The extract below is from author Wayne Mullane, who write Adventure Dayze which recalls his experience as a non-hiker to walking up Britains highest mountain – Ben Nevis.
Yet the catch is that Wayne suffers from an acute fear of heights.
The chapter below, is titled Fitness.
Before I took up hiking as a hobby, most evenings saw me pitched up in front of the TV, stuffing my face with snacks. Consequently, over the period of a few years, my belly had felt like a slowly inflating rubber ring. I knew I needed to shed a few pounds and stop myself from becoming near comatose after work every day, but dieting has always felt far too regimented to me – and, besides, I like the idea of being free to eat a pie if I want to. That left exercise as my only option.
Going out for a run or to the gym didn’t appeal as – like I’ve said – I’d become too self-conscious of exercising in front of other people. Walking, however, gave me the impetus to exercise at my own pace and in my own way; it could be done fast or slow, and over any distance I wanted. Plus, it allowed me to be out and about, exercising in the fresh air while not having to experience the pressures of looking like a flapping fish being
reeled in by an angler – which is exactly what my running style looks like.
Yes, walking suited me down to the ground. A tight exercise regime or healthy lifestyle may be necessary for some, but personally, I needed to switch off once in a while, and – more importantly – eat cake guilt-free.
During 2016 and 2017, all I did was walk (with the addition of the occasional workout for Snowdon); short distances of a few miles once or twice a week were followed by six to 10
miles with Robin on alternating weekends. At this stage, Robin had a similar approach to me, and – by the time we did Snowdon in 2017 – this approach had definitely seen us through.
However, we believed Ben Nevis needed a little something extra. Yes, we’d managed to build up ongoing levels of fitness, but now we were going higher than we’d ever been before, and we knew we needed to respect the challenge by being a little more devoted to our health goals. When we’d been preparing for Scafell Pike, Aaron had told me that if we were able to walk the equivalent of the ascent and descent on flat ground on a regular enough basis, we’d be fine. As the total round trip for Ben Nevis is about eight miles, that wouldn’t be a problem – and
there’d be no harm in gaining that extra fitness to help sustain us in our undertaking.
So, by the start of 2018, Robin had hit the gym whilst Aaron and Robert remained committed to their jogging regime. I found myself in a state of ambiguity: on the one hand I wanted to exercise, but on the other I wasn’t sure how or where. Robin had given me a pep talk about going to the gym, saying that the best way to face my fear was simply to go there, but I wasn’t so sure. I put it off, then put it off some more.
With Robin’s words going round and round in my mind, I spent some time examining precisely why gyms and jogging didn’t cut it for me, and I came to the conclusion that it was precisely a case of others judging me. The guys constantly told
me not to worry about that and to focus on myself, but I just couldn’t help it – which was particularly strange as we all used to go jogging when we lived in Slough. Similarly, if I took up
a team sport, that would open my mind to being compared to teammates. I thought it was stupid for somebody my age to be so self-conscious – especially as it’s only ever to do with sport –
and while it’s not exactly an overwhelming sensation, it’s simply how I am.
I’d always thought that, as I aged, I’d become less inhibited about doing what I wanted to do, but that just didn’t seem to be the case. This was particularly strange as walking up mountains was, in part, about me challenging my fear of heights; why couldn’t I also challenge this dread I had concerning exercising in public?
Maybe this was exactly what it was: an age-related, self-contained, contradictory point of view. Or maybe, I pondered further, it was simply because these forms of exercise didn’t appeal
to me. If you tell me I have to run a quarter of a mile, I’ll shut down; if you tell me I have to walk 15 miles, before you can say ‘physical exercise’ my boots will be on and I’ll be out the door.
So, I found myself in a quandary. As Robert and Aaron pounded the streets and parks and as Robin pumped iron down at the gym, the lure of the sofa became attractive once again, particularly as January 2018 wore on. Regular walking had slowed down due to the colder weather, and although I toyed with the idea of buying weights and doing sit-ups and press-ups at home, the idea really didn’t appeal.
No, I needed something else. I needed something low budget and enjoyable. Something I wanted to do and would actually do.
