Episode Highlights

00:03:39 What is health and fitness when it comes to family
00:13:47 Importance of sport to mental wellbeing
00:21:56 Football vs Rugby
00:23:15 Why we need to be more active
00:28:53 No one regrets doing exercise
00:30:18 Having the discipline and control of your body
00:42:09 Five key takeaways to lean a bit more of a healthier lifestyle


Fitness Guide





Welcome to the Fitter Healthier Dad Podcast, where you can learn how to improve your diet, lose fat and get fitter in a sustainable and fun way without spending hours in the gym here is your host Darren Kirby.

Darren: Welcome back to the podcast, guys. This is the number one podcast for dads in their 40s who want to improve their health and fitness. This is Episode 82, and on today’s show, we are joined by TV presenter Ben Shephard. Ben is passionate about people, their lives, their stories and their challenges with a genuine warmth and ability to bring out the best in others. Ben is one of Britain’s most popular TV presenters. Ben also lives with his wife, Annie, and his two sons, Jack and Sam.

Hi, Ben. Thanks very much for joining me on the podcast today. How are you?

Ben: Very good thanks Darren, how are you?

Darren: Yeah, I’m very well. Very well, thank you. So obviously, you know, with the time that we’re in right now, it’s very challenging for a lot of people at home. How is the pandemic and things like that changed your daily routine?

Ben: Well, I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve carried on working even through the first lockdown, which was much more restricted than this one, obviously. We carried on broadcasting from the studio, which was a huge benefit to me because I’m not very good when I’ve got nothing to do. I need to be busy. I need to be occupied. So I’m sure of the family being around a little bit more and not being able to travel as much. I’ve been able to keep working. Which has meant that I’ve been able to keep on a relatively even keel. I find it a bit of a struggle. If I’m not able to work, I’m not able to stay occupied and not able to stay busy. I think one of the reasons I train as much as I do and I keep myself physically fit is as much my mental balance as it is my physical balance. So I find it much harder this time around as well. I find I have found this lockdown much trickier to navigate because that may be because, you know, we had a little bit of freedom and things opened up a little bit and then for it to close down and I mean, it’s a lovely day to day, but the weather’s been so much more harsh and darker and colder and wetter. So alleviating that mood and thinking about trying to hold onto the hope that things will get better has been harder to grasp.

Darren: Yeah, no, I agree. I think you make a good point there about the weather. I think last time when it was full, real hard look down. We were very fortunate with the weather that we have, which is unusual for the UK. And it meant that the time that we did get to go outside once a day enabled us to kind of enjoy that, you know, get the sunlight and everything else now. Whereas, you know, this time of year, traditionally, anyway, even if we were free to move around, we’re less inclined only to go out perhaps just kind of take that walk. And I think it takes a lot of effort, actually, to kind of force yourself to go out there. So, yeah, you’ve obviously been quite prolific in terms of a lot of training and so you’ve done. So what really does this kind of health and fitness mean to you personally? Ben you mentioned there’s a lot of mental side of it which really helps you. But generally in day to day life, what does health and fitness mean to you and specifically the family?

Ben: I think it means being able to get up, being able to face whatever’s thrown at me, being able to function efficiently, being able to tackle any problems, whether they be physical or mental or professional, it means being resilient. It means being able to enjoy any opportunity that comes my way, being able to set myself challenges, being able to embrace a challenge. It means everything. I’ve got two boys that are teenagers. They’re 15 and 13. And I think one of the things that is absolutely vital is being an example to them. A lot of their lives, and I’m sure lots of the listeners to your podcast have kids that are spending eight, nine, 10, 11, 12 hours on a screen at the moment because homeschooling is all on the screen. The boys sit down upstairs, I think about just before nine o’clock, they break for a bit at half time and they break for lunch and they’re there till four o’clock every day. But of course, their downtime. They want to watch YouTube. They want to play a game so suddenly they’re back on their screens so that they’re not off those screens. And I think, you know, my eldest, Sam, who he discovered running in the first lockdown thanks to one of his really good friends. He’s a great runner and he got himself on Strava. And this lockdown, he said to me yesterday that I’m 10 kilometers away from running 100 kilometers in January. Wow. So he has. Yeah. And he didn’t run before the first lockdown. He’s absolutely falling in love with running. He’s just been absolutely incredible, that sort of.

Being self-motivated and motivated by his friends, he goes out running, he feels great. He’s 15, so he’s much more conscious of his physicality. He looks great. I think he enjoys that side of things and sort of health and fitness for me is wanting to be a sort of an influence on the boys in a positive way. And I can see now that Sam, who is sort of emotionally older than his little brother, he ages why he’s older, but emotionally he’s much older. 15 and 13, I think, is a big leap. And that really feels like it’s influenced him just in terms of he sees me training quite hard and he wants to train and we train together now, you know, and he’s getting better and stronger. He’s already bigger than me, which is really annoying. And he beats me in the park on the runs now, which never happened before. And as much as it irks the competitive side of me, I’m incredibly proud of him. The tricky thing is the younger one loves team sports like I’ve always loved team sport and isn’t motivated to do stuff on his own. So I’m trying to find the path to help him find his mojo, his motivation. Sam found his way through his mates, fortunately. Yeah. So coming back to what health and fitness means to me, it means it means sort of being able to do all those things for me, but also keeping an eye on the boys and helping them navigate this path, which is something that no one’s had to do.

