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What sort of thoughts can help us get active by thinking about just becoming fitter?

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My good friend Rich and I have just completed our fourth week of hard training in our quest to be ready for a 277km in 7 days assault on Offa’s Dyke by foot this September.  Training has so far built up to 20 miles of walking / running each a day and I’ve also been commuting to work by bike with a round trip of up to 50km.  So how did we get to be so active?… it didn’t happen overnight….

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Neither of us are by any means elite “fitties” but in our forties and (in my case slightly podgy after 3 years of hotel based consultancy work) fellows wanting to have some fun and raise money for a couple of great causes along the way.
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It struck me this morning, despite aching, tired limbs and a pair of saddle sore gluteus maximi, that actually I am feeling much, much stronger and healthier than I did just a few weeks ago.
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I’m always surprised, but shouldn’t be, that moderate exercise everyday can make such a difference to overall energy, positivity and even things like skin condition.  It’s wonderful to be able to have a real challenge to work towards and that motivates me like nothing else.
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So I was wondering.  What is it that gets so many of us, including me, to stop exercising regularly and to slowly grow older and frankly fatter as we pass along life’s highways?
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I think perhaps part of it is the very high and often unattainable standards that we place on ourselves when we think of what the word “fit” means to us.  We go off seeking “fitness” like a bull in a china shop – join that gym, buy that bike, start on that jogging and diet program.  We push ourselves to the limit, not really enjoying what we are doing.
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We make it hard work, something of a chore, we give up on things and we see the pursuit of fitness as a sacrifice to the other cravings we might be missing as a result of the “giving up” of other things.  The problem might be that our idea of fit might be a step too far…a panic.
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I’ve decided to conduct an experiment.  I’m working with the mindset of getting “fitter” and not “fit”.  This is a new paradigm for me that I am playfully pursuing to see where it takes me.  In many of the leadership workshops that I run my clients and I develop an understanding of the comfort, stretch, panic model.  When we stretch and make small changes out of our comfort zone then the result of a thousand stretches can be a significant change in our lives.
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7 marathons in 7 days is a really tall order.  When I first thought about it, it really bothered me.  In fact it was a panic.  My little inner critic told me “no way are you going to be able to do that Chris – you are not fit enough and you are certainly too fat and too old now”
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But over the course of this year I have been working on “fitter”: small steps that are making a difference, raising my activity levels and becoming habits:
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1.  Drinking alcohol just a bit less every week and only drinking with meals.
2.  Using the Apple Health App to ensure I do at least 10,000 steps a day.
3.  Walking to the local shop instead of driving.
4.  Not taking that oh so lovely looking desert a couple of times a week.
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I’ve noticed this simple stretching has definitely reduced my calorie intake and helped me feel more lively and alert.  Waistline started to reverse from its inexorable trend towards a bulge.
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Other habits then have begun to form as I play with stretching a little more:
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1.  Taking a glass of water before bed every night and a glass of water first thing in the morning – this really seems to aid digestion of breakfast as it gets the kidneys flushed and ready!
2.  Walking up stairs instead of taking the lift or elevator.
3.  Taking a walk every weekend with my daughters instead of couch surfing with them – lots of great chats and lots of lovely moments.  We understand each other much better!
4.  Work standing up instead of slouched at a desk.  It’s great for posture and I find myself much more alert.
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In May I thought I’d test out how far my fitness odyssey has taken me.  I enrolled for the 130 mile Coast to Coast cycle ride with some great friends, followed the following weekend by a swift 39 mile walk on the Llangollen round.
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What I started to notice – stamina was returning and often euphoria as the endorphins were starting to flow around my body.  Such a lovely feeling to get that runners high.  I really did feel as if I’d come a long way and felt a sense of celebration.  I actually found myself singing like Julie Andrews ( alone) on a Welsh Mountainside.
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Since May the stretching has continued in earnest.  Rich and I planned the 7 marathons in 7 days initial as just a walk along Offas Dyke.  We realised though that in order to do it in our free time we could only afford a week off work and that meant 26 miles a day.
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So the stretching had to begin in earnest.  I work in Oslo during the week.  My goodness I am blessed with a wonderful outdoor playground, very long evenings and a plethora of colleagues prepared to get fitter in the outdoors with me.
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So my next stretch pledge to myself was to buy a bike and cycle to work.  It’s 15/25 km each way depending on the route and I am indebted to my colleagues Helge, Helena and Monica for showing me the way and turning out to accompany me come rain and shine ( this summer has been mostly rain!).
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Suddenly I realised that over the course of the last 6 months I have gone from virtually no exercise to around 50km cycling and 20km running/walking on most days.
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Now I feel like the 7 in 7 challenge is doable and it will not be a panic.

So what have I learned.  Most importantly I have learned that getting fit is a daunting challenge but getting fitter is a much more progressive and enjoyable experience.  I thoroughly recommend this approach to anyone who wants to be more active and wants to feel better, more energetic and to remain healthier.   A few small stretches can take you a long way to habitually BEING more healthy.
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If you’d like to support us or help us spread the word about our middle aged 7 marathons in 7 days then please don’t hesitate to keep in touch through by clicking the Find out more link.
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Two last points for those of you who are competitive.
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Strava.com is an addictive and compelling app that puts you against yourself and others in a bid to become the most accomplished runner/cyclist. I recommend!
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Also simply donning a pedometer or using the apple Health app has helped create a fundamental shift in my thinking.  I am competitive so I like to see the monthly steps per day chart show an upwards trend.  It has become quite an obsession to the point where a lazy day frustrates me a little – something I have to be mindful of.
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I wish you the best of stretches and thank you for reading this.
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