Okay, so let me begin (and stick with me on this). I’ve never really enjoyed sport and exercise. As a kid, I was clumsy (actually, as an adult, I am clumsy), I have/had very little ball/eye coordination – so I was always picked last in cricket, rugby, football, basketball which were all played at school. I was okay at long distance running at school, as I was tall and lanky, and had good stamina – I was rubbish at other track and field events, as I didn’t have the muscle mass. I never filled out, I was one of those kids that could eat, and eat, and eat, and put no weight on.
As a young adult, I did the occassional hike, I liked going for a swim in warm sea (so you can rule out my local sea, Morecambe Bay), however in recent years, it’s been a case of walking the dog down the lane or around the local cemetery for 30 minutes per day, if my dog is lucky (can be as little as 20 minutes). If he is really lucky, my dog would get to go to the local beach (the one too cold for me to swim in).
I hit middle age recently, and like all middle aged guys in the UK, I was invited to have a health check with a practice nurse at my local NHS health centre. This took place at the end of 2016. Having worked in health and social care most of my working life (sexual health, mental health, substance misuse services, etc.) I knew pretty much what the nurse was going to say, “You’re overweight, at risk of type2 diabetes, your blood pressure is too high. You need to do more exercise, reduce unhealthy fats in my diet, increase fibre…”, the list went on. I got enthused, this was the motivational kick up the backside I needed! Or so I thought!
This was a classic example of “Do as I say, not as I do”. Anyone who has wanted to change a significant behaviour, such as stopping smoking, getting fitter, losing weight, etc, will know that it requires some background work. Rarely (although not unheard of), can someone just say “Right, I am going to stop smoking right now” after a lifetime of smoking 20 cigarettes per day. Usually, some little thought in their head makes them think they need to stop. It could be a health scare, it could be they want to save money, it might be a partner telling them to quit. The Transtheoretical Stages of Change model explains the steps that most people will need to go through if they are to be successful in their behaviour change. So my plan to get fit, fell by the wayside quite quickly, as I jumped form “Contemplation” to “Action” too quickly. I didn’t weigh up my options. I signed up to swimming lessons, but gave up when my instructor advised me to build up my core strength first. This was the beginning of 2017. There was a lot of time being back in the pre-contemplative phase.
I went back to the drawing board, and stuck with the preparation phase of the model a little longer. It was around this time, that my youngest son, was very much into cycling. So I took full advantage of the government backed Cycle to Work Scheme. For anyone who is reading this blog who is in employment, they might want to see if their employer is taking part in the scheme, and if not, encourage them to consider it. If you are student, some colleges and universities hire our bicycles at a very reduced rate, and might be an option for you. I took advantage of the scheme and I got myself a Scott Aspect 940. It was a great decision – a great bike for someone getting back into cycling, and exploring bridle ways, tracks etc in my local area with my son. The problem was, I still wasn’t getting out on the bicycle often enough, or pushing myself a little harder to really reap the rewards. I needed more motivation!
My motivation came from my work. I realised that I was often talking to students about the 5 Ways to Wellbeing as model to improve mental wellbeing (and more of that at a later date), but not always using the model myself, and I was wanting to get a better work/life balance. I decided that I was going to implement the 5 Ways into my own life, which would hopefully improve my work/life balance, and get me fit at the same time. It was also around this time that I became aware of the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust and the work they do through the Cameron Coasters. The trust were incredibly generous in creating some customised coasters for the University of Cumbria, and I thought as a way to give something back (and part of the 5 Ways), I would raise some money for them. I raised a modest amount through Facebook for my birthday. And then I had the brainwave of raising more money for the charity, via a sponsored cycle ride! This is where the journey truly starts!