Darren: No, not true or not. And I think I know a big, big factor. You mentioned that your eldest is picked up from his friends, his peers. And I think peer group is such an important part of the development because, you know, as parents, we can we can tell them or we can kind of guide them as much as we possibly can. But like you’ve already identified, you know, they learn by example. And this is something that I’ve learned from my two boys as well. And, you know, if you can set the example and not try and drag them along with you, they will unconsciously start to be inquisitive and pick that up. Right. And then we’ll start to kind of think, oh, this is interesting. I might want to go there. So, yeah, for me, I think as well, it’s about having that variety that is giving them showing them that, like you said, you know, these individual sports team sports and giving them the opportunity to try. All right. And then they might resonate with something.

Ben: Yeah. I’m a massive, massive fan of Parkrun. We live right by a park and there’s a park that goes right outside our house. And for a couple of years I was desperately trying to get the boys to come on a park run with me because a five kilometer run just round the park and I dragged them out on the odd occasion we started. I remember we kept a note. We started the first park when we went on, took us 37 minutes, but we got around it. It was great. And all I used to say to them was, don’t think about how hard it is and how much you don’t want to do it at the start. Try and think about how great you feel when it’s finished. As the incentive. So to get to your point of dragging them out and forcing them to do things, they have to find their own way. And it was a real battle. We did it on and off for those couple of years and it was such hard work and it was. But every time we walked back home from the park, they were Filipino and they were chatting and they’d really enjoyed the process. They hated the start of it. The whole thing was agony. And me dragging them out was just, you know, the last thing I want. And the Saturday morning is to be having a fight with them. But I knew what they got from it. OK, so now cut to two years later and Sam has found his own way to running. He runs a sub 20 minute parkrun. Now, that’s crazy, you know, and I find that inspiring.

Now, he’s now inspiring me to want to train more. And I think it’s such a pertinent point in that I think you’ve got to, as you say, offer different ideas and different ways for them to be able to keep fit and stay healthy. Yeah, but they need to find their own path at the same time, because if you try and do what I did, which was just I was definitely trying to crowbar them into the idea that they’re going to love this is going to be brilliant. Yeah. And it was just other than the walk home, which was great. And when it was done, it was great. It was such hard work from the Friday night when I was going all up the part. Why don’t we pull it now, Dad? Why are we going to do that? And bear in mind I get up early. So the last thing I really want to do is even get up for nine o’clock. But I just know how great I feel afterwards and I’m desperately trying to incentivize them with that. But, you know, they’re teenagers. They live in the moment. They don’t think about what’s happening in thirty minutes. They’re thinking about right here, right now. This is the worst thing in the world, being dragged out of bed, being taken off my iPad and being forced. But my train is on a Saturday morning, regardless of what it might mean in half an hour’s time when we walk home and we’re having a laugh.

Darren: Yeah. And I think that’s the frustration that you get as a parent. You yourself know the benefits, the real benefits that the. All of it, right? Yeah, unfortunately, they don’t have that experience or that wisdom to understand what that is. And like you say, it’s like Crow barring them. But yeah, I mean, we were doing park runs as well. And I think it’s an age thing as well. You know, my youngest Finley, who’s now 10 when he was seven, he was always up for doing apart from like they grow older, you know, they start to kind of pull away or they start to try and find their own path and are less motivated to do what you want to do. 

Ben: And less inclined to spend time with their old man. They’d rather be with their mates, killing people on the Internet, essentially. That’s what I found.

Darren: Yeah, definitely. I completely agree with that. But coming back to kind of like your younger days, Ben, when, you know, when you were at school and university and stuff like that, kind of how big of a part did sport play for your life and what kind of got you into it in the first place?

Ben: So I was I went to state school to the age of about 11. Yeah. And through the 80s when there was a big drop off in any sort of extracurricular activity sporting wise. So I had very little, if any, sport at school during the week. But I did play rugby. My local rugby club was good with rugby club where I played from the age of four up to to probably 24 maybe. And I loved that our life revolved around the rugby club. But I didn’t have much of an outlet beyond that because they just played a little bit of football for the Cubs, the Cub Scouts, but we had no football team, nothing at school. I changed school at 11 and I was very lucky because I was able to get a music scholarship. And I went to my brother’s school at 11, which was a public school in Chigwell. And suddenly the world of sport and the opportunity of exercise just exploded in front of me. Yeah, I was playing football Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursday and Saturdays and rugby on a Sunday. We’d have P.E. classes twice at twice a week in the summertime. It was all athletics or it was cricket. If you want to do cricket, cricket is. I never had the patience for cricket. I need to be running around and hitting stuff or chasing stuff or sweating. So it was more athletics for me and jumping long jump high jump, those sorts of things.

Being able to play sports was such a crucial factor. I think if you were to go back, if I was to go back and I think it’s these things are assessed a lot better now, as probably I was probably within the realm of being a bit hyperactive about ADHD. My wife maintains that I still am. Now my focus is, yeah, I have to have quite a lot of energy that I need to burn off. I think I was a nightmare for my mum and dad. I was the youngest of three as well. So, of course, you know, they’ve got the other two to worry about. And, you know, academically, I was okay. I worked hard. I had to work hard to maintain the standards. But where I really, really thrived and where I really found my calling and my joy and my passion was on a sports field and it didn’t matter what the sport was. I loved football. I loved rugby. I just loved being surrounded by people that wanted to do stuff. And that could have been one of my mates saying, let’s go for a run. We could have been a few of my mates saying, let’s have a kick about, oh, let’s go to the gym. And I just you know, I absolutely lived for football at school and then rugby on a Sunday.

