One day...? Why you shouldn't wait to do the things you want to do
My Dad is an absolute nutcase and is without doubt the reason I love training so much.
Instagram is crammed full of inspirational content and I'm lucky to know some genuinely talented influencers and experts. BUT there are times when inspiration can only come from people a little closer to home - the ones who don't even know what Instagram is, and only talk about their bazillion achievements when you quiz them on it.
This is what my dad is like: training when no one is watching, in his garage gym with the weights he was given by a powerlifting rep at the age of 19, encouraging me to take on challenges I never thought I could do. Amongst other things, my dad has:
- Run the Bob Graham Round in under 24 hours (he's 329th on the list to complete the 66-mile self-navigated yomp up and down 42 of the Lake District's peaks)
- Run the KIM, Derwent Watershed and other ultramarathons
- Climbed El Capitan in Yosemite
- Mountaineered, paraglided, climbed and caved his way across Europe and the US
- Survived paragliding into dry stone walls, getting stuck on mountains in blizzards, escaping from flooding caves and taking me and my sister gorge walking in the Alps when we were teenagers (a mean feat by anyone's standards).
As I write this, my dad is in hospital awaiting pre-surgery tests on his heart*. It is a scary time for all of us and it has definitely made me worry less about things that just aren't important (but can easily turn into microdramas) and reprioritise time with my family over everything else. Having said that, training and being active has always been so important to my dad that there's no way I can let that drop now. I definitely haven't trained as much over the last few weeks, but I have made time to run (because it clears my head better than anything else), mobilise, and throw down in my parents' garage to keep Dad's weights bench and barbells warm while he's away.
*He came out of hospital in January 2018 after successful surgery and is building up his strength steadily.
I don't know if he and my mum will every really know how grateful I am for such an unusual childhood: evenings and weekends were spent rock climbing (terrifying), caving (dark and terrifying), gorge walking (wet and terrifying) or abseiling (high and terrifying).
When I hit 17 and all my friends had an intimate knowledge of the local cinema, shopping malls and could sniff out a McDonalds at 500 paces, I felt a bit left out. If you’d asked me the best way to climb a tree or how to abseil down an 80ft drop without having a panic attack, I could tell you in graphic detail. Normal teenage stuff though? Not exactly my area of expertise, to put it mildly.
At that age I had no idea just how grateful I’d be for this style of upbringing. It was this ingrained love for weightlifting (my Dad was a powerlifter in his younger years, and still lifts most days now he’s retired), adventure and general improvement through hard work and physical activity that brought me out of my decade of anorexia. Nowadays fitness forms such a huge part of my life that my perfect day basically involves a lot of training, talking about training…and then writing about it for good measure. You could say it’s the healthiest obsession I’ve ever had.
My dad didn't follow fitness or nutrition bloggers (not least because we're talking about 1984 here, when mobile phones were even bigger than the iPhone X and the first Apple Macintosh was launched during the Super Bowl). He fuelled his training with real food - my parents have always grown a lot of their own fruit and vegetables - and never subscribed to trends in fashion, fitness or otherwise. His routine consisted of functional fitness supplemented with strength training and real life adventures. He cycled or ran to work every day (an 18-mile round trip) and enjoyed nothing more than taking off into the fells for a weekend, to run, climb or jump off mountain with a paraglider strapped to his back.
My Dad has achieved some truly incredible things over the years: not least demonstrating the importance of taking the time to look after your body, and that if there’s something you want to do, to get on and do it – and not to wait for some indeterminate ‘later date’. If you’re passionate about something, don’t put it off! Whether it's new places, challenges or sports: don’t let the daily grind of work, commitments or money worries create excuses for you. Think about whether you’ll regret having taken the opportunity – or, more likely, if you’ll wish it was something you’d shouted ‘YES!’ to at the top of your lungs, and given it all your love, fear, energy and determination.