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Challenge yourself

A photo of a group of women hiking

Charity challenges are a great way of raising money for a good cause, whilst getting fit at the same time. Liz Parry looks at the benefits of taking part

Is there a charity that’s close to your heart or a cause that really means something to you? Perhaps a loved one has been affected by cancer or another serious health condition. Raising money for charity through taking on a physical challenge is a great way of showing your support for a particular cause whilst also boosting your own health and fitness.

There are so many charity challenges around now, from climbing Kilimanjaro to cycling from London to Brighton, and there are varying levels of difficulty, meaning than there’s something out there for practically anyone.

As well as getting the chance to meet new people, taking on a charity challenge can offer a real sense of satisfaction at having helped a good cause and achieved a personal goal.

Training for a charity challenge can prove to be a great way to enhance your health and fitness, as 29-year-old Daniela Resenterra has found out. She is currently training with her mum and sister for a 26-mile Stonehenge trek in September to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society.

“We have just begun to start training including going to the gym, swimming, going for runs and taking long walks off-road to get used to the varied terrain,” says Daniela, who is doing the trek for her grandma, Barbara, who was diagnosed with dementia last year.

“I’d say it has improved my fitness levels so far and made me more aware of my own health and fitness. For example, knowing I have this trek coming up makes me take the stairs instead of the lift and I try to eat healthily at work when there are lots of temptations around! The training is mainly designed to improve our general fitness, and build up muscle strength and stamina as this is by far the longest any of us have ever walked, and it’s the first charity trek we’ve ever signed up to, so we’re looking forward to the challenge! My grandma has always been a strong-willed, intelligent and sociable woman so it has been difficult to watch that person slowly become more distant and watch her struggle with things she wouldn’t have before. So I guess in doing this trek, we want to raise more awareness of dementia and how it can affect anyone.”

A photo of a woman walking

Jessica Stevens, 36, a personal assistant from London, is taking part in the Three Peaks Challenge, which involves climbing the three highest peaks in England, Scotland and Wales – Scafell Pike, Ben Nevis and Snowdon – in 24 hours. She is doing it to raise money for the charity, Path to Success.

She said: “I enjoy walking and this is a terrific opportunity to support Path to Success. It’s a great charity that raises money for a good cause in the UK or abroad. This year they’re supporting the London Titans, a leading wheelchair basketball team, and the money raised will help buy more wheelchairs for the club, which will allow more people to take part in the sport.”

Her training regime involves interval training, weights, hill walking and improving her general fitness and strength.

“You have to battle mental fatigue as well as being physically fit,” said Jessica. “I’m sure I’ll feel a huge amount of pride and achievement at getting through such a tough challenge. It will also improve my overall fitness and wellbeing and there’s the satisfaction of knowing you’re raising money for a worthy cause. There are 17 of us in the team and we’ve all been set the challenge of raising £5,000.”

If you decide to take part in a charity challenge abroad, you can always combine the challenge with a holiday, to reward yourself for the effort. Or there is often the opportunity to do some voluntary work for a local charity during the trip. This is what mother and daughter team Sarah and Rebecca Houlding did when they signed up to do the Rift Valley Safari Trek through Tanzania organised by Discover Adventure. The pair took part in the challenge in memory of Sarah’s first baby, Jack, who died just five weeks into his short life, 20 years ago after being born with a heart defect. Sarah and Rebecca said: “The nine days across the Rift Valley, home to the Masai Tribesman, was challenging but amazing too. And to stay on in Tanzania to help out at Light in Africa Project with the orphaned children was incredible. The money raised went to Ronald MacDonald House near Guy’s Hospital, where Jack was being treated.”

So, the benefits of charity challenges are many. If you want to help a good cause whilst improving your own health and fitness then why not take the plunge and sign up to an event? You don’t know what you’re capable of until you try.

“I was running for my loved ones”

A photo of Francesca Eyre

A mum-of-three from Petworth in Sussex completed a gruelling 220km trail race in Nepal to raise funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust in memory of her late mother, brother and sister.

Francesca Eyre, 43, took part in the Manaslu Trail Race in November 2014, an event which took her seven days to complete and which helped her raise over £6,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. She was inspired to take part having lost her sister Jo, aged 15, and brother Nick, aged 34, to cystic fibrosis. She is also a carrier of the faulty gene herself. Her mother died of cancer 23 years ago, when Francesca was 21.

Francesca, owner of Morzine-based chalet business Chilly Powder, completed the race in 17th place overall and finished as the fourth placed woman. She says: “I was really scared before I started the event. I was running with some really amazing athletes but luckily I have an advantage over mountain terrain and endurance. The race took place across a few days, so completing 30km to be followed by a further 42m was knackering, especially in the heat!”

During the race, Francesca found herself running through remote Nepalese villages. “They haven’t changed in thousands and thousands of years,” she said. “They still have no phones or electricity. The kids in these areas are now being educated but their parents have no reading or writing skills at all.”

Although this was Francesca’s first trail race she would highly recommend the experience. “Trail running requires a lot of concentration,” she says. “I was constantly thinking about where to put my feet, how to balance my body and use my strength. But when I needed it, the stunning view kept me going; the whole race was just beautiful.”

Get in touch!

Have you taken part in a charity challenge that has helped your health and fitness? We’d love to hear your stories. Get in touch with us via Facebook or Twitter and tell us your experiences:

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