And it governs everything that I did. I think it was the incentive for my parents. If you want to play football this weekend, you’ve got to do your homework. You’ve got to do that. And it was such an important part of my life that I wasn’t willing to compromise. I didn’t want to not do it. I look at my it’s so funny. I watch the boys not sound so much. 

But Jack, when he was a bit younger and some of his mates and like even if my leg was hanging off, I still had to play football. I’d have pulled a muscle on him. But I refuse to acknowledge that I was injured because I just couldn’t bear the idea of not being on the pitch. And I see the boys now and I kind of look at them and sort of take a bit of a hit in rugby or they and they probably got every reason to say, I need to sit this out. But they would choose to sit out. And it still irks me. Now I’m like, why would you not want to be in the mix that getting among it right on top of it? And it was so it was, I guess, around the age of 11 where the world of sport exploded to me. And that was when I changed school. And I’ve never looked back really just in terms of my appreciation of the value of sport as a means of exploring who I am. And sort of emotionally physically helping me. I know. I appreciate it. Much more now, of course, how important it is to my mental wellbeing. Yeah. And it is far more important. Back then it was just my it was my reason to be really.

Darren: Yeah. Yeah. I guess young. It’s more about kind of the kind of camaraderie between your teammates and getting involved, being part of something that you may be not that conscious of, that’s what it is. But you want to be around your mates, like you said before, your sons, they want to be around their friends. But then obviously, as we get older, you know, I never used to think that sport or fitness was connected to mental health. I now realize it plays a massive part in that. And I think it’s only the awareness that’s being raised now that people are starting to kind of draw those parallels. But, yeah, I think it’s yeah, it’s kind of you go for an evolutionary process with fitness. I think, you know, from early ages to when you get older, you have a different appreciation for it. I mean, I do. And we’ll talk a little bit about this later on. Movement is a big thing for me now and functional movement. And I know you were talking to the guys on the School of Calisthenics about. Yeah. And all that kind of stuff. But but yeah. So I think it’s an evolutionary process, but I think it’s hugely important to kind of make sure that we’re making time for it, really. And I know a lot of dads I speak to, they sometimes feel a little bit guilty if they perhaps haven’t had a history of sport, they feel a little bit guilty about actually putting that into their daily schedules and taking time away from the family because they feel that they should be there for the family. But I actually think that, you know, that’s perhaps making you show up as a better parent or as a better partner if you are able to take that time away and take time out and kind of, you know, do something you enjoy.

Ben: Yeah, unquestionably. I mean, it was a big part of my dad’s life. He was so big he was really, really into rugby. So that said, the rugby club was a huge part and my sister got dragged along whether she liked it or not. Ironically, many years later, my sister started playing rugby at university for me. My brother played from the age of four all the way through. My brother still plays. I think he finally retired last year when he broke his ankle at the age of 48 49. But my sister started playing rugby at university and ended up playing for England women and in a very short space of time was far more successful than me my brother ever was over that sort of long evolution of our careers.

But yes, you’re right, when it’s woven into the fabric of your life as a child growing up, then it stands to reason. If you enjoyed it and it’s been a good partner, you know, you’re going to take that forward. And my wife’s family as well, really, really big rugby families. So that was a very simple addition. One of the interesting things, I guess, for my boys, though, is when they were growing up, when they were at that smaller schools and the advent of mini rugby and rugby such, I think it’s such an incredible sport in terms of what it teaches boys and girls that play rugby, about teamwork, about respect, about camaraderie, about self responsibility, about rules and regulations. I think I think it’s an extraordinary sport, genuinely. I think it really is. I think it’s more of a moral code for life that you learn, not just the sport itself. I was always working on a Sunday because I hosted a show on Sky Sports, a football show with Chris Gomorra from the from 2010 up till 2008.

So for all the rugby purposes and I was working on Sundays. A lot of mini rugby happens on a Sunday, of course. Yeah. And the boys weren’t particularly keen and he wasn’t willing to track them down there. And it’s freezing cold in the touchline. I was working and I think it was something that I would have been very happy to do to stand there on a cold touchline and drag them out, because I understand those first few years of fun, because it’s all new. And then there’s a bit in the middle where it gets a bit trickier because you’re trying to work out how the skills go. But if you stick with it, the enjoyment from the team aspect becomes such a fundamental part of who you are. By the time you get to 15, 16, 17, 18, that’s when that really accelerates. But they never got that. So they didn’t do it. So actually. Bizarrely for me, because I’d always envisaged that the boys would be multipliers. They aren’t rugby players at all and Sam is six foot three, he’s fifty six foot three. He’s an absolute Wagle. He’s the sort of player every kid wants on their team. Right, exactly. But I think he was always quite intimidated by his size and the expectation that people had because he was the big lad. Yeah. Give it to the big lad. He’ll go and he won’t. Whereas I would have thrived in that sort of environment. I want the responsibility.

I want to go and do it. Yeah, he sort of shrunk away a little bit. And it was quite an interesting sort of experience for me and my wife, but mostly me, because Annie’s much more empathetic towards those things where I get on with it. Yeah. It comes back to your point that the route that they find the sport, that they find enjoyment they get from their health and fitness is something they have to find themselves. They’ve got they’ve got to get there on their own merits. And if I’d force that on them, as I and I couldn’t do that because working with the running, I tried, then they will push back against it. Yeah. And, you know, I can see I can see how well you know what Sam’s doing now. The eldest, he’s setting up a pattern for the rest of his life. He’s got into a routine and he’s really enjoying it. And that’s something that stays with him. Anita, the frustration for Jack, is Cascos not happening? Yeah, there’s no team sports he can’t play. And he loves to play football all day long with his mates at school and school team and all that sort of stuff. That’s not happening. So he’s really missing out on that side of things. And the idea of him going for a run, the idea of him doing any solo sport. Yeah. Is just absolutely never going to happen.

