Category Archives: Stories

The preparation for Offa’s Dyke September 2015


Some thoughts about what has helped our team prepare for the demanding Offa’s Dyke path :  getting fitter, not fit.


My good friend Rich and I have just completed our fourth week of hard training in our quest to be ready for a 277km in 7 days assault on Offa’s Dyke by foot this September.  For those of  you who don’t know, Offa’s Dyke is a massive earthworks that essentially follows the ancient borderlands of Wales from Prestatyn in the North to Chepstow in the South.  It was built by King Offa in the 8th century, perhaps to regulate trade across his border, perhaps to keep the English out !


Training has so far built up to 20 miles of walking / running each a day and I’ve also been commuting to work by bike with a round trip of up to 50km.  So how did we get to be so active?… it didn’t happen overnight….

Neither of us are by any means elite “fitties” but in our forties and (in my case slightly podgy after 3 years of hotel based consultancy work) fellows wanting to have some fun and raise money for a couple of great causes along the way.
It struck me this morning, despite aching, tired limbs and a pair of saddle sore gluteus maximi, that actually I am feeling much, much stronger and healthier than I did just a few weeks ago.
I’m always surprised, but shouldn’t be, that moderate exercise everyday can make such a difference to overall energy, positivity and even things like skin condition.  It’s wonderful to be able to have a real challenge to work towards and that motivates me like nothing else.
So I was wondering.  What is it that gets so many of us, including me, to stop exercising regularly and to slowly grow older and frankly fatter as we pass along life’s highways?
I think perhaps part of it is the very high and often unattainable standards that we place on ourselves when we think of what the word “fit” means to us.  We go off seeking “fitness” like a bull in a china shop – join that gym, buy that bike, start on that jogging and diet program.  We push ourselves to the limit, not really enjoying what we are doing.
We make it hard work, something of a chore, we give up on things and we see the pursuit of fitness as a sacrifice to the other cravings we might be missing as a result of the “giving up” of other things.  The problem might be that our idea of fit might be a step too far…a panic.
I’ve decided to conduct an experiment.  I’m working with the mindset of getting “fitter” and not “fit”.  This is a new paradigm for me that I am playfully pursuing to see where it takes me.  In many of the leadership workshops that I run my clients and I develop an understanding of the comfort, stretch, panic model.  When we stretch and make small changes out of our comfort zone then the result of a thousand stretches can be a significant change in our lives.
 We demonstrate this concept when the excellent Proadventure team work with our clients on a series of outdoor adventures from gorge walking to whitewater kayaking.  Pete, Rich and the rest of the Proad team based out of Llangollen do an amazing job of gently stretching my clients out of comfort zone.  People terrified of height demonstrate stretch by jumping of high rocks into water.  People terrified of water paddle down the glorious River Dee with us and shoot the rapids.
7 marathons in 7 days is a really tall order.  When I first thought about it, it really bothered me.  In fact it was a panic.  My little inner critic told me “no way are you going to be able to do that Chris – you are not fit enough and you are certainly too fat and too old now”
But over the course of this year I have been working on “fitter”: small steps that are making a difference, raising my activity levels and becoming habits:
1.  Drinking alcohol just a bit less every week and only drinking with meals.
2.  Using the Apple Health App to ensure I do at least 10,000 steps a day.
3.  Walking to the local shop instead of driving.
4.  Not taking that oh so lovely looking desert a couple of times a week.
I’ve noticed this simple stretching has definitely reduced my calorie intake and helped me feel more lively and alert.  Waistline started to reverse from its inexorable trend towards a bulge.
Other habits then have begun to form as I play with stretching a little more:
1.  Taking a glass of water before bed every night and a glass of water first thing in the morning – this really seems to aid digestion of breakfast as it gets the kidneys flushed and ready!
2.  Walking up stairs instead of taking the lift or elevator.
3.  Taking a walk every weekend with my daughters instead of couch surfing with them – lots of great chats and lots of lovely moments.  We understand each other much better!
4.  Work standing up instead of slouched at a desk.  It’s great for posture and I find myself much more alert.
In May I thought I’d test out how far my fitness odyssey has taken me.  I enrolled for the 130 mile Coast to Coast cycle ride with some great friends, followed the following weekend by a swift 39 mile walk on the Llangollen round.
 Llangollen round 2
What I started to notice – stamina was returning and often euphoria as the endorphins were starting to flow around my body.  Such a lovely feeling to get that runners high.  I really did feel as if I’d come a long way and felt a sense of celebration.  I actually found myself singing like Julie Andrews ( alone) on a Welsh Mountainside.
Since May the stretching has continued in earnest.  Rich and I planned the 7 marathons in 7 days initial as just a walk along Offas Dyke.  We realised though that in order to do it in our free time we could only afford a week off work and that meant 26 miles a day.
So the stretching had to begin in earnest.  I work in Oslo during the week.  My goodness I am blessed with a wonderful outdoor playground, very long evenings and a plethora of colleagues prepared to get fitter in the outdoors with me.
So my next stretch pledge to myself was to by a bike and cycle to work.  It’s 15/25 km each way depending on the route and I am indebted to my colleagues Helge, Helena and Monica for showing me the way and turning out to accompany me come rain and shine ( this summer has been mostly rain!).
Suddenly I realised that over the course of the last 6 months I have gone from virtually no exercise to around 50km cycling and 20km running/walking on most days.

Now I feel like the 7 in 7 challenge is doable and it will not be a panic.

