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'I would walk 500 miles': Fitness instructor's epic trek for dementia

PUBLISHED: 12:12 04 June 2019 | UPDATED: 13:04 04 June 2019

Anita Lusher training for her 500-mile charity walk with her dog Vinnie.
Photo: KAREN BETHELL

Anita Lusher training for her 500-mile charity walk with her dog Vinnie. Photo: KAREN BETHELL

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When fitness instructor Anita Lusher hit her landmark half-century birthday, she drew up a bucket list of 50 life-affirming challenges.

Anita Lusher training for her 500-mile charity walk with her dog Vinnie.
Photo: KAREN BETHELLAnita Lusher training for her 500-mile charity walk with her dog Vinnie. Photo: KAREN BETHELL

And six years on, after ticking off most of her 'must-dos', she is embarking on her biggest adventure so far - a 33-day walk that will see her trek 500 miles along the pilgrimage route of Camino de Santiago, in northern Spain, in aid of Sheringham Dementia Friendly Community.

Sheringham-born mum-of-two Ms Lusher, who worked with children with additional needs at Sheringham Woodfields School for 10 years before setting up North Norfolk Coastal Fitness with business partner Sally King in 2013, battled body issues as a youngster and, after going through a difficult divorce, piled on the pounds.

Anita Lusher and Sally King finishing their 52 miles in a day walking challenge at Cromer Pie in 2016. 
Picture: MARK BULLIMOREAnita Lusher and Sally King finishing their 52 miles in a day walking challenge at Cromer Pie in 2016. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

However, after joining a Nordic walking class run by Ms King, she was bitten by the fitness bug and went on to train as an instructor.

"I didn't like my body and I didn't like exercise," she said. "But I feel good about myself now; I'm not model size, but you don't have to be to be healthily fit."

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Ms Lusher, who hosts Pilates and Nordic walking sessions, as well as running exercise classes for people with dementia, is no stranger to long and arduous walks.

In 2013, she took a group of Nordic walkers on a 26-mile trek from Holkham to Cromer and, three years ago, she and Ms King raised £2,500 for mental health charity Mind by covering 52 miles in one day walking along the Peddar's Way, from Little Massingham, to Cromer Pier.

After completing bucket list items including riding a Harley Davidson motorcycle, attending a pop concert and eating 50 foods she had never tried, she was inspired to take on her latest challenge by her children, Amie, 29, and Adam, 27, and her mother Pat, who died a few months ago after being diagnosed with vascular dementia.

"Mum came to our classes and seeing her dancing and playing games were the last of her smiles I remember," Ms Lusher said.

"I wanted to give something back, but it was also about getting away from that stigma and saying that it's okay to have dementia and there is support out there."

Ms Lusher, who is now focusing on an intestive training programme - taking along her dog Vinnie for company - will be setting off for Spain on September 4. To support her challenge, visit: www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/anita-lusher

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