Darren: Yeah. It’s interesting, though, isn’t it? It’s interesting how, you know, you mention there about your two boys. My two boys are similar insomuch as Callum, who’s the reality is very much a solo sports person. You know, he likes this stuff, whereas Finley, who’s the youngest, he’s ten. He loves doing team sports, anything in team sports, he’s into it. This is an interesting, interesting parable. I think I really agree with you on the rugby side of things in the sense that rugby is so much more than just the actual game itself. It’s respect. It’s the togetherness. You know, it’s the discipline, you know, that is and that for me is what stands out among football. If you compare the two sports, I know what Finlay, who does football, is just a completely different way or a completely different structure in the way that they play. And obviously and but just all the other bits surrounding it as well.

Ben: I think the way I am, the way I’ve looked at it over the years and I’ve played high level, I’ve been lucky enough to play high level football and high level rugby, not professionally, but sort of quite close to it. One one brilliant football when a team can win a game for his team. Yeah, one brilliant rugby player can’t win a game of rugby. It helps having a brilliant rugby player. But there has to be a collective team that wins a game of rugby. Yeah, you often can have, John, killings in the world of football. We certainly have a couple of times established is one of the reasons we love that very rarely happens in the world of rugby because the collective take, because the collective team can play when they play well together on a rugby team, they’re sort of incredibly difficult. So that’s I think that’s the way that I’ve always looked at it. It hasn’t stopped me. I mean, it hasn’t stopped me loving football and being part of the world of football as well. But there is a fundamental difference between those two sorts of moments within the sport. Yeah, football can be a bit more individual.

Darren: Yeah, absolutely, I agree. So so obviously, when you had the boys, when they were younger, how did that change your ability or desire to kind of go out and do sport? Or has it just been maintained throughout that whole process, really?

Ben: Well, yeah, it’s been maintained that the thing that’s impacted my physicality has been the slow disintegration of my body. I hit middle age things not healing as quickly and injuries becoming more prevalent. I’ve always annys, always understood this, that I need to be doing stuff. I need to be running, hitting, kicking, punching, tackling and jumping, whatever it is, because I’m more balanced, everything’s a bit calmer. I can cope with things better. And I think one of the things I mean, you made the point that it’s difficult that some dads that haven’t had that within the fabric of their lives may feel guilty about going off and doing an individual pursuit or something with a team because they should be with the family. I can understand that. But equally, the time with the family for me, so much better enhanced. If I’ve had a moment to go off and blow that steam off and be with my peers or be with some mates to have a bit of a laugh and then come back. So I’ve always prioritized it. It’s always been a priority for me. And as long as I’ve been very lucky because my wife is very understanding in that capacity, but we’re always organized as long as I’m organized enough. And that’s one of the things I think is crucial to organize your time. So, you know, it has to be a priority. I’m 46 now and it’s just as important now as it ever was. And it’s probably, you know, my body needs it more than it ever did because it was so easy through your 20s. You could drink what you like, you can eat what you like. You could get zero sleep and still be going to play a great game of rugby or go for a run or whatever.

That’s not the case anymore. I’m much more aware of the sort of the need for my body to rest in order to deal with the demands of work. Long hours being on my feet a lot, all those sorts of things. Yeah. So prioritizing it and organizing it into my day is something that I think is really, really important. And this lockdown as well, this lockdown, because it’s been tougher. I’m sort of doing a spin class, essentially. I’ve got a Kaisa bike home and I have a membership to a fitness group who take me fitness, which I’ve been doing for a couple of years now, essentially a little bit like Teletón in that you can get on and do spin classes. We’re on 30,40 last Saturday, 120 people all over the world. Brilliant. Really great. And if I have to book that time in. Yeah. Because if I don’t, I won’t do it. But the time in and I make an appointment in my diary and I say to Annie, I’m going to do this then does that fit with you. Yeah, fine. Then I do it and I feel a million dollars afterwards. I mean bits I’m shattered but mentally I go, you know what, it would have been really easy not to do that today. But I made time. I put it into my diary and I think that would be one of my sort of really important things that I’ve learned about myself. Unless I, I, make a point of putting it in my diary, and I’m really strict about that. It’s so easy. Just go on. I can’t be bothered or things get in the way or find an excuse to not do it.

Darren: Yeah, definitely. There’s this science to back this up. You know, if we if irrespective of whether it’s fitness, you put something in your calendar, you’re more inclined to show up for it. You’re more inclined to do it. And I say to a lot of guys in my community, do that. And even if at the time when you get that alert, you can’t do that, you know that that’s been scheduled. So I just move it to a time in your day where it is more convenient, but don’t not do it. And I don’t I don’t know how it is for your benefit, but definitely for me, I perform way better at work when I’m able to train because it is weird even when I’m tired. If I train, I get more revitalized, I’m more present, are more focused and it just really, really helps. Which is kind of counterintuitive. Yeah. What you would think.

