Active Travel



Jack of All Trades. Master of None?

Jun 5, 2014 | Active Travel, Hiking, Running | 12 comments

I clearly remember my PE teacher taking me to one side when I was about 13, and telling me that I had to drop some of the activities that I was doing to focus on just a few sports.  She told me that I was a bit of a ‘jack of all trades, master of none’, and that if I wanted to excel at hockey then I would have to sacrifice my other extra curriculas.
I really loved playing hockey; hitting the ball around with friends, training before school and at lunch, and competing in matches and tournaments against other schools. But I knew I was never going to go anywhere with hockey,  I just wasn’t good enough.
So I ignored her advice.
I kept up with my tennis lessons (not that you’d believe it to see me play now), trampolining, gymnastics, athletics, rounders, Duke of Edinburgh and numerous other activities that my school offered. I went to boarding school, and sport was the best way I knew to fill the endless hours that would otherwise be spent watching TV, or studying!
I am continuing to ignore her advice.
Trying New Fitness Classes
I love trying new fitness classes, whether it’s a bootcamp circuit workout, a barre class, or reformer pilates. Running races are a regular fixture in my calendar; from 5K to half marathon, obstacle courses and fun runs. I also can’t say no to an adventure or challenge.
I’ll try my hand at hiking, rock climbing, cycling, kayaking, white water rafting. You name it, and I’ll give it a go. (Except potholing, that sounds like my worst nightmare). I have thrown myself out of planes, and jumped off ledges attached to an elastic rope, I’ve cycled down Death Road in Bolivia, and I signed up to run my first marathon with zero running experience or cardio fitness.
Sky Diving
‘To become a better runner, you have to run more’. Friends and fellow runners have told me that I should cut back on my ‘crosstraining’ when I’m marathon training, that I need to focus on running. However, for me, that isn’t what it’s about. I will never win a marathon. Running is my hobby and it’s supposed to be fun. I love the fitness that running brings; it allows me to enjoy numerous active pursuits, performing better than I would without my current fitness levels. Plus it works both ways. Cross training can make me a faster, more efficient runner. This is my choice, although I know for some, they prefer high mileage marathon training plans. Not everyone is the same, and what works for one person, might not work for another. 
When I was training for the New York City Marathon, (my most enjoyable marathon to date,) I said yes to every class and race that was thrown my way. I completed a 10 mile training run before attempting a Duathlon, I ran across London to take part in a 10K, I finished two-a-day workouts to fit in strength and speed. Although I was busy, I was stronger and fitter than ever before, and most importantly, I was having a lot of fun.
Running in a Race
In the future I’d love to try my hand at long bike rides, gruelling treks and scary triathlons. I will never be the quickest, or the youngest/oldest participant, but I will have completed them, and that’s enough for me. Although a new PB every once in a while would be great too.
Training for the Berlin marathon starts on Monday, and although I do have time goals that I want to hit, it is more important that I feel fit and enjoy the journey to the start line. My summer weekends are filled with weddings, hiking, cycling, holidays and day trips. I’m not willing to miss out on all the fun of cycling with friends, taking on the Three Peaks Challenge or walking 20miles as part of my cousin’s crazy challenge from John O’Groats to Lands’ End. If anything, I believe these pastimes will strengthen my mental attitude to the marathon, as well as physical fitness.
Rather than saying no to many of these commitments and focusing solely on running training to earn a sub 4 in Berlin, it means I have to be sensible with my time and work my runs in to my schedule, and use the conditioning I will get from other activities to my advantage. And actually, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What is your take on training? Are there a few sports you focus on or do you like trying a bit of everything? 


  1. Zoe

    Hooray for this post! I’m the same – although nowhere near as fit!! I like to try everything, have a go, give it my best. I may or may not do it again. I may want to take it up properly but don’t have the time because there are so many other things to try. Sometimes I wish I had chosen when I was a teenager, or younger, but the fact is I didn’t and I still haven’t and that is who I am.

    Oh and potholing… I did try that… once… it was indeed my worst nightmare and I will never ever go again!

  2. Ashley

    I think it’s all about balance. I need to make sure the cross training is fun but not TOO hard because there is no worse feeling than waking up for a long run or speed workout and knowing your legs or body is tired because of another workout. Great post!

  3. mia79gbr

    Love this! I tend to mainly run at the moment but only because I struggle to fit other things in, but I try to mix it up! Had a beer relay on Friday and had a 5k handicap race yesterday and a marathon in a week! Mixing disciplines and distances up makes it all a lot more fun!!

    • Charlie

      Thanks! A beer relay sound amazing!

  4. helloandgo

    It must be all about balance, otherwise I tend to burn out! Great post… now I want to try all these fun things!

    • Charlie

      Thanks, got to keep it interesting and fun!

  5. Natasha Wynn

    This post is fab, and I think you’re pretty inspirational! As a kid I stuck to swimming and dance, then just dance, and although it became my career, I kinda wish I had done a lot more. Now that my career has moved to fitness I’m really keen to try all new things I never did when I was younger.
    Kudos to you, keep doing your thing, I love reading your posts. xx

    Tash | Ballet, Dance & Fitness

    • Charlie

      Thanks natasha, that’s so sweet!

  6. Sam

    I agree, it is not just the destination, it is the journey to get you there. As I try my 100 different sports and fitness classes in a year. I am getting a taster for a range of sports and after this year, I might have found that I enjoyed something and want to continue with it. I am all for trying range of activities. As long as you are doing something and enjoying it, with whatever goal in mind, that is the main thing.

    • Charlie

      Couldn’t agree with you more Sam!


    I think you’re right that different challenges will build your mental fortitude. The hardest thing I ever did was walk the Yorkshire 3 Peaks in driving rain…and I freely admit I only got round because of my Husband’s encouragement. But it was such a learning curve in terms of what I could do when I stuck it out and kept going, that lesson has served me well!!! Good luck for Berlin!

    • Charlie

      Eek I am quite nervous about the 3 Peaks Challenge, well done for completing the Yorkshire 3, esp in the pouring rain!


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