyone struggling to manage their mental health, if you just hate the gym or can’t cope with cardio, to give walking a go. It could really take you places.
The Conqueror -Virtual Challenges