Ben: I agree. And my to the point where if I haven’t been able to get out or whatever and I’m getting a bit ratty, I can get ratty at home and like we all can when you’re tired and you’ve been doing tons of bits and pieces and some, the smallest thing can start annoying you. Like the boys haven’t hung the coats up yet again, even though you tell them every day. I mean, for heaven’s sake, how many times you have to tell someone. It’s like the weirdest thing. And the worst thing is I sound like my dad for that as well. And it drives me mad. I can’t believe I can’t believe I did. I sound like a go and it worked. And what really annoys me is when I say things that my teachers would have said to me as well. And I think that woke me up so much at the time. Now listen to me. I’ve become my own worst nightmare.

But she will say, you need to get outside. You need to go do something, go and do a session, go home, run, go and do some weights. Go and just do something. And you even if I’m really super tired and you’re right, there are I think one of the other things I talked a lot about this Jenny Faulkner, who who I know that I’m sure you’re aware of, is really into fitness and running particularly. She has a brilliant running ability, but she works very early mornings on the radio. I’m one of the things that we’ve always said is especially if you’re working early, you’ve got to do the exercise before you get home to find a way to work running on the way home or doing the exit, because as soon as you get in, if you’ve not had much sleep, all you want to do is sit down and then it’s really hard once you’ve sat down, if you can fit it in in that journey between work and home, whichever part of the day you do well on the way to work from home, if you’ve got showers in the facility to do that, then I think that that is it’s a brilliant trick.

You force yourself into the process and no one ever, ever, ever regrets doing exercise, no matter how much or little known regrets it. You might not ever enjoy yourself, but you still won’t regret the fact you’ve done it. You just let yourself time to heal. Yeah, but you do often. And I’ve been there and I’ve done it. And I’m someone I’m sure that, you know, lots of people look, you can go. It must be so easy for you to put your trainers on again because you love it. It’s not, it’s not easy for us. I still debate all the time with myself and I really am bothered to do this. And it’s just that I don’t give myself the option. Trainers don’t get out. Yeah, get on the bike, Prostratin. Put it in the diary. Don’t let myself have the choice. Not because I know that given the choice often I’ll go out, you know, I’ll just have a drink and I’ll sit down. Yeah, but if I don’t have the choice, I will feel the way, way better.

Darren: Oh yeah, absolutely. And I think it is a real mind game. It’s a constant internal conversation you have with yourself. And I did a Facebook live a few months ago. It was dark, it was raining and it was six o’clock on a Sunday morning. And I said to the guys at this point that I have no motivation to go out that door when it’s cold, wet and raining. But the way that I play it forward in my mind is that when I come back, I will feel unbelievable for the rest of my Sunday. So, you know, just go out there and do it.

Ben: It’s I think it’s that mixture of discipline and control, having the discipline to know that you’ve done it and being able to feel like you are in control of what it is that your body has to do. Yeah. That you don’t give in to that. You know, I’m doing it in January this year and have all the January to do it when Knock-down happened. And you can say, oh, for heaven’s sake, things aren’t bad enough. But I really felt like I needed to do it. I need to give myself those mental tests every now and again just to prove to myself that I’m the person that makes the choice about what it is that I do with my body. Professionally, I don’t know. I got a call. Can you be here? Can you do this? You know, there’s not that the control that I have is not often in my hands. Yeah, but this is the one side of my life that I can’t control my health and fitness. And that’s why it’s so important to me.

Darren: Yeah. One hundred percent. So you’ve taken part in a lot of what you would necessarily call extreme sport events. What is it, do you think that drives you towards doing that? What is it you think you enjoy about that?

Ben: Well, so the physical challenge, undoubtedly being able to say that I’ve done it, being able to see if I can do it. I love that as ominous and as terrifying and as daunting and as painful as they may well be. Question it, asking myself that question and being able to respond with a positive answer, which is, yes, I did do it when I was at school, at the school, I moved to one of the things I’ll never forget. I’m still haunted by this. Now, we did a sponsored walk, 50 miles sponsored walk. And I think I was about 11 or 12 and all the boys in the school did it and it was overnight. And I’ll never forget, I came home about twenty five miles and I was gone further than most of my friends, but obviously it was a 50 mile walk, lots of boys doing that and teachers. And I just gave up and I can vaguely remember machines having a little bit probably had a bit of shin splints or whatever, but I just gave up and I gave up because mentally I wasn’t strong enough and I had no idea 11 or 12 months ago I must have been about 13. So maybe just mentally hadn’t thought through the process that walking for 50 miles is going to be a long time.

You’ve got to be able to occupy your mind, which is saying, just stop. Just just stop. Just stop, just stop. This hurts. Just stop now. I quite relish that challenge because I know that my mind is going to play that trick, because as your point is that mental dialog is constantly going on. And I remember coming home and I must have got home about 11 o’clock at night and my brother was at home and my brother said, What are you doing here? I said, Oh, I’ve got twenty five miles. And then I just couldn’t go any further. And he couldn’t believe it because the only thing he knew about me was all I did was run around, play sports and in his head I was going to finish this walk. It was going to be a total, it was gonna be a piece of cake. Know, it was no challenge whatsoever. And I remember his reaction. He was so shocked that all I thought was I had massively let myself down. But the realization to me that actually there’s expectation beyond that and that expectation is something that I needed to use and I doubt now uses to push me as well. But there are expectations. So when it comes to the challenges that I’ve done.

A lot of them have been done in a group, a lot of them have been done with friends that I know we all have to rely on and depend on each other. Yeah. To complete what it is that we’re doing, you know, whether that means endless marathons or cycling forever or whatever it might be. But you are never going to be doing it on your own would be almost impossible. It’s why it’s one of the reasons why I think Eddie Izzard does is just remarkable because he’s endlessly, endlessly running marathons and what he’s doing at the moment on the treadmill, for heaven’s sake.

