Even if you’re not a fan of tennis you can’t fail to have spotted that a British man won Wimbledon at the weekend, breaking a 77 year duck. Well done Andy Murray. It was back in 1977 that Britain saw its last woman winner. Virginia Wade did the honours and I for one hope that we won’t have to wait 77 years for the next woman to raise the Wimbledon trophy.
The weekend’s inspiration didn’t stop with Wimbledon. I was equally inspired by two other British victors. Alistair Brownlee and Jodie Stimpson won their respective races in the ITU World Triathlon Series event at Kitzbühel. I missed the men’s event on TV, but saw most of the cycle and all the run phase of the women’s event and the sheer strength and resilience of these women blew me away. 750m of swimming, 11.5km of cycling and 2.5km of running might sound miniscule for the elite class event, but add in ascent of 867 meters on the ride and 136 meters more on the run and you’ll see that this was one tough, tough race.
And I haven’t even mentioned the Tour de France, where several British riders are, as I write, performing feats of cycling ability that are quite simply amazing.
I spent Sunday morning helping at an orienteering competition in a local park. Competitors ranged from under ten to over 70, ability levels from elite to absolute beginner. It was a joy to see so many people pushing themselves. In addition to the competition many people were out for their regular Sunday run or jog, solo or in chatting groups.
It was a great comparator to the huge televised sporting achievements of the weekend. Sport really is for everyone, and it doesn’t matter whether you never, ever finish in the top half of a competition. Stretch your body and you’ll have achieved something great.
Victories like those of Murray, Brownlee and Stimpson can inspire us lesser mortals to get up and try something for ourselves. Very few of us will ever reach their heights, but we’ll reach our own goals, then maybe set new ones and reach those too. If a personal goal is to run 5km, complete a long distance cycle, or get up six flights of stairs without wheezing, it’s still a goal, and one worth achieving.
The biggest difficulty with fitness goals can be taking the first step. The next biggest is keeping up the momentum – Murray, Brownlee, Stimpson, Mark Cavendish, Chris Froome and all the rest of the headliners don’t achieve what they do without setting goals and working hard to achieve them. The same goes for Riyad and I with our own goals. And it goes for you too.
So, here are my Ten Golden Rules. Print them out and put them on the fridge so that you see them every day. Add your own thoughts to them so they become personal to you.
Ten Golden Rules for getting fit
1) Start Today. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Tomorrow never comes. Two boring old sayings, maybe, but they’re true. Even if you only have twenty minutes today in which to make a start, use that twenty minutes.
2) Have a plan. If you want to run 5km in two months find a schedule that will get you there. Print it and put it on the fridge (next to these Golden Rules). Tick off each day’s activity as you do it.
3) Listen to your body. If you’ve never done any fitness training before you might get niggles, aches, even strains. If something hurts through a training session take advice. Don’t over-train, if you need to rest, then rest.
4) It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Getting fit will take time. Work out where you want to be at the end of the year. This could be to run 10km from having done nothing. Maybe you just want to run for half an hour non-stop – whatever target you set yourself, you’ll feel great when you hit it.
5) Give yourself a break but don’t be too easy on yourself. You might find it helps to set goals slightly beyond what you think you can achieve – but keep it real. There’s a saying I like – it’s better to set a hard goal and fail than set an easy goal and succeed. Well, yes, but make sure your goals aren’t outrageous!
6) Join a club. Some people find the encouragement from others very uplifting. Clubs are full of people who really do want to help others to succeed. There are plenty of social running and cycling clubs for example. Use the internet to find one in your area.
7) Ring the changes. The pros call it cross training, but it isn’t just for the pros. Cycle, run, swim, walk, play football, netball, volleyball, keeping it varied will help keep it interesting.
8) Rest. You can’t work hard seven days a week. If you look at training schedules you’ll see that rest days are built in. It’s important to give your body time to recover from stresses.
9) Take care of your body. If you want to run, get your gait analysed and buy appropriate shoes. If you want to cycle get a bike that’s the right size for you and get advice on shoes. If you want to swim, get advice on technique so you don’t build up bad habits that can lead to injuries. This is a long haul thing, and getting it right from the start can reap benefits in the future.
10) Make it a habit. You’ll get the most out of fitness work, and be most likely to continue with it month in month out, if you make it a habit. Put training sessions in your diary and don’t move them. Change your routines so that activity becomes routine, so that it feels odd if you don’t do it.