Making health exciting

I want to do it my way...



Posted by Martin Spence on Jun 28, 2017

This weekend in the Peak District, I was conscious of the many extraordinary ways people are motivated to take part in a healthy outdoor activity, let me explain.

I have been running and walking in the northern Peak District, the Dark Peak, for many years now and have noticed a seismic change in attitude to outdoor activities. In the “old days” it was unusual to meet anybody on the hills before 10:00am; now, it’s not unusual to struggle to find a car park space in a small lay-by in the middle of nowhere at 8:00am! Equally, it was very unusual to meet a cyclist on the narrow, hilly byways but now I find myself behind a friendly “peloton” out for the day! Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s fantastic that many more people are finding the time and energy to get out into the great outdoors and enjoy the benefits of the fresh air and it’s heartening to see the enthusiasm for each activity.

New sports or variations and spin-offs are being invented all the time around running, cycling and swimming to cater for all interests not just for those traditional activities. Although entertaining, are they sustainable over time? I suggest there is an element of fashion in some of these sports and they tend to be more of a spectacular nature designed for spectators’ rather than participation events.

I am not sure just having superstars performing for the ordinary punter actual encourages greater participation. Expense and practice time are usually cited as obstacles when it comes to entering one of these new sports. It can act as a deterrent to people starting, in both younger and older groups and there is always a danger of becoming elitist. It would be great to see more people trying outdoor activities without the expectation of reaching the extreme heights and just go and enjoy it. These don’t need to be organised or sanitised events, they really should be something people grow to enjoy for themselves. The latest equipment or the latest trends are likely to attract a few but the memory of a day out in the hills will last a lifetime.

Fashion and trendy perceptions dictate some of the oddities we experience in this country. In Canada, for example, the young people take on the outdoor challenge where hiking and camping is “cool”, in the UK its associated with the “Duke of Edinburgh” challenge which looks very dated these days.

Rules and regulations suppress the thrill or challenge of an event and can make it appear daunting or intimidating to a newcomer. I appreciate there should be some guidelines/rules to an advertised, organised activity and where entry fees are involved but the majority of people would benefit as much, if not more, if they just got “out there” and shared the experience with friends and family. I have always railed against the rules and establishment, not out of cussedness or a mild form of anarchy but just that a lot of rules make for conformity and don’t allow for creativity and experimentation. What do I mean by this? Planning a walk, plotting a route, sorting out where to eat and what to carry for a day on the hills all make up for the enjoyment of task in hand and allow for possible deviations and distractions that might well result from inexperience or curiosity. This doesn’t happen on “paid for” excursions where all eventualities are covered as long as you follow the rules. A sponsored run or walk or an engineered challenge event requiring volunteers, marshals, timekeepers’, support teams and backup all detract from the "get out and do it" mentality.

In business, it’s often better to fail and learn a valuable lesson than try to tread a well-worn path which is guaranteed to succeed. These guarantees’ have well and truly gone! The world we live in now is very different and old school solutions look just that; old school. Why does this resonate with a run in the country…?

Well, personally, I have always enjoyed the company of like-minded people who have been brought together by a shared interest in the outdoors but who can and do have very different views on why they do it, compared to my own. This makes for interesting and stimulating conversations to distract from the humdrum weekly work routines we all endure. This is not to say that all work is boring or unfulfilling, but I suggest "one" seeks a contrast to this at the weekend. Even those people now in retirement should keep active... I have always advocated you take up activities that interest you and stimulate you in both a physical and intellectual way and whether you take these up before or after full-time work is key to your well-being.

These activities are likely to become YOUR habit for life. Something you default to when looking for inspiration or a challenge. The overall effect is you will become healthier and happier; and a great message and role model for your children and grandchildren.

Life always throws a "curved ball" when you think you have everything sorted! You should be ready for the challenge and able and willing to take it on. Getting out for the weekend is a great start.

Let’s hear about your own experiences and thoughts for creating a positive energy for life!