BBC Get Inspired has teamed up with endurance athlete Sophie Radcliffe for a short series about connecting with nature to get fit.
Sophie, 33, may be ultra-fit, but that wasn’t always the case. We get to know her as she explains why she lives by the ‘challenge yourself’ mantra.
I was told at school that I was bad at sport. I struggled with body confidence and found sport quite awkward, especially when we did gymnastics in pants and a vest.
I loved being outside and active but felt that sport wasn’t for me.
I left university at 22, and got a regular job in London doing sales. Six months in I realised I had so much surplus energy and needed to plug into something. I felt my world wasn’t set up to help me find out what I’m capable of achieving. There were labels and limits around me. I wanted to take things into my own hands and find my own limits.
I decided to challenge myself, I was keen to get fit and do something that would stretch me, and have an adventure!
My first challenge
I signed up to take part in an adventure race through the jungle of Borneo. Cycling, running, climbing Mount Kinabalu and camping in the jungle; it was an experience like no other.
I always wanted to feel confident in who I am and push myself, now I was finding a way to do that. Over the next few years I took on challenges in my weekends and holidays. Triathlon, cycling London to Paris in 24 hours, wild camping, climbing Mont Blanc and Ironman and ultramarathons.
The boredom at work was still there, I felt depressed and missing creativity in my job; I could do it on autopilot; there was no variation to the day.
But all these amazing challenges I was doing, built my confidence. They made me realise that if I want something, I can achieve it, it’s all about developing a willingness to do things that are difficult and scary.
‘Now was the time’
In December 2012 I decided to quit my job.
It was time to go and create another way to live, on my terms, doing things I’m passionate about. It was a difficult decision to walk away from stability and security, but I was 27, had no kids, no mortgage, so now was the time.
Amongst all the incredible challenges I have done, and beautiful places I have visited, one of the main highlights is becoming the first and only person to cycle the Alps and climb the highest mountains in the eight alpine countries. This put me on the map and things progressed from there.
Now I run TrailBlazers a youth empowerment project to build confidence, resilience and help teenage girls navigate the modern world and live courageously.
Where to begin
I know starting to exercise can be daunting but everyone starts somewhere, and being outside is the perfect place to begin.
In nature you can relax and be yourself. There’s no social media, no distractions or pressure. Nature doesn’t care what your status is, what you’re wearing.
I was unfit, overweight and had no clue when I started. I always felt like the sweaty, back-of-the-pack runner who looked at others running effortlessly and wondering how they could do that. But I pushed myself hard to learn and improve.
Don’t be afraid to do things on your own or be a beginner. It’s a big thing, signing up to a class or a club unless someone else does it with you, but you can do it. You’ll soon feel the rewards, make new friends and love it!
Once you complete the challenge that scares you – whether that’s walking to work, doing a 5k run, climbing a mountain or running a marathon – it changes your mindset.
Look at what’s on your doorstep, what you can do in your local park in half-an-hour, and experience how beautiful the world is.
An hour in nature can give you so many new experiences. And it’s completely free.