Sam’s Challenge

Last October I began a journey, one in truth begun, achieved and abandoned many, many times over the course of my 60 years. A journey to better health and self-confidence, an important one to be sure, and glory-be these months later, one I am still positive and happy to be on. It is, however, a journey started on a whim and for a supremely silly reason: a television show called Outlander.

Outlander is a historical drama, with elements of romance and sci/fi, that chronicle the lives of a time traveling woman and her Highlander husband. I could wax poetic about the plot ( based on a hugely successful series of books by Diana Gabaldon ), the production ( by Battlestar Galactica writer/producer Ronald Moore ) or the locations and photography ( Matt Roberts in Scotland !!!! ), the costuming ( Terry Dresbach ), but the truth that actually set my foot on this new journey is much simpler than that ( if not a bit more embarrassing ) : the lead actor, Sam Heughan.

As I said, I am 60 and said actor is half that age, but this new found drive is not based on something as simple or limiting as lusting from a distance, although there are some elements of that ( I am a woman after all….) it is more of what he represents; strength, vitality, an exuberance in striving for physical health while at the same time taking great joy in the process, and shamelessly sharing the results. To top things off, according to those close to him, he is a genuinely nice guy and a bit of a clown, which of course adds to his stature in my opinion. I am not alone here either, as tens of thousands of fans appear to concur.

So how does one make the leap from the sedentary lifestyle of celebrity fandom to the polar opposite life choice of hiking boots, ever increasing elevation gains and strength training? Simple : Sam’s Silly Selfies. Sam would post a picture on social media, running a triathlon, mountain hiking, wearing his favorite workout gear in a gym, or some insanely gorgeous landscape shot that he actually had to physically get to to take the picture. Once posted, these shots would fly from one Twitter and Instagram account to thousands of them, fans would squee and swoon, sending them on to an ever increasing fan base. A remarkable marketing strategy for an actor, truly. I believe, however, that something quite unexpected and a bit remarkable happened.

A certain section of the fan base picked up the ( perhaps ) unintended message from Sam’s selfies; that being fit and strong, physically active and having a willingness to push oneself beyond a comfort zone could just possibly bring a bit more happiness in life. Of course nothing about that is news to anyone, and everyone agrees in principal as well, but making that leap from couch potato to active participant in life requires more than just knowledge, it requires a serious push. For many Outlander fans, of which I am proudly one, that push became Sam Heughan.

Fans across the globe began posting their own selfies, chronically their workouts, struggles, goals and progresses. @SamHeughan, @BearStrength, @F1ghtCamp addresses began to dominate fan feeds, leading to ever growing numbers of fans to fitness sites. Groups, like @BAMstrength and @OutlanderFit began to coalesce and their memberships grew as the inactive sought out the support of the active. Enthusiasm and motivation flew around the fans groups, people began moving. Sam noticed and My Peak Challenge was launched.

I am not privy to the whys and hows of how My Peak Challenge came into being, or where it all might be headed, but it feels like a positive thing. My Peak Challenge’s purpose, as I understand it, is to provide members with support and motivation, to provide an atmosphere of challenge and encouragement, to be a community for those who are athletes and those who seek to be more athletic. These are extremely early days but I think that Sam and his team can bring their expertise, enthusiasm and support to those of us who are willing to do the work, in order that we can all be successful, no matter our sport or level of ability. As in all things of course money is involved, currently there is a small signup fee for membership, from which Sam’ s chosen charity, Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research @beatbloodcancers, receives a donation and the new member a get some swag. There also appear to be a couple of companies involved on some level, to share the start-up costs and those profits, if any, down the road. How all of this will play out is still taking shape. I just know that it feels positive to me and I am in. If it cost a little bit of money, well so do gyms, personal trainers and workout gear even if one were not participating in a program such as My Peak Challenge. Add to that the charity aspect and I say money well spent!

There is already an army of participants flooding Twitter, Facebook and Instagram with their workout sessions, goals and plans for the first challenge scheduled to take place in March. The enthusiasm is high and the momentum is building, it feels fun and exciting to be a part of, and that is what a push is all about, right?

So, if I were speaking directly to Sam, I would say that I set my foot on my first trailhead after more years than I care to admit because he posted a picture of himself bagging a munro and I fell in love. Not with him ( well maybe just a little…) but with a landscape, any landscape actually, as long as I had to work to get there. I fell in love with the notion that to achieve something beyond my comfort zone would bring me to a new level of emotional fulfillment while experiencing this wonderful life of mine. And lastly, I fell in love with the thought that maybe, just maybe, at the end of my days I could look back and say, ” Well lived Rebecca, and well finished!”

Thanks Sam.

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