Nigel Vardy By Nigel Vardy

January is over but you may still be feeling blue. GetOutside Champion Nigel Vardy shares why he believes that spending time outside could help raise both your mood and fitness.

January is over and 2020 brings a New Year and fresh new decade. At this time of year, the media is filled with adverts for gym memberships, diet plans and holidays, modelling waistlines to die for. Many of you may have looked in the mirror, or God forbid weighed yourselves and realised that you’ve enjoyed just a little too much pudding over the last few weeks. You might be wanting to get back in those favourite trousers, feel happier in yourself and find some of life’s normality again, but how do you do it? Moreover, how do you keep at it?

One word – Commitment.

Nigel in snowy landscape

I’m not a great believer in gym-based fitness regimes. Do I want to be enclosed in a smelly, sweat ridden box with dozens of other people, assaulted by air conditioning, music and posing? Or would I rather be in the hills and mountains of Britain? I think you know my choice…

Getting outside and exercising is one the of best forms of physical and mental stimulation, will fill your lungs with buckets of fresh air, provide natural sunlight and a change of scenery. It’s also free (unless to bring tea and cake into the calculation!) More about cake later...

I’ve spent much of my life in constant training, whether that be cycling, climbing, mountaineering, walking or swimming. I find a constant approach to exercise a much easier target to manage, rather than the peaks and troughs accepted by many others. It means when events appear at short notice, I’m already fit.

If I’m taking on a huge mountaineering expedition, I’ll work harder, but as my fitness is usually high, it’s an easier battle to fight.

Recently however, it’s been a harder battle than usual.

Early in 2019 I was asked to lead a cycling trip across Vietnam and Cambodia. I spent much of the summer out on my bike, getting the miles in, until a car decided to take me off with a bang. Within seconds I’d gone from fit to bleeding and spent the rest of 2019 in surgery, stitches and scans. I had to cancel my part in the cycling trip (and a climbing trip to Norway), making sure I was in a position to start rebuilding my fitness. Only in late December did I get the all clear to begin training again.

I’m not one for sitting still and find immobility incredible frustrating, so getting the green light has been wonderful. I’m by no means recovered yet and still undergoing physio, but I’m out again. I’ve begun walking and cycling and have set a winter climbing trip to Scotland plus a ski trip to Italy in my diary. They are my targets and I’ll move heaven and earth to achieve them.

Nigel training in snowy conditions

Targets are an excellent way to push yourself and believe me, many people need pushing. Are you looking to achieve something? A Parkrun? A mountain challenge? A cycle ride? All of these give you a deadline and a purpose. Share the challenge with friends and share the event. Have people hold you accountable and accept a good kick up the arse if you need it!

Work might dictate when you can GetOutside and the dark, cold evenings are an easy excuse to lounge, but there’s still plenty going on. Associations such as Jog Derbyshire run events for everyone, weekdays, weekends and in the evenings. You don’t have to be an expert, can join a group of people with a shared purpose, exercise, make friends and importantly stay safe. I can understand why people don’t like running alone in the dark, so run with a group – its far more social. It also brings commitment and may even make exercise bring a smile to your face.

Advice for Mothers in the 1950's to give children fresh air

When I was born, my mum and her friends used to pack up their prams and go walking together for miles. It helped them physically, socially and mentally and gave us as infants plenty of fresh air.

It cost little and everyone benefitted. Medical advice at the time (and it hasn’t changed in my view) was direct and correct. We were out all year, rain or shine.

Many people struggle with time, but as Goethe wrote “The day is of infinite length for those who know how to appreciate it and use it”.

If you can incorporate exercise into your daily routine, you use little time and soon find it part of normality.

For years I cycled eight miles each way to work and back, sped past standing traffic, saved money and maintained fitness without even thinking. Many towns and cities are strewn with cycle paths and the Sustrans network covers the country as a whole. I’m caring for my mother at the moment and I walk the mile there and the mile back when I can. It might not seem much, but every step helps. It also promotes environmental change.

And finally – cake. A very serious subject. If you exercise regularly, GetOutside and keep your commitment, you can eat cake!

Published 29/01/2020

Nigel Vardy By Nigel Vardy


Nigel is a frostbitten mountaineer who doesn't wasn't to die in an unused body.

Find out more about Nigel Vardy.