I had the pleasure of speaking with Christopher Brisley all the way in England. After being honorably discharged from the Royal Navy and involved in a serious bike accident, Christopher decided to start running, swimming, and biking for the greater good. Over 6,500 miles later, he’s a renowned Ultramarathoner, Ironman tri-athlete, mountaineer, and creator of Take a Challenge, a community organization that inspires people to get active while encouraging others to do the same.
Tell me what motivated you to start Take a Challenge.
My experiences being incapacitated led me to not give in, but to get up and go. And once I was motivated, I kept meeting people experiencing similar hardships, and I wanted to get them motivated, too. (And that way I could also stop talking about myself!)
What was the “it” moment when you decided to get back into health and fitness?
There were many moments! I think back to my time in the hospital with spinal injuries — that was a real low for me. Yet all I needed to think was I always know I can take one more step. I will never give in. If I did what the doctors told me I’d still be in the hospital. I took my health into my own hands, instead of doing nothing.
What also inspired me was the way my friends got on with [their setbacks]. Lots of guys returning from conflict were using fitness as a part of their rehabilitation process. So I fundraised and trained for a triathlon.
What sort of exercises/rehabilitation did you find worked best for your recovery and to prevent future injuries?
Definitely core stability training, along with the alternative therapy osteopath (checking to see if your skeleton is in the right place.) Things I still do today include mobility exercises, quality stretching, massage, and foam rolling. I rarely get injured now.
How do you make fitness and health a priority in your busy schedule?
The first mistake people make is trying to fit things in. That’s the wrong way to do it! If you think about a clock on a daily basis, there are key elements that shouldn’t move. The first one is sleep. Everyday I make sure I am in bed by 10:30 PM so I can start to wind down and fall asleep by 11 PM. Then I block off time for work. The very last thing I’m going to put there is television, since it’s a luxury, not a necessity. Will watching TV or training help me reach my end goal? I book out my time based on that. I make sure to train every morning before work.
Run me through a typical day of nutrition. What certain foods do you eat and why?
I’m a big believer in the paleo diet. The very first thing I eat is porridge with blueberries and maybe some low fat yogurt: 500 calories of slow release energy! When I finish working out I have a snack (usually fruit) to give the body some more energy. I also split my lunch between noon and 2:30. I’m a believer in two small meals instead of one big meal to avoid that 3 o’clock crash. I’m also wheat intolerant so I’ve cut wheat out, which has helped me lose fat and build muscle. For work, I mostly bring in food from home; if I make it myself I know what’s in it, and it tastes better. I usually have a small meal for dinner. I’m big into rice pots. I love broccoli, green beans, and carrots too. And I’m always hydrating.
Any food indulgences in there?
Oh I love hot chocolate. Or ginger yogurt. Don’t know if they have that in the States. But it’s so good — bloody creamy.
What do you have the most trouble with in terms of health, fitness, and happiness?
My family has weight problems, so a big issue is trying to keep my weight off. I have problems with my spine so I’m often in discomfort and it’s stopped me from training. But to stop putting on fat, I started using My Fitness Pal (a calorie tracker). When you have to enter what you’re eating, you visually see what you’re consuming.
Where do you find happiness on a daily basis?
Although I’ve had a difficult decade, I become unbelievably happy when people make a turn for the better because of Take a Challenge. When I go on Twitter and see loads of feedback from people that say the community has really helped them, it really makes me want to carry on.
This Saturday I am running the Thames Path 100 mile Ultra Race.
How’s the training going? Are you going for gold?!
Ha-ha, oh no. I’ve had a virus for 2 ½ weeks, so this will be a tough one. But at the end of January I ran 45 miles at night with two friends, which took 11 hours. I’ve also recently done two 30-mile runs.
According to Christopher’s website, he’s trying to finish this race in less than 22 hours.