NEED INSPIRATION FOR YOUR NEXT FITNESS CHALLENGE?
Need some inspiration for your next fitness challenge? Then look no further! This has been an odd year to say the least and with many of us stuck inside, health and fitness is on a lot of people’s minds. Here are some personal experiences from people who have challenged themselves, what they have learnt and what wisdom they can pass on to you.
Some of these endurances were achieved during Covid-19 so you do not need an organised event to challenge yourself! Believe me the reward will be just the same and knowing that you have done it through self-motivation will make the finish line that much sweeter.
No matter what challenge you set for yourself, you are already winning. Committing to the challenge is the hard bit, then, with great preparation and determination you will catch yourself succeeding…
What: Cycled with my brother from Barnstaple in North Devon to Lands End over 3 days, going along the coast and sightseeing along the way.
Why: For fun! We wanted to escape our homes where we had spent far too much time, have adventure, see some of the UK’s natural beauty and get a sense of achievement from the challenge as well.
Training: Nothing! I do exercise regularly and go out on the bike from time to time, but have never done something like this before. I cycled the ‘London to Brighton’ with friends a month before, but again with zero training.
Hardest part: When the weather came in and it was pouring down, cold and we were lost around Newquay. Very, very happy to make it to the our warm beds in Perranporth.
Best Bit: There were lots and lots (and lots) of hills so when we got to this lovely flat B road from Port Reath to Hayle with great views as well, it was heavenly.
Something you learnt about yourself from doing this challenge? I can admit I doubted whether we would actually be able to do this - both from the logistics of planning and our fitness levels. So I learnt to always go for it anyway, believe in your abilities (and make sure to plan the trip well).
Tips: Be prepared! Both in terms of equipment and clothing. You will need it.
Next challenge: Would definitely do something similar again. I very much enjoyed the challenge along with the excitement of visiting new places and being in nature. There is a coast to coast cycle route that takes 3 days and goes through the Lake District and Pennines, so maybe that!
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What: Ironman UK
Why: I heard about Ironman when I was training for my first ever marathon and starting to do a bit of cycling. I remember my Dad and I adding up the time it would take us to do an Ironman and laughing at the realisation that it would take well over 24 hours (the cut off time is 17 hours). And so the seed had been sown....
Training: I was already part of a triathlon club, Clapham Chasers, and I did most of my training with them or friends I met through the club. I wrote monthly plans that I never quite managed to stick to! It had 3 or 4 training sessions before work and I just couldn't always get out of bed so early. But, I did cycle for a couple of hours in Richmond or Regent's Park before work at least twice a week. I swam at lunchtime two or three times a week, ran two or three evenings a week and did a long ride (increasing to about 80-100 miles) on Saturdays and often Sundays too. I had really fallen in love with cycling so some long cycling events / weekends. I ran or cycled pretty much everywhere.
How long did it take you to train for it? 6 months (with the odd week off!)
Hardest part: Trying to be consistent in training! I had some weeks where I cycled loads and did way more miles than I needed, and some weeks where I pressed snooze....a lot.
Best Bit: Some friends had come along to support, and the best bits were definitely seeing them! Something you learnt about yourself from doing this challenge? That my favourite type of challenge is one I'm not quite sure I can complete, until I do.
Did you listen to music while you trained/during your challenge? If so what was your choice of music? I sometimes listen to music when running in the city on my own, usually whatever I can find that is fast (a vain attempt to motivate myself to run fast) among my embarrassing assortment of music - Charli XCX's `dirty sexy money` always helps me run fast (personally) but also feel like a bad feminist. I never listen to music when out in the countryside, or cycling, or with friends. At events I like to soak up the atmosphere!
Recommended food or drink brand that helped / you enjoyed during this challenge? I'm pretty anti any kind of special "sports nutrition" stuff, but I did eventually realise some kind of energy in my drinks was needed on long fast bike rides, so I used the off High5 energy sachet. Aside from that, the very high calibre sports brands "Soreen" and "Veggie Colin caterpillars".
Tips: Find people to train with. I never would have managed those early morning lido swims without a friend holding me accountable (and the promise of a quick coffee with them afterwards)! It has to be fun 🥳
Next challenge: I'm a fan of the far more low key 'audax' cycling events, or maybe a swim-run where you swim to an island, run across it, swim to the next one and so on - just sounds so cool doesn't it?
Thinking about doing and Ironman one day? Check out High5 energy sachet’s that helped give Naomi much needed energy on her challenging endurance.