It took me the best part of January to find a solution, and I can’t remember how or why I first decided to do it, but I started working out my own fitness programme. I borrowed a few ideas from exercise videos on YouTube, and soon I had my own regime in place that I could mix up with about fifteen or so different exercises to choose from. Plus, it was free (if you ignored
my monthly broadband payment).
I started small: 15 or 20 minutes at first, building up to no more than thirty minutes at a time. Then, as the weeks went by, I added new types of exercises and took others away, eventually
buying a pair of ankle weights to boost my efforts. I used my home to suit my regime: I gripped the tops of door frames to stretch out; I did standing press-ups against the kitchen worktops; and I pranced around the living room like an uncoordinated starfish as I stepped and jumped about.
As the routines varied in duration, I could quite happily complete a five or 10-minute workout some evenings and be happy with that – the important thing was that I remained
Finally, I’d found an answer that didn’t involve being in close proximity to judging eyes as I worked up a sweat.
Roughly around the same time, Robin and I began to diet. Since hitting forty, I’d grown more outward than upwards, and now seemed as good a time as any to tackle that. Although, as I’ve said, I find it hard being restricted to tight regimens, which inevitably led me to start snacking heavily again. As February turned into March – and with our walking time being restricted by heavy downpours of snow – a new lean, mean Robin had put
himself out there, whilst a fitter-slightly-less-fatter Wayne was now on display.
I was still battling between all-out exercise and all-out eating, living some kind of half-existence as I tried to satisfy two extremes. For all the crisps, sandwiches, and chocolate I ate, I’d
attempt to make up for it by doing an ultra-workout, but soon my body started telling me I was overdoing it. I’d leave longer gaps between workouts, even though I knew my efforts were at
risk of coming undone.
I didn’t want to give up exercising, though. I really enjoyed following exercise videos on YouTube and then incorporating
them into my own routines; it engaged both my brain and my body, in all sorts of ways. Regular exercise is well known to boost mood and I was keen to benefit from that.
Robin, Robert, and Aaron had kept on exercising, battling their own fitness demons, and I knew I needed an extra incentive to get me through – at least until the snow cleared and I could commit to regular distance walking again.
‘It’s all about your mindset, you know’, Robert told me one evening as he supped his pint.
‘Okay,’ I replied, a little uncertainly. I’d explained my predicament to him over after-work drinks as we waited for Robin to join us one early March evening. We were in Reading again– we spend a lot of time there.
‘Yeah,’ Robert replied. ‘You feel guilty for eating more food, so you punish yourself with full-on exercise.’
‘Go on,’ I encouraged him.
‘Eventually, you give up, because you find that trying to satisfy two complete opposites just doesn’t work,’ he continued with a nod.
‘So what do I do?’
‘Like I said, change your mindset. You like exercising, and you also like snacks, yeah? So, exercise to snack.’
‘Exercise to snack,’ I repeated, and a moment of clarity engulfed me. As I said this over and over again in my mind, a smile began to form on my face. I could force myself through gruelling workouts with the promise of a pork pie or a fondant fancy at the end – and feel guilt-free to boot!
‘Snackercise!’ I exclaimed happily.
‘Exactly. Just accept that what you’re already doing is okay and you’ll be fine. You’ll lose weight more slowly, but that doesn’t matter – so long as you’re okay with it.’
I was certainly okay with it; in fact, I celebrated my redefined moderately healthy lifestyle with a swig of my highly calorific pint. Really, I wouldn’t be doing anything different – I’d just have a fresh approach to motivate me. Plus, having a target like Ben Nevis to focus on gave me extra incentive to keep working out. Sure, the pounds didn’t exactly drop off, but I definitely became fitter as I occasionally increased my workouts
each week to supplement all the walking.
It really is amazing how just a few simple words gave me that much-needed clarity while forcing away the indecisiveness that had been holding me back. Mindset certainly is a powerful
So, by the time the Ben Nevis weekend rolled around, I might have been a few pounds heavier than I’d planned at the start of the year, but I was fitter than I’d felt in years and more than ready for the challenge.
You can purchase Adventure Dayze from Amazon.