The Great Outdoors!
At the weekend it was National Get Outside Day so in this post I thought I'd share my love of the great outdoors and some thoughts on how I think it's important to be active together. Outdoor activities can really enrich family time whilst helping to ensure kids are active and develop a life long respect for nature.
Beach fun on a deserted Scottish beach.
We love to spend time in the great outdoors together, there's so much fun to be had and it provides quality family time which is so important. It's also great for everyone's physical and mental well being.
There are obviously so many different ways for kids to have fun being active. Organised sports clubs are so fantastic for fostering team work and sportsmanship which provide great life skills, so I'm a huge fan. Sport also gives kids the opportunity to enjoy working on their ability and to feel pleased with improvements they are making. But of course parents need to ensure that children are not put under too much pressure and the focus should always be on enjoyment. I also love simple play when kids are running around with friends, playing tag, climbing trees or making dens. It's healthy for kids to be left to play freely and have some time when they are not being continually supervised by adults. They then have time to form closer friendships and find solutions to problems by figuring things out for themselves.
I believe it's good to have some balance with the types of activities that kids do. It's great for children to have the opportunity to build a sense of adventure and appreciation of the natural environment. Like most kids, my two love active clubs as well as heading outside to play with their friends but they also enjoy quality time outdoors together as a family. When we're out it's always so nice to see other families having fun being active together too and when I saw the National Get Outside Day I wanted to share my conviction that movement, nature and family time are a great combination for outdoor fun. I definitely developed my love of the outdoors during my childhood, and I think it's nice for all parents who enjoy outdoor activities to be able to pass on their passion to their kids.
My home is in Devon which is a large county with lots of varied landscapes and plenty of places for outdoor adventures. I was born in Devon and had a very active childhood. The freedom to explore helped to develop my love of the outdoors and in particular the joy I have running in beautiful surroundings. My husband Gav was also born in Devon in a cottage on Dartmoor and the moors is still one of his favourite places for a run. We enjoy regular trips to Dartmoor for trail running, hikes, wild swims and overnight camps. Some of the spots we use for camping Gav knows well as he camped at them with his family. I clambered over the same tors as a child that my own kids now explore today. Gav even proposed to me whilst hiking on the moors! There is so much to do in Devon if you like outdoor fun so we are a little spoilt! For paddle spots we have some lovely river estuaries and two lovely coastlines. The coast is also great for hikes and trail running, as well as the usual beach trips for fun in the waves and exploring the rock pools. When it comes to going out on bikes our favourite spot has to be Haldon Forest just to the west of Exeter.
Running in Devon.
With all these beautiful places on our doorstep we really enjoy our outdoor hobbies and over a long period of time we have gradually collected a lot of outdoor kit! However, you don't need to spend lots of money to have fun outside. You can run, hike and swim without spending much money at all and camping is relatively cheap. Wild camping is free and permitted in certain areas of Scotland and Dartmoor. It's just a matter of getting out, discovering new places, connecting with nature, and most importantly, having fun! A hike through an area of natural beauty and a wild camp can really help to instil in kids a love and respect of the outdoors and the environment. Pitching in and helping with setting up camp, cooking some food and foraging for fire wood is great fun, and to sit under a dark sky full of stars with a fire going is magical. You can also teach them to leave no trace and clear the site when you move on! These activities build life long memories and it is this that we hope will motivate them to continue to enjoy the great outdoors into adulthood.
Jacob taking a moment to enjoy the views!
We love going away on active family holidays and exploring different locations.
Family time surrounded by natural beauty.
After many years travelling the world for training camps and races I now really enjoy just staying put in the UK and exploring our amazing countryside. In the summer we took a road trip to one of my favourite places, the Scottish Highlands. It was a very active trip with lots of hiking, trail running, wild camping, cycling, swimming and paddling. Our little van was loaded to bursting point with outdoor kit, so it was quite hard to fit us in! But we had lots of active fun that the kids and us big kids loved!
When it comes to boosting your motivation to run, beautiful surroundings can really help and the Highlands certainly didn’t disappoint on this front! I love to be able to use my running to explore, it's a great way to see so much more of an area. There was no shortage of running trails and I enjoyed venturing out for runs in Glen Coe, Glen Nevis, the west coast near Mallaig, sections of the coast in Ayrshire and the forest trails in the beautiful Galloway Forest.
Scotland's perfect running trails! A runner's paradise!
(The West Highland Way)
You don’t need to be a mountain runner or skyrunner to enjoy the Scottish mountains! I sometimes wanted to run at a reasonable pace and I'm not a strong hill runner so I often ran lower down in the bottom of glens, occasionally venturing up a little higher which was fun and probably helped to strengthen my legs! One of the things I love about the Highlands is you don't need to be constantly climbing hills as the glens have lots of flatter trails suitable for faster paces. The West Highland Way was one of my favourites as the section I used was really good underfoot and had just enough climbing to reach some vantage points to enjoy some fine views. On training camps, before I had kids, I’d run in many mountainous locations around the world including places like Colorado, Switzerland, France, Italy, New Zealand and South Africa but I find Scotland really impressive. There is something magical about the mountains, lochs and glens in the Highlands, the beauty is spell binding. It felt so inspiring and uplifting to have the opportunity to run somewhere with so much outstanding natural beauty.
