Health and Beauty: Mitch Tonks Gets Fit

Mitch gets fit with Matt Dawson for an upcoming Redwood Creek Challenge

The life of a chef is a good one – too good sometimes! It seems for the last 15 years I’ve eaten and drunk what I liked, relying on my natural fitness and metabolism and thinking that my body was still the same as it was in my thirties. 

Now I’m down to do a triathlon of sorts, how did that happen?!

But often at the end of weekends I’ve caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and vowed “That’s it, tomorrow I’m going to get fit“.  Mondays came and Mondays went and so has my fitness and so has 15 years!  And now I’m down to do a triathlon of sorts, how did that happen?!

Earlier this year me and my pal Matt Dawson were asked by Redwood  Creek  Wine to head up a challenge event they were sponsoring on September 4 in Kent. It consists of a 10 km run through forests, woodlands and rough terrain with man made obstacles on the way, this is to be followed by a 2 km kayak down the Thames with a cool down 1 km run and a few more obstacles afterwards!  Great fun if you’re fit!

I didn’t know where to start but I really loved the idea of a goal and the opportunity to team up with Matt again after our last adventure in the camper van.  According to a new study there is a tendency nowadays for men of a certain age (mine!) to take up more serious physical challenges setting themselves goals that many fail to make.

I really loved the idea of a goal and the opportunity to team up with Matt again after our last adventure in the camper van. 

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So I thought I should get training and just do it. My last attempted exercise regimes have all included abstinence and pain!  The only way I could do this was to achieve balance in my life - not easy.  I got off to a good start with our sponsors sending me some wine!  Damn good stuff it is too. Perhaps more practically Matt has given me some coaching tips and has been a great source of encouragement. I am lucky to work with someone who has played sport for most of their life at peak fitness.

I’ve been taking it easy to start with, up and down the breakwater in Brixham, once, then twice then four times then six. The first time out was not good, I got a few hundred yards and I felt so heavy I just wanted to stop but I kept going and I found that after every push I gave myself it just got easier, I felt “in the rhythm”, it is a good feeling. I also enlisted the help of a personal trainer, Kevin from the Halfern centre, who has been brilliant, just a few times a week with him has made such a difference.  

Kevin pushes me to do things that I wouldn’t normally do left to my own devices, on many exercises I just close my eyes and got through the workout by listening to Kev “one more, come on Mitch” and “It’s never too late to be who you want to be” rang so very true to me, I’d wanted to be fit for years. 

After a few weeks I can really feel the benefits, more focused, lighter and just generally better in myself – it’s a great feeling and one I’ve not experienced for a while. My life has always been fun but this has taken it to a new level.

As I’m writing this I’m aware that I am a long way from being able to complete the Challenge but in my mind I can do it, I know I can, I just have to believe in myself. Matt and I hope to inspire as many people as possible to join us on the Redwood Creek challenge (find out more at  It will be a race of team spirit and camaraderie , there will be men, women and families running together and I shall certainly seek some encouragement from being amongst the crowd and the company.  The party afterwards will be good too with Matt on I on the barbecue cooking again. I feel that will be the balancing part, I’ve got fit, changed my lifestyle but still enjoying the very things that perhaps created the imbalance in the first place!  


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