So what have I learned.  Most importantly I have learned that getting fit is a daunting challenge but getting fitter is a much more progressive and enjoyable experience.  I thoroughly recommend this approach to anyone who wants to be more active and wants to feel better, more energetic and to remain healthier.   A few small stretches can take you a long way to habitually BEING more healthy.
If you’d like to support us or help us spread the word about our middle aged 7 marathons in 7 days then please don’t hesitate to keep in touch through by clicking the Find out more link.

Customer Stories – Dr Thomas Giles #myadventurestory Birds and Sand Marathons

My name is Doctor Thomas Giles and this is My Adventure Story

I was born in Birmingham but now work as a hospital Consultant in Liverpool. I have always worked hard but I have also been passionate about my activities outside work. For many years I have been devoted to bird watching. Long days are spent walking around gravel pits, coastal marshes and headlands scanning for anything of interest.

Dr Thomas Giles at the Marathon Des Sables

I have found rare birds, such as Lesser Scaup (from America) and Citrine Wagtail (from Russia), as well as contributing to the scientific study of  birds through the British Trust for Ornithology. As I turned 40, ten years ago, I attended a lecture by polar explorer Dr Mike Stroud. This enthused me to also pursue more active ventures. I began a journey to find my physical limits. Since then I have undertaken numerous challenges. Marathons became training for the ultra distance runs and walks that I entered. My greatest achievements have been completing the Marathon des Sables (150 miles, 7 days), Marathon of Britain (175 miles, 6 days), Brathay Windermere 10 in 10 (262 miles, 10 days), Sandstone Trail race (33 miles, 10 hours), Wenlock Olympic Walk ( 52 miles, 20 hours) and Bullock Smithy hike (56 miles, 23 hours). I have also failed some events but I never give up. Each failure is a lesson which allows me to build to future success.

Sea Kayaking in the Fjallbacka Archipelago in West Sweden September 2012 OAS

I have wanted to sea kayak in Sweden for several years and in 2012 the Outdoor Academy of Sweden gave me my chance, here is my trip report.

I flew into Gothenburg to meet the Smiling OAS team, All loaded on to the coach we went off to visit some tourist attractions, the first some ancient rock carvings of boats and people, a world heritage site.

Prehistoric Carvings near Gothenburg

Continue reading Sea Kayaking in the Fjallbacka Archipelago in West Sweden September 2012 OAS

Tai Chi in the Snow – A Week in the Swedish Wilderness – Snow Shoes, Pulks and Dried Food

Every few months we get an email from OAS, the Outdoor Academy of Scandinavia, they are eagerly received by the shop staff keen on some training in the wilds of Sweden or Norway. This March was my turn for a trip away in the snow. After hunting  out what information I could on what boots were suitable for snow shoeing and what I could get from our suppliers at the end of a cold winter season I ended up with a pair of I ended up with a pair of Hi-Tec Winter Boots and some Rab Down Booties for in the sleeping bag in the cold northern nights.

Continue reading Tai Chi in the Snow – A Week in the Swedish Wilderness – Snow Shoes, Pulks and Dried Food

OAS Outdoor Academy of Scandinavia September 2014 – The Stockholm Archipelago – Sea Kayaking and sunsets


A few months ago Pete and Lesley offered the retail staff at ProAdventure the opportunity to attend the Outdoor Academy of Scandinavia, a project initiated by the Scandinavian Outdoor Group (SOG) to offer comprehensive outdoor staff training. Basically this meant understanding and using products in the great Swedish outdoors. On this trip we would be using Tentipi, Light my Fire, Peak Performance clothing, and Point 65 Kayaks.

This was a opportunity I didn’t want to miss! Along with my colleage Mark, we headed to Stockholm to join the rest of a group of about 30 others (the group included retail staff, journalists and tour operators) for our 4 day adventure in the Stockholm Archipelago.
The trip began with the usual meet and greet, then we headed off for a guided bike tour of Stockholm. Next was a 2 hour boat trip to an Island in the Archipelago called Uto. Our arrival was met with the very friendly owner of the hotel Uto Vardshus where were staying that night. We were given a fabulous meal and got to know more people in the group. I was pleased to have sat next Patrik from Tentipi..I had emailed him occassionally over the last few years working at ProAdventure and it was a pleasure to put a name to a face!
The next few days involved different activities.  A guided hike along the coastline of the Island, followed by a 10km cycle ride. Next was another hike though the forest, and a talk on the geology and nature of the the island (this was Marks idea of heaven-someone who was as interested in rocks as he is!)


Our camp for the night was at a small beach (my idea of heaven-an outdoor swim!). We were given some extra kit to use while out in the wilds..Light my Fire meal kits, a water bottle, lots of Sporks!, a fire steel and a Maya stick. All of which were obviously used for making a fire and eating our tea! We also had a lesson in putting up our Tentipi for the night..good to see the expert Patrik do it!

The Ultra Light Tentipi Prototype Tent

Next day was a cycle again, then using the Point 65 kayaks and sea kayaking to a smaller island. Again we were sleeping in a Tentipi ..this time a light one, which I hadn’t done before so it was a good learning experience for me. I  also got to see a prototype of the new Super light tentipi that will be produced next year-designed a lightweight 2 man Tentipi for trekking.
An early start the next morning sea kayaking back to Uto and attending our retailer workshops, followed by a very exciting RIB boat ride through the islands of the Archipelago to the island of Grinda. This was the last night of our stay and involved relaxing in a sauna, eating lots of crayfish, singing merry tunes and drinking schnapps…we were here for work…honest!
Seriously was an amazing opportunity to be outdoors in Sweden using products we sell in the shop. Mark and I know more about Tentipi and Light my Fire than we did before and can relay our experiences with them to our customers:-)