You know, I just can’t begin to imagine how mentally painful that is. You just have to take yourself to a place where you have no concept, I guess. Yeah, but. I do it because I love asking myself the question, I love trying to prove my own mental sort of frailties wrong, the physical challenge and being with my mates as well. I think there’s something very special about that. Sharing is nothing like sharing physical and mental pain with some of your really good mates that bonds you in a way that will keep you bonded forever. Really? And that’s quite special.

Darren: Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s the experience like the shared pain, the shared motivation, you know, support, camaraderie, you know, that kind of human connection that we get when we share a common goal with people. So, yeah, I completely agree with that. I think it’s yeah, it’s really, really important. And I think for I don’t know about you, but for me, as you get older, it’s almost like you want to prove to yourself you can still do it. Yeah. You still have that mental capacity because particularly with endurance sports, I know, you know, in the moment it gets to a point where you physically you all fit and then it becomes a mind challenge. Then it all becomes about mind. And like you said, with any side, if you can just take yourself away from that, what the human body can do is just phenomenal. It is really, really quite phenomenal.

Ben: And I didn’t really appreciate that. And when people say, what’s your tip? If I’m going to go and do it. A marathon runner and the one thing I hold onto now is a phrase that I say to myself quite a lot when I’m in a lot of pain, and that’s that the end is inevitable. Yeah, this will stop. And my frustration when I think back to 13 year old me who stopped on the walk was that I didn’t appreciate that. As far as I could tell, this mundane process, I was going through a mind that’s racing and things were starting to her was never going to end. This was going to go on forever. But, of course, break it down into the next two miles or the next mile, the next mile next year or 30 miles, and then suddenly think, well, actually, I’ve got less distance. You know, there are incentives along the way that I would have signposted for myself. Yeah. But I didn’t have that experience and the mental sort of agility to be able to process that. And that that phrase has been hugely important. And it’s actually not just in a physical challenge, but also in sort of if I’m going through, you know, a difficult time mentally or emotionally or professionally, it’s about saying to myself, the end is inevitable. This will stop this moment of difficulty, this moment of trauma will abate and then things will improve. And it’s trusting that that will happen. It is difficult because at times it feels like that darkness is never going to lift.

Darren: But it does. Yeah, I think it’s yeah. Like you say, it’s understanding, it’s momentary. You know, the pain and suffering is momentary. Yeah. But the benefits and the effects will last you almost a lifetime and you know is. Sometimes, you know, that mental resolve, that that kind of acceptance or that kind of, you know, just trying to keep yourself motivated is such a strong habit to develop, particularly when you are going through other areas of your life, like you say, when you’re going through struggles, you know, whether whether that’s work, whether that’s relationships, whether that’s family, you know, understanding that it’s just a moment in time and it won’t always be like that. And I think, you know, to touch on your point now, there’s going to be people listening to this area in lockdown who are really struggling mentally. And just to understand that it is just a moment in time and it’s not nothing’s forever, you know.

Ben: Yeah. I mean, I think one of the reasons I’ve struggled a bit more with this one than the last one is because. The light at the end of the tunnel, let’s let’s let’s take the vaccine out of it, because obviously that is what’s going to get us through this, which is really positive. And the way the government has ruled that out is incredibly commendable to date. When we’re recording this, I think nearly five million people have had their first dose of the vaccine, which is which is just exactly what we need and we need it to do it. However, they keep moving the goalpost, right? If someone gives you an end date and they can say schools will go back after half term, things will start reopening in the beginning of March or whatever, then you can pick that date. It’s like the 26th mile in your mouth and it’s like the hundredth kilometer in one kilometer bike ride. It’s like the fifth kilometer maybe on your part when your is your challenge, it gives you the end. And that is really crucial to kind of go. I’m going to hold onto that. I’m going to hold onto that, because that’s going to get me through the frustration and the difficulty now. And I don’t envy the government in any way, shape or form trying to manage this. But the frustration, the difficulty is they can’t be clear about when that’s going to end and they can’t be clear about how it’s going to end and what when it ends, what things are going to look like. So I totally empathize with everybody that’s struggling at the moment because, you know, the vaccine can’t come quick enough because that feels like the only way we’re going to get to the point where they can set those parameters, which we then can all aim for and keep hold of which will keep us going. Yeah, you can’t underestimate the power of hope.

Darren: Yeah, absolutely. But I think for people listening to this, perhaps, you know, at this time we don’t have that is just about for me. I would say that you just take each day as it comes. Right. It’s like, OK, well, we’ve got through today. We went out and he’s taking the positives out of everything. Right? You have food on the table. You have a roof over your head. You can go outside and get some fresh air. The sun is shining. And it’s really I feel that if you dial in on some of those things, you know, and just accept that we don’t yet know. And I think as humans are psychology, we are very uncomfortable in a situation where we don’t know where the end is or when there is going to be an outcome. Right. So I think it’s, you know, dialing it back to real basic simple stuff is take that opportunity to go outside every day, take the opportunity to do 10000 steps or just run around in the park or whatever, you know, just really try and maximize yourself and do what you can control.

