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Giving Running a Healthy Boost

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Since winning gold in Barcelona, a huge part of my post-Olympics career has been dedicated to encouraging people to get more active in their day to day lives. And to tell the truth, it's a challenge that is considerably harder than being a competitive athlete.

Getting up come rain or shine to train, sticking to a rigorously enforced diet and forgoing nights out with friends are just some of the less glamorous aspects of international competition. But I was prepared to endure these hardships for purely selfish reasons - I wanted to win and wanted to be acknowledged as the best in my field.

That's a carrot you can't dangle in front of most people. Professional sportsmen and women might love their chosen path, but they know they have to put the work in like any other job. Getting others to take up sport for the fun of it is another matter entirely.

While the government has scaled back from its original goal of getting one million more adults engaged in regular sporting activity, instead focusing its efforts on encouraging young people to get off the sofa, it is probably right that the limited central funds concentrate on our young people, since a change of behavior now is likely to stand them in good stead through their lives.

But it is good to see that adults haven't been forgotten. I've just helped launch a new campaign spearheaded by Sport England and cruise line Royal Caribbean International to get more people involved in running.

The pilot scheme is starting in London and will hopefully roll out across the UK in the months to come. These new Royal Caribbean Runners groups will see individuals take part in a 12 week programme that I hope will improve health in a fun and supportive environment. There are some fantastic incentives to aid motivation and the groups are open to anyone regardless of ability.

Those involved in grassroots sport know how much of a thankless task it can be, and how finding funding can be a real battle. That's why I'm so happy to lend my support.
As a cruiseline Royal Caribbean has built much of its recent success on the sporting facilities aboard its ships (think rock climbing walls, ice rinks, state-of-the-art gyms and surf simulators). The company is digging deep - spending up to £250,000 - to fund the running initiative so there is no cost on the public purse.

How many other companies have got it in them to get involved in something similar? We hear lots from big brands about 'sustainability', but the most sustainable activity of all is making sure you have happy, healthy customers who can keep buying your products for many years to come.

If you are involved in a business that has a few quid to spare, maybe have a think about how you can encourage sporting activity. There is nothing better than seeing the difference you could make.

And if you've always wanted to get a bit fitter but been worried about taking that first step, give Royal Caribbean Runners some thought. All abilities and ages are welcome and you are sure to find people just like you. Who knows, the groups may even uncover some future Olympians...

If you're interested in finding out more information or want to see if there are already running groups where you live I encourage you to check out www.royalcaribbean.co.uk/runners and take the first step to healthy and active living.

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