Fitness and Health

Hi guys, this is a joint post, Martin will start and hand over to Matthew for the rest of the post.  The topic of how big the Jamboree site was discussed at length at the IST weekend.  Some of the CMST attended the BSA Jamboree held on the site last year and relayed stories of just how big the site is.  One member of the Jamboree Organising Team described the site as “Jurassic Park for Scouting, just without the Dinosaurs”, but how big exactly is the site?  And what does it mean for us?

The site is 57 square kilometers.  I am reliably informed that this is the size of a city the size of Nottingham or Northampton.  For those of you, like me, who don’t live in those places, it’s worth looking at that size in comparison to something vaguely familiar.  Enter this image I found on Google, taken from the twitter feed of UK Unit 11 “Oceans 11” – well done guys on both the name and the image.

Jamboree site overlaid on a map of Central London credit to UK Unit 11’s Twitter

Very simply put, the site is absolutely massive.  We were told a story of some of the JOT deciding to visit the forest zone (where all the high ropes and ziplines are) from the IST Campsite and it taking two busses, a lot of walking and still nearly four hours to get there.

What makes this site worse, in a way, is that it’s built on an old quarry.  For anyone who’s never visited a quarry, they don’t tend to be flat, which means lots of walking up and down hills.

I (Still Martin) won’t lie.  I am horrifically unfit and clinically overweight.  If the Jamboree was tomorrow I wouldn’t last on site, I wouldn’t enjoy the Jamboree.  The sheer distances we’ll be required to walk, plus the high adrenaline adventure of the Jamboree coupled with the predicted heat and humidity is going to make life difficult if we’re not on top of our fitness.

The good news is that the Jamboree isn’t tomorrow, but it is 404 days away, from the time of righting. I know I need to commit to getting fit, and losing weight.

I am at the start of my journey as far as this is concerned.  Matthew started his journey back before the Moot in 2017, and is going to take over the story from here…


I’ll preface my section with this simple warning, I’m not a dietician, I’m not a fitness instructor. I’m speaking purely from my own experiences and you should take my advice with a pinch of metaphorical salt. You should probably ask a medical professional or something?


407 days, that’s 1,221 meals, 58 fitbit workweek and weekend warrior challenges, 1 Christmas and enough time to be able to make a significant commitment to being able to work on your fitness and nutrition.

As Martin has already touched upon, both he and I are on different stages of our journey on the road for getting fit for the jamboree, so our approaches will be slightly different, when reading what I write, please take this into account. Consult outside sources and actual professionals and not just stuff you’ve read on a blog.

Onto the “meat” or protein of the blog though;


Key message

  • Plan!, Goals, Motivation and Challenges
  • Nutrition and Exercise in combination
  • The Aggregation Of Marginal Gains. Lessons we can learn from gold medals in British Cycling
  • Reaching the Plateau and what’s next?

We’ll cover these in separate blogs as there is simply too much to write in one block, also I may adjust these and add more depending on what I think in future.



This will be a regular thing across most of the blogs we’ll write I imagine, proper preparation prevents pretty poor performance. If you want to get fit you need to work out a plan of how you’re going to approach it. The key things to consider;

  • Goal – what is your goal, is it to lose 1kg, 30kg or more?
  • Motivation – What is motivating me to start this and what will keep me motivated to continue when the going gets tough
  • Expected Challenges – When am I going to find it hard to keep up the routine, what are my weaknesses and how can I tackle those
  • Nutrition – What am I eating currently? How can I improve it? How can I keep my diet enjoyable?
  • Time Constraints and keeping it sustainable – When am I busy, when can I cook the healthy meals, how can I fit in exercise in-between Scouts, work and all those tinder dates?


When I was looking into my “Change” for Iceland I did vast amounts of research and I tried lots of different diets, fitness approaches, personal trainers and exercise routines. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion, no one size fits all, what works for me, will not work for everyone else. You need to think about all of the above and come up with personal answers and solutions to all of them but I will run through my answers and how I tackled them.


Goal: My Goal for Iceland was to lose weight and look better. I didn’t know how much I could do, so I was just going to “Eyeball it”. I just knew I had a fair bit to do. On top of this, I also took pictures of myself before I started dieting, so I could easily track the visual progress

Motivation: You need to honestly ask yourself, “why am I doing this, what do I want to achieve?”. Personally, I already know I’m fit enough to be able to walk an hour in 35 degree heat on hills. Some of us may not be at that point yet, but find as many little motivations for getting fit and healthy as possible, these will all help when we hit the challenges. Here’s some ideas of goals to get the ball rolling;

  • Be able to run a 5km or 10km race
  • Be happier with looking at myself in the mirror or be able to wear those clothes I’ve always wanted to
  • Greater enjoyment from eating healthier
  • Have the ability to say “YES” to adventure – being fit enough to go and do all those things you wanted to do, and enjoy them, like being IST at the Jamboree
  • The “look at what I can do” factor – When you achieve your goal or beat a personal best, this is a great feeling and really boosts your willpower
  • Improving your mental as well as your physical strength
  • The Anti-aging effect, looking and feeling younger by being fitter.
  • The “Me” time – I love just peddling around on the bike with music and my thoughts,

Personally, I’m driven by the confidence boost and the “me” time, it’s a great feeling when I look at old pictures of myself and compare them to myself now. I also found that after working a full day then commuting home for an hour and a half, I thoroughly enjoyed getting onto the bike, listening to my embarrassing 80’s playlist and winding down. The key take away for this is to find what little things you can stack up to motivate you, the more you can get the easier it will be to drag yourself out of bed early to make a nutritious breakfast or go to the gym, motivate yourself to get the extra steps on the days where it’s gloomy outside or generally go that extra mile to be able to achieve your goals.