Ben: Yeah, my yeah, my mom and dad are seventy five and six. My dad has a heart issue and they’ve just been offered a vaccine, which is great because my dad’s underlying health condition and that’s going to be in a couple of weeks. But they are being very careful. They are shielding because we don’t want to take any risks and because of my dad’s heart condition, he needs to keep up his exercise. So he’s got he’s currently doing several thousand steps around the garden every day. And he’s and he’s just doing it because he’s got to. And I think that he is. Thriving on the challenge now. Now he’s done it for the last however long he’s keeping up his, I’m not going to let this beat me. I’m going to make sure till he gets to the point where he can have his vaccine and then he can start extending where he walks, you know, and I think I think it’s really you’re you’re absolutely bang on there and just stripping things down to those small gains each day to remind ourselves that that, you know, we might not know when the end is at the minute, but there are small victories every single day. Yeah. And, you know, and don’t beat yourself up if you may need a bit too much one day or you don’t do any exercise that day, just this and it is going to come and you can go again.

Darren: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Completely agree. So Ben, what would you say. Five things you could say to listeners today that they maybe could incorporate into their lives, even in the lockdown scenario that we’re in right now to to kind of just take themselves at one step forward to try to lean a bit more of a healthier lifestyle?

Ben: Oh, well, I mean, five things. OK, so the first thing I would say is, you know, you can’t. It’s just so easy to so easy to to say this, but is it easy to do give yourself a bit of time off from your screen? Undoubtedly. I think we’re all wedded to iPads, to iPhones, to Android phones, to TV, to whatever. Keep yourself a little bit of time off and give your mind a little bit of exposure to just drifting daydreaming. I think that’s a really, really important part of life. Allowing yourself a bit of head space just feels like sometimes there’s no bandwidth. I don’t have any, I don’t have enough bandwidth for everything I’m having to absorb. I think that can really help. I think taking yourself out at least once a day. Well, at the moment, you are only allowed once a day, sort of. If you’ve got some space in the garden. Yes. Camp, but don’t. Underestimate what a difference, even 15 minutes walking down the road and back and make just a change of scene, change of environment. Think about the food that you’re eating and and sort of consider making small changes here and there because that can absolutely help sort of change your mindset about only eating stuff that perhaps doesn’t help your mood. It might help you initially, but then perhaps once you’ve consumed it might not really work so much. You know, it’s always really lovely to take that tree. That extra portion of something rather isn’t great. But, you know, you can often finish up with a bit of self-loathing if you have done that.

And if you have done that, which isn’t the end of the world, obviously, you know, compensate by going and walking a bit faster the next day or running a bit further the next day. Undoubtedly, I have trained as hard and as often for the reasons we’ve talked about, but also so I don’t need to worry about what I’m eating and what I’m drinking. If I would like to have the burger, I can have the burger. If I want to have another point, I will have another point. I don’t ever want to make dietary decisions if I’m with friends or whatever on the back of one. I can’t have that because he is probably not so good for me. If I want to have a dessert, I’ll have a dessert. Whenever I know, I know I’ll work really hard. I work really hard to have the capacity to make sure that happens. And that’s not as easy for everybody to do that. But that’s one of my drivers. Yeah. If I want to be able to eat those things, I’m going to work hard to make sure I can. So I don’t have to give myself a hard time regarding that. I think what I think the other thing that I, I think a. What has really helped me is finding people that inspire me. Yeah, you know, whether that be on social media or on television or in literature and books and whatever, find someone if you see something that you really, really prick something in your consciousness or your imagination or everything.

Oh, that’s interesting. Find out who that person is and go and look a little bit more into them. So much of the boys, for example, Tim and Jack from the School of Calisthenics that you mentioned, I found Tim and Jako on Instagram and I watched what they were doing. And I absolutely loved their approach, their style, their fusion, their passion, their graduation, that you saw their students go through. And I found that really, really inspiring. And that sort of governs a lot of my training now is I see somebody on Instagram or see someone on YouTube. I saw someone that was brilliant. How have they done that? Look into that. And I use that to inspire me to go and do something. You know, there is so much out there. There were so many free offerings from people that no matter what anybody’s fitness and health background, there is help out there to try and improve their position on that. And you just got to try and find that. You just got to be you’ve got to be engaged enough to want to find it as well. Yeah. And as hard as it is to stay and I think it’s easy to say, no, it’s not as easy to do that sleep. I know. Yeah. Yeah. You know, as a kid, I didn’t need any sleep on the up. First thing I first I possibly could as an adult. Now when sleep is at a premium, I realized just how important it is that I get enough sleep and good sleep. My wife doesn’t sleep particularly well and if I could give anything to her it would be the capacity to lie down, fall asleep and have a good night’s sleep in some way. But trying to find a decent routine in the evening that allows you to get enough sleep so you can rev up the next day and you can be efficient with what you do and how you go about it. If I’ve had enough sleep, if I’ve had enough sleep. Nothing is a problem.

Darren: Yeah, exactly.

Ben: Sometimes that’s not possible because sometimes you’re working late or sometimes things have happened or whatever. So I get that. I get that. So my default is there is if I haven’t had enough sleep, I can benefit because I keep myself very fit. So I don’t need as much sleep. But two things go hand in hand. But if you can find a way of prioritizing and making sure that you give enough respect to the need for good sleep and you know, it sounds really boring, doesn’t it? We’ve got lost about living, but, you know, living is so much more fun when you’ve been able to have a decent night’s sleep.

Darren: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the simple things that we overlook are, you know, things like hydration and things like sleep. You know, we all want to, we want the next big thing, particularly men. They want the new whiz bang thing. Right. And they want it now. You want it to be quick.

Ben: Yeah, we want it to happen now. We’re too impatient. That’s me all over. I am honestly Darren.

