You Don’t Have to be Fast to be Fit

By Rick Ashworth Sports Science MSc


Evening television is awful and if ever there was a reason to do some exercise then you know you’re not going to be missing much by going to the gym, out for an easy jog or just an impromptu walk with the dog, it’s getting lighter so why not make use of it?Unknown


That said, my wife and I opted for Netflix and, after a bit of boxset-surfing (because, come on, who doesn’t?), we settled on a film called From Fat to Finish Line about a group of, once, overweight Americans running the Ragnar relay race from Miami to Key West (where else would want you want do it?). It’s a combined distance of 200 miles but each one of ten runners completes three legs across the 48hr time limit.


The reason I write about this two-fold. The first being that each participant in the Fat to Finish team of ten had lost an average of about 100lbs prior to starting the race (that’s getting on for about seven stone).  Whilst it didn’t specify how long each member had taken to lose the weight, it was made clear in one-to-one interviews that they had all followed a similar long-term goal rather than diving into crash-dieting or whatever the latest fad was.  I was impressed with their attitude and resilience.


Eating, much like anything else, is all about making good choices. All those in the film discussed how they reset what was normal as they became heavier and heavier and began to accept themselves as always being this new size.  One stated how she couldn’t jog down the street as her son learned to ride a bicycle so she asked a friend to help whilst she sat and watched.  It was only the feeling of shame she felt in herself that made her change.  Another couple noticed how they were out of breath climbing the stairs and instead of doing something about it they just accepted that it was how they were now. Then, for various reasons, they took the first step, quite literally.


They all said they were scared of the new lifestyle awaiting them at the start. They were scared of going to a gym, scared that people would be looking at them and judging them for being overweight as they jogged down the street, put on their swimwear or pushed a weight.  They struggled to see how they would be able to continue with their new lifestyle and diet in the long-term, which brings me to point two.


They said they were worried about putting trust in those around them by telling them what they were trying and how that initial support from their spouses and friends would work; and how to sit in front of a trainer and open themselves up to a stranger, whether they were there to help or not.


What I liked most was how they all dealt with one small change at a time and progressed from there. No one was on a fad diet and they were all making small changes overtime and all reaped the rewards.  One of the team said they had started by simply cutting down on the amount of ‘soda’ they were drinking and once that was under control they cut down on the amount of bread and similar products (pastries, pies and the like) and so forth over months and years and had lost over eight stone. They identified the fact that it had taken them years to put on the weight and it was not going to be stripped off in days or weeks. Yes, it took them years and, yes, if you’re in that overweight position you doubtless want it to come off fast but patience and sticking to the short-term goals was what worked.


All good research states that a small adjustment here and there and sticking to short-term goals brings lasting results.  In healthy, long-term, weight-loss it is always the case of the tortoise beating the hare.


The group came together to run the Ragnar and, with a few difficulties along the 200 mile route, they achieved their aim and supported each other throughout, which is the most important take home message of the film. They all ran three times, competing between 3-10 miles on each attempt, only a small distance for the length of race but together they completed a run that would have been impossible by themselves. Group support is the best way of sticking to your aims, it keeps you on course when you’re wavering and ‘super-praise’ is far more likely to bring results than keeping it all to yourself.


If you’re aiming to lose weight and get healthier this year then that should be your aim, support and continual small steps toward your overall goal. Join a club, enlist a trainer, get fit and eat right with your friends and family. Don’t worry about failing, you’re not trying to be the healthiest person on the planet and you are definitely not looking for perfection. You’ll struggle from time-to-time but if you regularly hit small and easy targets you’ll be making progress and that small progress will develop into greater and greater success.


You don’t have to run a 200-mile race when you’ve reached your goals but make sure to celebrate how far you’ve have come.

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