What: My first 5K!
Why: I wanted to run more to feel fitter / get out of my head due to the lock down and work anxiety. I have never been a jogger and honestly thought I wouldn’t be able to run 5K anytime soon (or ever, to be really honest). My best friend (Maria!!!) made me feel like I could do it which made me feel I wanted to prove it to myself too. I wanted a target to push myself towards and focus on something good for myself mentally and physically. My friend also made me set a date for when I would do it - so I had a target I had set with someone else which, really motivated me to stick to it.
Training: I started with the ‘Couch to 5K’ app and after speaking to my friend she told me that she believed I could reach the 5K goal quicker than the app was scheduling me for. She instead pushed me to start jogging whilst she was on the phone with me, and at first I couldn’t even run three minutes without feeling like I had to stop, as it felt new and horrible. She pushed me by jogging at the same time as me (over the phone). She would tell me when to jog and when to walk as we were starting with intermittent running. Previously when using the app I used to focus on the countdown of when I could stop jogging and I would know exactly how many minutes I had left. This helped at first but I think realistically it was stopping me push myself to run for longer. My friend instead pushed me to run for longer by keeping time for me so I didn’t have to watch my clock and instead I focussed on jogging and her voice. It was quite funny as well as she tricked me a couple of times into running for longer than we aimed by not telling me to stop even if the allocated time was actually up. So she was pushing me to run a bit longer than the target, and this made me realise I could actually run more than I thought I could!
How long did it take you to train for it?I think 2-3 week
Hardest part: I think it feels worse in the first 5-10 minutes of the jog, as you know you have maybe 30 minutes more to run; it already feels tough when you know you still have a long way to go. I think I also felt self-conscious running as I felt so slow and felt people would be watching me, noticing how weak I looked....
Best bit: The mental clarity you get whilst running. You are so mindful of taking the steps, your route etc., so you’re not thinking about much else. You feel quite peaceful. Also the moment you know you’ve hit your target and what an achievement it was to push yourself and prove to yourself you could do it all along. Also the serotonin rush is great too! That’s three best things but it’s hard to pick! But okay being serious - the best thing I think was that I felt like I had discovered a life hack. If you’re feeling low or anxious or even just weird (all things 2020 has made us feel), one guaranteed way to look after yourself and feel better quickly is to exercise! Works like a charm.
Something you learnt about yourself from doing this challenge? I am stronger (mentally and physically) than I ever realised!|
Tips: Don’t make excuses and just make yourself do it - even if you’re feeling rubbish and only want to jog for 10 mins. It’s better than nothing and you’ll ALWAYS thank yourself after.
Would you do it again/what’s the next challenge? Yes I would! I haven’t jogged due to a lot of life changes recently, and I will have to start training from scratch again now. But I miss it and want to do it again. Next challenge is to try to do it weekly as I had been before but keep it going for at least 3 months...
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What: 3 Peak Challenge
Why: It was being organised through work to raise money for GOSH, which is a great charity and a great opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone and try something new.
Training: Went on 1 hike, in hindsight a bit of a mistake…
Hardest part: Lack of sleep!!
Best bit: The amazing team spirit!
Something you learnt about yourself from doing this challenge? I am more capable than I think I am on very little sleep.
Tips: Get those steps in beforehand, and take PLENTY of snacks.
Would you do it again/what’s the next challenge? I would do it again and hope to complete it in the 24hours this time, easier with a smaller group.
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What: Brighton marathon
Why: I ran the marathon out of sheer stubbornness, to prove that I could, and to make up for a lifetime of being last to be picked in PE at school!
Training: I trained for about 4 months, running 4 times a week. I would run between 3 and 5 miles on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, followed by a run which incrementally increased in distance on Sundays. Every week I would add a mile on to the long run, moving over the weeks from 7 miles up to 20 miles.
Hardest part: I think the hardest part was waking up on cold, wet February Sunday mornings, and knowing that instead of spending the afternoon ensconced by a pub fire I would have to spend 2-3 hours running! Once I got out of the door and underway it was never too bad, but psyching myself up for the long run was always a challenge.
Best bit: I absolutely loved the marathon overall. Although a cliché I really do think that running regularly hugely improved my mental health and confidence. You reach a stage of physical fitness where running 15 miles is not a big deal, you get to know your local area extremely well, and of course you can bore all your friends rigid talking about it! It instilled a love of long distance running in me which I have yet to lose.
Something you learnt about yourself from doing this challenge?
I learnt that I can push myself without exterior encouragement.
