Sep 03

Sweatember 2018 Day 1

Everyone who knows me even a little bit knows that exercise and I are not good friends.  To be honest, we’re rarely passing acquaintances.  In the last few months I’ve tried to change this, had a horrible experience, and ended up having a worse relationship with exercise than ever before.

Older woman stretching by a river

Staying active can keep you mobile at any age

The question is, do you walk away from a challenging relationship, or do you work at it?   That all depends on whether the relationship is safe for you, and of value (which is not the same as saying ‘what can I get out of it’, but that’s another story).  I think that the evidence very clearly indicates that physical activity is of great value.  If it’s done correctly, it can help with flexibility, mobility and maintenance of muscle mass.  In some people it helps with weight management and mood.  This isn’t the case for me, but the effect has been seen in studies, so I can’t write it off.

This month, Cancer Research UK has an initiative called Sweatember.  Terrible name, great idea.  The aim is for people to be physically active every day. How active?  Well, the current advice is that, in order to be helpful, activity should last for 30 minutes a day, raise your heart rate and make you breathe more heavily.  So, that’s the minimum I’ll be aiming for.  Where I can be active for 60 minutes, I will, but that won’t always fit into my day.

Woman with hula hoop

Could I be doing this in September? Watch this space. I promise to be fully clothed!

I’m also challenging myself to try one new activity a week.  One thing I won’t be doing is going to the gym.  Been there, done that, hated it.  I find gyms the most soul-destroying, insanitary places.  The final straw was when I caught a lady blow-drying an unnameable part of her body in the communal changing room.  If you love gyms, fine, but as long as you have someone to get you started safely, a lot of gym activities can be done at home or outdoors for a fraction of the price and in far more congenial surroundings.  Instead, you can expect to see some different forms of dancing, climbing (even though I’m terrified of heights – that’s going to be interesting), and lots of lovely walks.  You might even get me into the water, even though appearing in swimwear frightens me almost as much as heights.

My aim is to show activity as being accessible to anyone, so I won’t be doing anything very obscure or expensive.  I want you to be able to play along with me, if you’d like to.

So, onwards to what I’ve been doing today.

Today we had a 4-hour drive from Inverness to Edinburgh.  We weren’t exactly quick off the mark in starting out, so the journey plus preparation time took most of the day. It would have been tempting to cop out and say we’d run out of time, but there was a waterfall, in fact two, to discover. Our destination was the Falls of Bruar, between Aviemore and Pitlochry.

It's a long way down!

It’s a long way down!

It’s just as well I didn’t know what the climb would be like before I started. I don’t get on well with uphill.  On the plus side, it was a perfect day for it; dry and warm, but not too hot.  And the scenery was glorious.  We climbed on well-maintained paths through glorious woodland to discover noble stone bridges, spectacular waterfalls and atmospheric pools with stunning rock formations.On reaching the summit, we were rewarded with stunning views across the glen.

The forest was planted by ‘Planter John’, a local Laird, after a personal petition from the poet Robbie Burns. Today, it’s a gorgeous tribute to both poet and planter.  Not everyone who visits the House of Bruar, known as “the Harrods of the North” makes the climb, but those who do will be richly rewarded.

A view from the bridge

A view from the bridge

About a quarter of the way up, we met a party of intrepid folk clad in water gear who were abseiling down the rock face and swimming through the pools.  Some were even jumping into the pools from a great height.  They were well supervised and well equipped, but I could hardly bear to watch.  I was terrified in case someone was dashed to death on the rocks, and although it was a warm day, the pools must have been extremely cold.  Some forms of activity are definitely not for me!

However, we also met dog walkers, young lovers, elderly couples and people from many lands.  This was truly an accessible activity for almost anyone.  I felt quite unfit compared to some of the older couples who were striding ahead, but you have to start somewhere, and the important thing is to take part to the best of your ability.

After our walk, we had a splendid lunch at the House of Bruar itself.  You’ll find something there to suit all tastes, but be aware that the portions are very generous, so you definitely won’t want to eat until after you walk!

My take-home point for today is that being active is available to everyone, and even if you have a busy or unusual day you can find opportunities to be active if you know where to look.

Each day, I’ll give the day’s activity ratings based on my chosen criteria.  By the end of the month, I’ll share my top picks.

Activity: Walking in nature; varied terrain with an uphill element

Level: Almost any

Equipment needed: Good trainers or walking shoes

Cost: Free

Accessibility: 5/5 – walking is available to anybody.  This specific walk isn’t the easiest to access, but walking can be done almost anywhere.

Difficulty: 2/5 – no particular skill required, but be aware that there’s a lot of uphill, and some rocky paths on this particular walk.

Enjoyment: 3/5 – I can’t claim to have loved the climb, but I did enjoy the scenery, the views and the sense of achievement after having done it.

Would I do it again?  Probably not this particular walk, but I’ll definitely be doing lots more walking, and perhaps I won’t be so averse to a bit of a climb in future.

What I learned: You can build activity into almost any kind of day.

Would you like to support me during Sweatember?  Find out how here.

Fancy your own get-healthy challenge?  My successful online course, Stronger Without Sugar is open for the first time this year.  Discover how to feel fabulous here.

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