Darren: Yeah. I think we’re with the same thing to be honest.

Ben: It’s interesting you talk about hydration because I mean, I don’t know about you, but I imagine we’re sort of similar age. You might be a bit younger than me, but the problem I have now, if I over hydrate, is getting up to go to the loo in the middle of the night. I mean, for heaven’s sake, I never thought I was going to be an issue. I can remember in my 20s, I can have a skinful, fall asleep, wake up first thing in the morning. I saw a brilliant Michael Macintosh sketch on this and he was going to wake up at these twenty first thing in the morning desperate for a win is his body would say, yeah.

So I might go back to bed for a guy to go back to sleep for a couple of hours. I bet you and I really need to go. Yeah. Now, it’s like in the middle of the night you wake up. I probably only had half a glass of water. It’s like you got to get to the loo now. Yeah. For heaven’s sake, how is my body? Got to the point where I ate something that’s supposed to be good for me. Like keeping my hydration is so important to stay healthy. Wakes me up in the middle of the night to go dribble a bit and then. And then it’s such hard work. So I mean just me bad. Yeah.

Darren: I‘m exactly the same or similar ACA and yeah I think it is a nice thing and yeah I’m sure I’ll have a glass of water before I go to bed. I know at two o’clock in the morning I’m up.

Ben: Yeah. I just like what. Oh God for heaven’s sake. The bladder and the prostate. What a pain.

Darren: So what’s, what’s next for you. Been on the work front or any kind of sporting events when we come out of lockdown.

Ben: So we’ve got. Workwise, we are about I’ve got a couple of productions that are about to happen, right? I’ve helped set up a production company, which we’ve got, I think, one to three shows going into production at the same time. So Tipping Point series. Twelve, I think, goes into production in March at the same time as we start filming Lingoa and another show as well that we’re creating for Channel four. So there’s an awful lot of work going to happen at the same time. Yes, but these things come out nicely. Everything has to happen at the same time. But tipping points are an interesting sort of proposition because we film one hundred and sixty five episodes in a series. So it’s four shows a day when we’re filming most days and we film it down in Bristol. So I’m not at home. I live in London, but I’m not home. And that’s that’s that’s a prime example of why I need to stay fit and healthy, because in order to do the job the best as I possibly do the job, because the contestants come in, it’s their one chance at doing so. I want to make sure that they will have the most brilliant time, because the more they enjoy, the better show will be, the better the show is. More people enjoy watching it when we get to make it so. So I sort of take great pride and sort of take that responsibility very seriously. But that’s a bit of a marathon effort that’s coming up in March. In terms of physical challenges. We’re doing a I think the guys that I ride the bikes with take me. We’re going to do a hundred kilometer. And even though it’s killing me on a spin by 100 km ride in a few weeks on set in a few days time, which is to raise money for our local hospital to all of us to help refurbish their bike sheds.

A lot of the NHS workers there are cycling to work, but the bike sheds keep getting ready because they’re not secure enough and they come out after an incredibly hard shift in their bikes. So we’re going to try and raise as much money as we can to help facilitate that. OK, that’s the next big physical challenge. But, you know, I just really like short spin class because really intense cycling is really painful on my ass. My point was not that I’m not a cyclist. I was not designed to be a cyclist. Give me 40 minutes or an hour. Yeah. So 100 kilometers on a static bike. I’m going to be in agony. I’m going to be wobbling all over the show. I’m going to need some serious massage. I want from life to be up afterwards to try and get the blood back to my back end.

Darren: Yeah exactly. Yeah I know, I know the feeling. I’ve got a five hour ride to do tomorrow. So that’s it then. For five hours. So I’ll probably go five hours. I’ll probably do about one hundred and fifty K in five hours. Yeah. Yeah. Amazing.

Ben: So the distance is great. One of the things I do think that helps about being outside is that the scenery is changing. Ever changing scenery. Yeah. I’m going to be looking at my iPad and the other 50 blokes looking back at me, sweating for however long it is for five hours.

Darren: You’ll feel good once you’ve done it.

Ben: So that’s what I’m holding onto when I keep toying with the idea of whether I really need to do it, I keep thinking. You know what, that by the time it gets to sort of lunchtime and we finished, it will be well worth the pain we have been through from getting up first thing and going through the day.

Darren: Yeah, awesome. Well, I really appreciate you coming on the podcast today, Ben. It’s been great chatting to you. But before I let you go, is there anything that I didn’t ask you that you feel I should have asked you?

Ben: No, not not especially, though. And I think that we’ve covered most things. I just you know, if if any of your podcast listeners are sort of dealing well, all I would say is that right now, particularly, it’s really easy to be very self-critical, to be really harsh on what you’re eating, what you’re doing, your fitness, your behavior, all those sorts of things. Just go easy on yourselves right now, if ever. We need an excuse to sort of give ourselves a bit of space, it is now and it’s never too late to make a difference. You know, it’s never too late to take that first step. And no matter how hard that first step, every step after the first one gets easier and easier.

Darren: Yeah, definitely. That’s a great note to end on. Ben, thank you very much again. And yeah, I’d love to have you back on again in the future.

Ben: Great stuff Darren. Good luck with the ride.

Darren: Thanks, Cheers! Take care.

Thanks for listening to the Fitter Healthier Dad Podcast. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please hit subscribe. And I would really appreciate it if you could leave a review on iTunes. All The things mentioned in the episode will be in the show notes and a full transcription is over at fitterhealthierdad.com