I remember the first time as an adult I realised I was not in as good a shape as I would have liked. In July 2009 I decided to do a walk up a hill in the Yorkshire Dales called Pen-Y-Ghent. It was a few months after my dad died and I know he had done the walk a couple of times and it felt right to do it as part of my grieving process and as a way to "Gently" easy myself into a more active lifestyle.
My dad died of a heart attack in the November of the previous year and it was that along with what I looked at in the mirror after a shower that got me thinking I should maybe do more exercise and get into better shape. My dad was only 65 when he died and I was almost 40 at the time.
I remember the day vividly, it was red hot and I was new to walking and I was carrying what now looking back was a huge backpack and wearing the nearest thing I had to walking boots a pair of safety shoes from my job as a warehouse operative.
I could only have been about half a mile into what was a planned 8-mile route when I became acutely aware of how tough I was finding it. It was a busy day on the hills being a Saturday and I was getting passed on my way by groups and people of all ages. My legs ached and I was struggling to get my breath. It took me a long time but I eventually reached the top.
Moving and staying active was to become a big part of my life from that point. I can't say I was any good at it for the next 4 years, but I occasionally ventured out and over the coming years I tentatively tried a lot of different ways to try and improve my fitness.
Gym memberships were taken on, golf clubs bought, running events entered and still in the words of Bono from U2, I still hadn't found what I was looking for.
Then in 2013, I met Sue, she was an avid walker and early on in our relationship she started to take me out on walks she knew. The first couple were just as hard as that day up Pen-y-Ghent but slowly I got better and it was not too long before I was completely in love with walking.
For me, it is the simplest and most natural form of movement us humans can take on and it is a great way to start to improve our fitness levels in a way that is not extreme. Being outdoors also is brilliant at lifting our mood and helping clear our heads of the stresses life these days brings at times.
If I was to give anyone one simple piece of advice that I think would have the biggest impact on their well-being it would be to move more.
These days 26-mile walks and big hills are normal for me, but I wanted to highlight in this post that's not where I started.
If a chubby out of shape middle-aged man can go from couch potato to a long-distance walker, anyone can do it. All you need is time and a decent set of boots.