Expected Challenges: As with everything else in life, there will be peaks and there will be troughs, some days you will feel great after eating well and exercising, other days you’ll feel less magical and you’ll be very tempted to buy the cheesecake, Terrys chocolate orange or half a litre tub of Ben and Jerry’s cookie dough ice cream….

The best way to manage challenges is to have mitigation plans in place for when things go less desirable than you’d previously hoped. From my experience things like this could generally come from; bad weather, waking up on the wrong side of bed, a stressful day at work, friendship/relationship drama, etc. So instead of finding solace at the end of a 4 pack of chocolate eclairs, have other things you can substitute that won’t knock you back on the road for a better you!

Some of the ways I’ve found to be able to cope with these cravings is to have methods of dealing with them and “healthier” alternatives. When the weather is bad, instead of peddling to work, I’ll cut down my commute by getting the train and make up for it by going swimming or going to the gym for a run in my lunch hour. That makes sure that I’m still having exercise in my daily routine. When work or personal stress is making me crave sweet things, instead of going to chocolate or Haribo, I now go for apples, fake chocolate protein bars or flapjacks. As with the motivation, you need to critically assess what your weaknesses are going to be, what’s going to test your resolve and how you can manage those moments when they do arise! When you hit your problems, and find ways of dealing with them share your ideas in the comments box at the bottom of the blog to pass it onto other people that may run into similar issues. It also helps to ensure you’ve got a support network to pick you up on the days you’re struggling whether this is a friend to complain to and who will spur you on, or Fitbit/Strava groups to ensure your competitive streak drives you towards your goals!


Nutrition: I’m only going to briefly go over this now as I’ll cover it more extensively in the second blog. From looking at various articles, the consensus is that nutrition and exercise are not equal when you’re looking to drop the pounds or kilos. It seems that what you put into your body is more important than how you move it.

If your goal for America is to lose weight then you really should not just be looking at exercising more but also trying to eat a healthier diet. This could be a lower calorie diet or eating more of the right things and less of the bad. As I’ll talk in more detail about, this is also very much about personal taste, what you enjoy and what you can’t live without in your diet. The key is making sure you are tracking what you are eating, not just the calorie count but the latest trend is tracking the macronutrient content. If you want to read into more information this is a decent article (

Tracking the nutrient content of your diet will allow you to make sure you are putting enough of the “right stuff” in and moderating the amount of “bad things” you eat. Being able to track what you are eating also keeps you accountable and helps you iteratively improve on your diet. Think of a regular petrol-powered car; putting petrol into the tank means the car keeps moving because it’s the right thing to put into it.  If you tried putting diesel into that petrol-powered car, what would happen?  The car would stop moving because it’s the wrong kind of fuel.  The relationship between food and your body is similar; food is the fuel for your body.  Filling it with the right fuel makes it work better than filling it with the wrong fuel.


Time Constraints and making it sustainable: As I’m sure is the case with many of yourself, I’m inherently busy, my normal working week can range between 40 – 60 hours. On top of that I’ve also got two roles within scouting, one as an Assistant Explorer Scout Leader, the other as a Deputy Area Commissioner with British Scouting Overseas and the last time I spent a full weekend at home was 9 weeks ago! All of those things plus the normal routine such as eating, drinking, commuting (and occasionally sleeping) is time I can’t be going to the gym and after a stressful or bad day at work, the last thing I want to do is to eat a salad.

This touches on the challenges point I made earlier, you need to have a sustainable plan for how you are going to tackle these issues, where can you fit exercise and healthy eating into your weekly routine. For me I swapped out half of my commute to cycling, so I do maybe 45 miles cycling a week now and I prepare healthy meals in advance for a couple of days, then box it all up, this means when I have “off-days”, my food is already made and it gives me that little pick me up so all I’ve got to do is heat it up before I curl up under blankets, looking at cat memes and feeling sorry for myself.


Overall, each of our our journeys for self improvement will be different, with different challenges, tastes, likes and dislikes, and every single one of us will need to adjust our plans and approaches to make sure we achieve. So be objective and tenacious with your goals and you’ll be Jamboree fit in no time!


N.B. If you’d like to help motivate yourself through a Fitbit group feel free to add me on Facebook (if you are 18+ only please, as Scouts rules say it’s bad for leaders to have 1 on 1 contact with young people on social media). Then I’ll add you into a workweek challenge with other Scouty people.

One Reply to “Fitness and Health”

  1. Nice work Matt and Martin, Look forward to hearing more about your progress!
    30Kgs is an incredible achievement, well done!

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