Did you listen to music while you trained/during your challenge? If so what was your choice of music?
I listened to music and podcasts without fail while running. The sheer amount of time you spend pounding the tarmac makes entertainment essential. I curated my own Spotify running playlist which naturally was full of absolute tunes, but would also listen to Spotify’s in-house running playlists, Radio 1, and endless episodes of ‘My Dad Wrote a Porno’.
Recommended food or drink brand that helped / you enjoyed during this challenge? I didn’t want to carry a running rucksack, so could only carry very limited food and drink. On shorter runs I would take nothing at all, and on my weekly long run I would carry 500ml of orange squash in one hand and a banana in the
other – I looked quite silly!
Tips: Three vital tips: firstly, stick to a running schedule. It doesn’t matter if you have to walk some of the miles, but you must make sure you put the miles in your legs every week. Secondly, and notwithstanding the first point, listen to your body! Don’t push for 7 minute miles on a Wednesday morning if you don’t feel like it, and if you feel any niggle at all stop running straight away (don’t wait for it to get worse). Finally, this is about you and a pair of trainers and lots of miles – ignore the runners speeding past in expensive lycra with watches that can calculate their sweat output to the millilitre. Ultimately, it is a huge achievement to run a marathon whether you run it in 6 hours or 3, and finding what works for you is what is important.
Would you do it again/what’s the next challenge?
I have now run 3 marathons, and am planning my first ultra marathon… fingers crossed.
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What: Half marathon
Why: Coercion by my dear friend Maria.
Training: Built up distance slowly and got up to 17k before attempting a half in one go!
How long did it take you to train for it? 2 months, maybe more! Was a great outlet during lockdown and a great way of coping with stress/anxiety.
Hardest bit: Not being anywhere near a toilet!
Best bit: The last kilometre knowing how close I was to the end and how far I'd gone!
Something you learnt about yourself from doing this challenge? That our bodies are able when our minds are willing!
Tips: Slowly build-up and on the day think positive, don't tell yourself you can't or you won't do it, you'd be surprised where positive thinking can get you!
Would you do it again/what’s the next challenge? December! Did a 10k there last Saturday so looking forward to upping the distance the next two months 😉
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What: Park run 5K
Why: Encouragement/persuasion from a friend.
Training: Nothing! Something I quickly came to regret.
How long did it take you to train for it? Having learnt my lesson, I started training after the event and it took about 3-4 weeks to comfortably run 5K.
Hardest part: Finishing the event!
Best bit: Constant encouragement and reassurances from my friend and also the stewards helping out at the event!
Something you learnt about yourself from doing this challenge? I give up too easily!
Did you listen to music while you trained/during your challenge? If so what was your choice of music?No I didn’t but since then I have started to listen to music whilst running - I usually just Spotify a good running play list.
Tips: Be consistent, you make progress slowly but lose it quickly!
Would you do it again/what’s the next challenge? I have done another park run since but have mainly stuck to runs of my own accord - maybe a 10k at some point in the distant future....
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What: Royal Parks Half Marathon
Why: To raise money for charity by doing something that would push me out of my comfort zone.
Training: I started running a couple of times each week.
How long did it take you to train for it? 7weeks
Hardest part: All of it?
Best bit: As hard as it was, I did really enjoy the run. It was actually a little bit overwhelming seeing so many people supporting charities. The best bit was all the supporters in the crowd. High-fiving strangers as you passed does really help!
Something you learnt about yourself from doing this challenge? Mind over matter. If you tell yourself to keep running, most of the time you will.
Did you listen to music while you trained/during your challenge? If so what was your choice of music?I started off listening to music with a heavy beat but found that I would run too fast and tire out. So then I switched to slower soul music which kept me at a constant pace through out.
Recommended food or drink brand that helped / you enjoyed during this challenge? I had some SIS energy gels and some Haribo. Haribo for this challenge and every other.
Tips: Set yourself a plan and stick to it.
Would you do it again/what’s the next challenge? I haven’t run properly since the race. So the next challenge would be to start from the basics again.
If you are thinking about or already in training for your next half marathon then check out SIS Energy Gel’s that helped Shehara power through to the finish line.
Thank you to the inspirers themselves: Asa, Naomi, Charlotte, Hannah, Kit, Clair, Emily and Shehara who kindly gave their personal experiences and awesome advice. Hopefully, you have been inspired to commit to a new challenge! Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if anything from this blog has caught your eye. Let us know how you get on…Now go and smash it!