During our trip my husband Gav headed up higher and bagged a few Munros. In the coming years I’d like to join him for a few of these more adventurous runs as his photos looked absolutely stunning. Fortunately he's got pretty good navigation and map reading skills, which given the terrain and changing weather is vital for safety. He's also much more of a natural mountain goat than I am! So for now I’ve been mostly ticking over on easier terrain with the hope of racing next year. Of course at the moment during these difficult and uncertain times for everyone it's difficult to know which events will definitely be able to take place. Whatever happens I know, like so many runners, I will continue to enjoy my passion for running.
A ridge high up in the beautiful Mamores.
Heading away on trips I find my running adds so much to a holiday. However if we do run alone Gav and I always try to run at a time that doesn't impact on the activities of the day, or alternatively we all occasionally go together as a family with the kids racing along on their bikes. The Caledonian Canal was great for running and cycling together like this. I have always enjoyed doing some of my runs with the entire family and I think parents can act as great role models for their kids. If they see you enjoying being active it can really help to encourage them.
The Caledonian Canal. I love running next to water!
Family run with the kids on bikes.
I think it's great to give your kids some fun goals and a sense of achievement. Whilst away we all enjoyed going up Ben Nevis. Last year we all hiked up Snowdon and so it was exciting for the kids to reach the top of an even higher mountain! We now just need to do Scafell Pike to have done all three as a family. Having the three peaks as a goal over three years has been great as it's a fantastic motivator for the kids. They fortunately get plenty of practice when enjoying hikes on Dartmoor or along the coast path near our house, and they are already looking forward to the Lake District next summer.
We made it!
Aside from hiking and running we also ventured out in the open canoe and on paddle boards. The deserted beaches were stunning and we were so lucky with the weather. The water was crystal clear and calm which was ideal for the kids to paddle and swim safely. I loved paddling with the distant views of mountains, it was so peaceful. We often cooked our dinner on the beach and stayed out to watch the glorious sunsets. The kids were in a very late routine but it was worth it for the idilic evenings! We also had a few trips on the mountain bikes. Jacob loved the Witch’s trail centre near Fort William, which had some nice blue and red single track trails that where ideal for active ten year olds. Emily and I stuck to fire roads, as she’s not quite ready for trail centre riding just yet.
Paddle fun followed by a wild camp on the beach.
Getting the kids outside and active is something I’m very passionate about. It’s so good for their physical and mental wellbeing and they thrive during this sort of trip. Of course they enjoy the odd hour or so on the PlayStation but they're also so happy to spend the whole day outdoors. I think it’s about striking a good balance between being active and the amount of screen time they have. I always find that once we're out doing something they absolutely love it. It also helps to involve them in making choices about the family activities we do.
Lack of home comforts might not be for everyone as far as camping trips are concerned, but I find even shorter day trips really help kids to develop a greater desire to get outside and be active. For those that live in big cities, and perhaps don't have many opportunities to head further afield, we are fortunate in this country that most cities tend to have lots of green spaces. I think just spending a few hours surrounded by greenery, even in just a small park, can do wonders for our wellbeing. When I used to live in London I was amazed at the wildlife and the amount of green space. So wherever you live it's great to try to find some time to get out with your kids and have some simple outdoor fun. My hope is that by creating life long memories for my kids it will help them to develop into adults that continue to enjoy being active outdoors and to respect the natural world.
My husband Gav and I feel very fortunate to have enjoyed the benefits of keeping active throughout our entire lives and like so many parents we feel strongly about helping our kids to enjoy the benefits too. Keeping active and enjoying the great outdoors provides such a boost to physical and mental well being. This in turn spills over to improving confidence and self esteem which helps you to deal with life's challenges whether at work or school.
My #GetOutdoors Gallery:
Distant isles with craggy peaks and crystal clear waters.
Where the Highlands meet the sea is paradise!
The stunning beauty of the Scottish Highlands!
Fun on two wheels.
Harry Potter fans might recognise this beautiful waterfall.
River crossing. I was very slow!
Wild camping in the mountains.
Canoeing in one of Scotland's stunning lochs.
Jacob getting soaked!
Exploring on bikes.
Meeting the locals whilst out for a paddle.
You cover so many more miles running and get to discover so much more!
(The Brecon Beacons)
I feel so motivated when running in beautiful surroundings.
Sometimes it's good to stop running and take it all in!
Back home in Devon, where the fun continues!