Views towards Buttermere from the Hen Comb summit

Forget the gym – hiking is the best New Year’s fitness resolution

2 January 2019

Guest blogger

How was your Christmas? Actually, don’t answer that. I already know. You ate too much turkey, drank too much red wine, and sat around on the sofa all day watching repeats of Only Fools & Horses and Miracle on 34th Street. Am I on the mark? This festive season was a diet disaster and an exercise wasteland. But January is here now. And January means one thing only - New Year’s fitness resolutions. You’re going to get fit and lose weight; you’re going to drop that dress size; and 2019 is going to be your healthy, happy year. You’ll start just after you’ve finished that final tub of Quality Street, right?

Don’t fear, however. I know why you’re procrastinating. The prospect of re-mortgaging your house in order to afford the monthly membership of your local gym, just to spend hours on a treadmill staring at a whitewashed wall surrounded by annoyingly thin people in lycra, does not seem that attractive. But there is another way: a fun, joyous, life-affirming, happiness-inducing way to get fit in the Lake District. And, best of all, it’s free.

James Forrest jumping with joy.

Walking is my favourite way to stay fit, especially here in Lakeland. There are just so many glorious opportunities for a good walk: everything from a village stroll or lakeside amble to a hardcore hike up a gnarly mountain. But why do I love walking? Well, there are so many reasons. I love the exercise, the fresh air, being connected to nature, the breath-taking views, and the freedom and escapism. I love the way I feel fitter and healthier after every walk. And I love that process of putting one foot in front of the other is therapeutic and healing – it always clears my head, helps me de-stress, and puts life’s little problems into perspective. 

However, I’m no stranger to pushing myself to the limit in terms of more ‘extreme’ challenges.

In 2015 I climbed all 214 Wainrights.

In 2017 I walked all 446 mountains over 2000ft in England and Wales in six months - the fastest ever time. 171 of these mountains are in the Lake District - so it included loads of explorations in Lakeland, which was amazing.

In 2018 I walked all 273 mountains over 600m in Ireland in 56 days - the fastest ever time!

In 2019 I'm planning on walking the Te Araroa trail - a 3,000km walk along the length of New Zealand (and hopefully do the Munro's in Scotland sometime soon too!)

Scrambling up Jack's Rake.

Alfred Wainwright put it eloquently: he said that those who walk in the Lake District will be ‘blessed in both body and mind’. That’s certainly how I feel after every walk in Lakeland. It is brilliant for both my physical health and mental well-being. And I’m sure you’ll have a similar experience. It’s easy to get started, no matter how fit or experienced you are. Simply grab a pair of sturdy boots, a map, and a waterproof and kick off your 2019 New Year’s fitness resolution with a walk. Enjoy the trails!

Guest blogger

James Forrest

James Forrest

James Forrest is an adventurer and outdoors writer. He is the author of Mountain Man: 446 Mountains, Six Months, One Record-Breaking Adventure, to be published by Bloomsbury in May 2019.

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