FITNESS is no longer just a fun run in the park and down the street with a bit of gym-junkie adrenaline thrown in.
Now, keeping the flab at bay and the fit in the health regime is more a challenge for gladiators and extreme-sports challengers.
When it comes to the fit and the fast in Tamworth, there are tough mudders, half-marathon and half-triathlon athletes slogging it out, pedal pushers going along the Peel and bike bashers following choppy roads.
Boot camp has gone ballistic in places, with the new-age fitness fanatic pushing the limits but running with charities in their sights and fun in their step.
Another group of go-getters is at it today.
About 40 will take to the waters and roads around Lake Keepit on the third Twin Peak Challenge, a commando-type course that will test the lot of them but seal some team spirit.
It’s a split-level challenge. The first stage is a 45km round trip called the Roo Ride for the advanced brigade, or 35km for the rest.
Stage two is a 5km kayak paddle around Rabbit Island, another outcrop called The Ruin in the middle of the lake and back around the peninsula off the sport and recreation area.
Then it’s back on their bikes for Rocky Ride, a 6.55km pedal back out around the peninsula points, before they take to the road again for the final leg, the Rocky Run.
That last trip, according to the team leader, director and organiser Peter Manning, is just a walk in the park really – a short 3.2km run to the end, at which point they will be a hero.
Last year the event saw the competitors run up Mt Flagstaff twice, with a bike ride around Farrer in between, but this year personal fitness trainer Mr Manning decided to add the kayak leg, as an extra heartbreaker for competitors.
They’re called heroes – not just for their health-kick habits but for the fundraising they do for Ronald McDonald House.
So far the Twin Peaks Challenge has raised more than $50,000. This year’s goal has already surpassed $30,000 in pledges.
Competitors each have their profile with a photo and blurb on the Twin Peaks Challenge website.
Among the group are 12 women.
There are a few old footy players, like Neil Albert, some council blokes like Warren Faulkner and Seon Millsteed, a couple of recognised fun-run regulars in Dave Barnett and Tim Thompson, graphics boss Pete Cross, specialist shoemaker Daniel Raffaele, and even husband-and-wife team Mal and Kim Campbell.
“We’ve been training for the past six weeks, three times a week,” one devoted fan said.
They’ve mixed up bikes with boxing, body weight circuits and plenty of cardio work.
As a taster session last weekend they took to Lake Keepit.
“We completed a 12km bike ride and a 1.5km kayak, which felt like about 4km and we wished it was. It was 30-plus degrees but luckily fairly calm out on the lake. Not many of us have kayaked competitively before, possibly some haven’t ever kayaked before,” one competitor said.
“Yes, it’s the extreme-challenge aspect that gives it the edge over doing normal fitness – it’s an opportunity to completely get out of your comfort zone.
“Everyone has been having a blast.
“There have been some really hard sessions, lots of laughs, a few bike mishaps – you know, pedals falling off and flat tyres, and that’s just me – but it’s great to be doing something completely out of the ordinary and with a group of new friends.”
As Mr Manning emphasised, it’s a challenge, not a race, and they all respected that – but there’s still a bit of a competitive edge to them.
Anyone who finishes the event is labelled a local hero.
The event is especially poignant for one entrant, Fraser Ashford, whose wife had a premature baby in 2005.
Ronald McDonald House in Newcastle took them in and allowed him to stay close to his wife and baby until both had recovered to full health.
The challenge starts at 8am today. The fastest should take about four hours, and slower finishers closer to five.
A family day will follow, with jumping castles and entertainment for the kids, and ice packs and Panadol for the adults.
“We have got a fantastic response, with lots of volunteers, sponsors and donors, and of course 40 gluttons for punishment, including myself,” Mr Manning said.