Alan Chambers MBE is a polar adventurer and motivational speaker. Alan led the first British team to walk unsupported to the North Pole from Canada, spending 70 days on ice. He was also involved in planning and executing the first Winter crossing of Iceland on skis. Dragging heavy sledges he and his team completed the 500 mile journey in 47 days. Aged 32, Alan was awarded the MBE by Her Majesty the Queen for Determined Leadership in Constant Adversity.
We asked Alan some questions about his early memories of the outdoors and how it inspires him, and about his views on its role in human health and wellbeing.
What are your earliest memories of enjoying, or being influenced by, the natural environment?
Sunday afternoons with our family, as a young lad, around Normanby Hall grounds in Lincolnshire. Looking at the wildlife, climbing trees and going on adventures in the woods around the Great House. Feeling the freedom of open space and the outdoor world.
What are your top three outdoor places? Tell us why they are special to you?
North Pole: A life’s passion. The simplicity of the cold and ice is a test of everyone’s character, I like the fact that there is nowhere to hide and you have to earn every minute of every mile while travelling on sea ice.
Norway: Where I cut my teeth with cold weather expeditions; you have the beauty of the landscape and the beauty of the brutal conditions, very helpful hardy and warm people who live, love and appreciate the great outdoors.
Rift Valley Africa: Maasai land; the life and ways of a Maasai are simple and incredibly effective, we can learn so much about our own lives via watching and listening to the Maasai and how they respect the planet.
If you were unable to spend much time outdoors how would you feel, and why?
Outdoors is a great place to go to think and plan your life. It brings a certain aspect of peace and energy to my life. Without it I would slowly feel imprisoned and without oxygen.
How does the natural environment affect your physical and mental health?
It has a positive effect and on physical health and well-being and helps focus the mind.
What do you see as the main benefits of exercising outdoors as opposed to at home or in a gym?
Diversity, fresh air, destiny…. You have a large degree of control and stimulation using the outdoors as your chosen training venue. You should train in all weathers too; thats where you become tested and you find a greater degree of satisfaction. Fair weather alone drives complacency.
Many people don’t use the natural environment for health or recreation. What do you think stops them?
Fear and lack of education. Taking a small step into the outdoors to appreciate its benefits can become a lifelong drug. Seeing the world from outside is far more inspiring than from a TV!
If you were in government what three things would you change in order to get more people active in the outdoors?
An active Outdoor Education programme from year six.
A reduction in heating and energy bills if you can prove you have used energy outdoors.
Creation of an external body of government-supported experts to create outdoor opportunities for the UK. We have borne some of the greatest explorers and adventures this world has ever seen and we need to keep inspiring the next generation.
How do you think people’s relationship with nature affects their food choices?
This is a personal choice. Love animals but still eat them. Never just walk in a field, but adore what is grown in it. Mental and physical wellbeing should be a combination of nutrition and exercise, to keep a healthy body and mind… but this is a personal choice.
If persuading someone to get outside more what would you say to them in one sentence?
The only limits are those of vision, go outside see the planet we live in, in in its raw state not just in 3d! You will be amazed at how inspired you can become.
You can read more about Alan Chambers here.
Hope you found fitnaturally’s Go Outdoors Week inspiring and will go outside every day, in all weathers to appreciate the natural environment.