Shelly Green confesses she is not particularly sporty: she played netball at school, walks the dog and, with husband Brett, is a passionate sailor.
Approaching a milestone birthday, Green, 49, decided she should pay attention to lifestyle choices in her 40s in order to be fit, healthy, strong and mobile into her 50s.
"I went to a nutritionist a few years ago, so I had that part sorted," she confides. "But I do believe in the saying 'use it or lose it'. I wanted to be able to get out and explore the outdoors with my husband for a long time to come."
Green nominated herself for Total Sport's Dual scholarship programme, where she would train alongside a handful of others who were struggling to achieve their fitness goals alone.
"I was nervous going into the programme, but [coach] Claire Smith was encouraging, supportive and gave us such a lot of good, practical advice. And having the support of others in the same boat was just amazing."
For 17 weeks Green and her fellow participants walked, jogged, planked and sweated together while learning about nutrition, hydration, strength and mobility and the importance of sleep. Each of the 11 participants set a goal to run or walk the Dual 10km off-road event on Motutapu Island. Every one of them crossed the finish line jubilant on March 19.
"I was 15th in my age group," Green laughs. "I said to my husband 'I can name a couple of things that have been life-changing for me, and this is definitely one'. And I think it will be life-changing for us as a couple - it's right up there with getting married and having children."
In the days that followed, Green realised she wasn't ready to hang up her shoes.
"I worked hard for four months, putting so much into reaching a level of fitness and I didn't want to lose it. I knew I needed a goal to give me motivation to get out there on my own without the support of the scholarship group."
Green signed up for the Coastal Challenge Tawharanui 10km walk, unaware that a surprise was in store.
"I strode off quite quickly. I could see runners in front of me but no walkers. The runners went over a hill and I am not very good at navigating so I was paying attention to the course markings so I wouldn't get lost. I wasn't paying attention to who was around me. I didn't even know I was the first walker until they called my name at prize giving. Then I found out that I was the first walker overall - I beat all the women and men."
Delighted with her growing confidence and competence, Green has set her sights on a handful of walking and running events this year, enlisting coach Claire to help her move up to middle distance.
"I've never been a competitive person. At school, I would hope for rain so I didn't have to play netball. I love this because I am doing the best I can - the better I get, the less nervous I am. My fitness journey is motivating Brett to regain the fitness he had as a competitive swimmer and coach. We are converting our Nissan 4WD to a campervan so we can explore some of the places we go to for trail events."
Green encourages women in their 40s and 50s to embark on their own fitness journey.
"Even if you have never done anything like this before, you will have a lot of fun and meet some great people. Get involved in something like the Dual scholarship programme if you have the opportunity - it's the ultimate way to start.
"Or find a personal trainer who will work with you to develop a programme, support you and help with other aspects of training. Find some like-minded people [to work with]. It's not about being competitive and you don't have to do it alone - getting outdoors is a wonderful way for the whole family to spend time together."