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THE BIG INTERVIEW: A pillar of health
Jeremy Redford, 41, recently took the world record for burpees – a form of squat thrust – by completing 8,089 in 12 hours. The ex-Army officer is about to start work at the Defence Academy in Shrivenham. He lives in Watchfield with wife Alison, and their daughter Lucy, 11...
IT’S probably best to start with a definition.
The burpee is said to be named after Royal H Burpee, the American fitness expert who devised it many years ago.
First you get into the squat position. Now perform a squat thrust, extending the legs well, and return to your starting position.
Now jump into the air, ensuring good ground clearance, and return to a squat.
Congratulations. You have performed a burpee. If you can manage another 8,089 in the next 11 hours and 59 minutes, you’ll be a Guinness World Record breaker.
Or you could just take some exercise – any exercise – and it will improve your life and put you on the winning side, as far as Jeremy Redford’s concerned.
“A lot of people are scared of exercise. They don’t know what the first step is, but the first step is just doing something, really.
“If I can inspire one person to put on a pair of shoes and take the dog for a longer walk than usual, that’s good. Exercise doesn’t have to be doing 8,000 burpees; it could be walking your dog for slightly longer or throwing a frisbee.”
Jeremy has a blog, fitandforty.org, which includes everything from fitness advice to dietary tips, as well as his exercise bucket list, from which ‘Set a Guinness World Record’ has now been ticked off.
There is also a contact page for readers in need of help to attain or improve fitness.
Jeremy said: “I’m not a sports coach but I like helping people.”
Jeremy was born in Leamington Spa, the fourth of six siblings. His father is a retired antique dealer; his mother, a member of Mensa, died when he was 11, following an epileptic fit.
As a student in 1994, Jeremy raised money for an epilepsy charity by cycling from Singapore to Sydney.
“I started in Singapore, went across to Sumatra, then Java, Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa, Flores, Timor, a plane across from Timor to Darwin and then Darwin down to the middle of Australia.”
His world burpee record also raised £1,900 for the Young Epilepsy charity, which he chose after his nephew was diagnosed with the condition.
After his mother’s death, the family moved to Cheshire and the local grammar school was followed by a geography degree.
“I thought I was going to work in hydrology and water management in the developing world.
“I really liked geography at school. I went to the University of London at college called the School Oriental and African Studies.
“Whilst I was there I had lots of opportunities to do travel and research in southern Africa, which I really enjoyed, and I thought, ‘Yeah, I could do something different over here – I could help.’ “I always wanted to help somebody, I think – do something good. I spent a bit of time in Zimbabwe and Mozambique in about 1992 and got a bit disillusioned with it. We had a project out there we were pumping quite a lot of money into. It was going well, but I thought, ‘If the political situation changes and we stop pumping money into this, we’re going to leave these people in a worse situation than their indigenous systems.’ So I thought I’d better do something else. Somebody said, ‘Join the Army,’ and the rest is history.”
Jeremy was commissioned to the Cheshire Regiment in 1997, serving in locations including Northern Ireland and Iraq.
Retiring as a major after 16 years, he spent several years helping to conduct seismic surveys for the oil and gas industry. His latest role, in Shrivenham, is in defence leadership and management.
Jeremy has been a fitness enthusiast since his teens, and specialises in endurance events. His achievements include seventh place in the 2007 Great Wall of China Marathon – the course incorporates 3,800 steps – and regular participation in the 38-mile Three Peaks cyclocross event in North Yorkshire.
He’s keen to emphasise that anybody can exercise and anybody can benefit from it. “I believe in three pillars of health: sleep well, eat well and do some exercise.
“Take sleep away and you crumble – it just doesn’t work. I could exercise all I wanted, I could eat the best food in the world, but if I didn’t sleep it would make no difference. It just wouldn’t work.
“The same goes for food. You could sleep really well and exercise really well, but fuelling the tank with nonsense, as in chemicals, processed food and stuff like that, you’re not going to get any better.
“The same goes for exercise. I could sleep well and eat well, but I’m not going to get better. There’s a fourth pillar that I’m going to write about on my blog very shortly when I get a couple of minutes, and that’s commitment.
“It’s just getting out in the fresh air. I’m not a gym person; I never go to a gym. I like working out in a park instead of a gym.
“It’s getting airflow through your body, feeling better about yourself.”
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