Duncan Cowles Rambles About Fitness, Hillwalking & Scary Adult Things
Last updated: 9.17am, Sunday 27th June 2021
Duncan Cowles is a BAFTA Scotland Award-winning documentary filmmaker whose short films have been selected for various film festivals internationally winning a selection of awards, and gaining significant online exposure . No longer in his twenties, and feeling the aches and pains begin to get slightly more prevalent, Duncan looks around and sees that everyone his age seems to be obsessed with fitness. He wonders is he fit enough and, if he was fitter, whether he would be happier.
With conflicting statistics not making it easy to figure out if millennials are fit or not, and what being fit even really means, Duncan decides to get a professional V02 max test at Hampden Sports Clinic to assess his physical fitness. After discovering he is fitter than expected, Duncan figures there must be more to fitness than just simply being fit.
After his time in our Health & Fitness lab, we caught up with Duncan to let him ramble on about Fitness, Hillwalking, Chicken Wings, Millennials, and Staying Alive...
Hi Duncan. Can you please tell us about your recent clinic experience, and what made you take a ‘V02 max’ test?
After sitting there looking at everyone else posting online about fitness, I began to wonder how fit I was? I figured a V02 max test was the most efficient way to figure out if I was really fit, beyond just appearances. Also if it’s good enough for the Scottish National Team, it’s good enough for me… My experience was great, up until the point where I was the most exhausted I’ve ever been in my entire puff… Seeing the results was super interesting though and totally worth it.
After discovering you were fitter than expected, what made you then think that "there must be more to fitness than just simply ‘being fit’?”
I guess I’m not embedded in the whole world of fitness, clubs, gyms, groups… you know all that sort of stuff. I’ve never been into any of that, and yet I’m fitter than average for my age bracket, so I wanted to dive into what else there is to the world of fitness for people. Like, why post online about it? Why be a member of Crossfit etc…
As a young creative working for yourself - Is growing up these days - a minefield of epic proportions?
Yeah, I reckon things aren’t that straight forward for many people, especially right now…
National Walking Month has just started. Tell us about your interest in hillwalking and how this came about pre-lockdown?
My friend Mark and I have been pals since we were at nursery together, and although life has taken us in different directions, we like to meet up occasionally and pick up where we left off. We used to just go to the pub and get hammered a couple of times a year, but we decided at the tail end of 2019 that we didn’t actually need to get smashed to enjoy each other’s chat, and how about we tackle a Munro instead. We started with Ben Lomond in January 2020, and enjoyed it so much we decided to do a hike to catch up from then on…
What is your plan for picking up the hillwalking now the current travel restrictions are lifted?
I just pick Munro’s I’ve not done from the Walk Highlands website and go for it. As long as I’ve not done it before I’m happy to give it a bash. I’m trying to stay away from the popular ones on popular days, as they just get too crowded, and I’m not keen on queuing for a selfie at the summit. So you’ll probably find me and up some random Ben on a Tuesday morning for example, instead of a Sunday.
Bagging a Munro - sounds like lots of fun, can you see yourself going a wee bit higher and trying to climb Everest or similar in years to come?
Nah, Everest is a bit silly, not really into that. However, I’d maybe fire up Mont Blanc or Mount Olympus in Greece or something? Mont Blanc at 4809meters is a fair chunk more than I’d normally go for, but should be fine with a guide with me and the right gear etc…
You've recently spent a bit of time researching Social Media Influencers etc. Hypothetically speaking, if you were interviewing someone who had been in a coma for 40 years - how would you go about explaining to them how the influencer network works, and that people get paid to share photos of their work out and their dinner etc? "#ScenicPhotos" ;)
I’ve no idea… I’d just give them a smartphone and let them figure it out for themselves, that’s probably more fun than me explaining it to them.
Do you think that Social Media can often be a negative place for some people?
Yeah, it’s one of those things that can be both negative and positive depending on the person, their experiences and how they use it. I think it can be far too easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others and feeling down about your own life through social media. So I try to stay off it as much as possible and then just jump in when I need to and do a bit of promoting stuff and catching up with messages etc… It’s not unusual for me to just keep my phone on aeroplane mode when I’m with people in person, working, out for a walk or watching a film etc… to make sure I stay connected and focus on what I’m actually doing, and not being distracted by (albeit hilarious) memes.
In the ideal world - if you could "take a nice selfie" with anyone deal or alive, who would it be, and where would be your preferred location/backdrop for the backdrop?
Jon Bernthal, up the top of the Inaccessible Pinnacle on Sgùrr Dearg on Skye. Big fan of Jon.
You've won a BAFTA, was that something you ever thought would happen when you started out working in media?
No, but I was really chuffed and honoured when it happened. I went into filmmaking hoping to enjoy what I made, and for it to gain an audience. Awards were never and will never really be the aim of the game, however, they’re always super nice, and to know that your work is being as well-received as that by peers is amazing.
Sporting wise, tell us a bit about a "View from the terrace" and some personal highlights of yours, from this particular project.
I make a VT (short film contained within a larger programme) called ‘Put a Shift In’ with Duncan McKay. He’s a Duncan who loves football, obsessively having visited every football ground in Scotland. I’m a Duncan who doesn’t particularly find football that mind-blowing, and have (before filming these) never been to a match in my life. I follow him around with a camera as he is trying out different jobs behind the scenes at Scottish lower league football games and try to figure out why he, and indeed other folk love football so much. The main highlight for me is getting to grow an unlikely friendship with Duncan McKay, who is one of the good guys.
Aside from hillwalking, what else do you like to do when keeping fit or relaxing?
I do some pathetic half-stretches in the morning, one of which is called ‘Chicken Wings’ but that’s about it. Other than that I just film stuff, work on ideas for other things I could film, watch films, and then hang out with my mates. I suppose I wander around a lot, so not necessarily hills, but just general walking if that counts?
If you could pick some music to work out to, what would it be?
I dunno, I listen to a lot of jazz, which isn’t great for working out. I guess I’d probably listen to dance music of some sort. ATB 9 pm Till I Come maybe? Used to be my alarm tone when I was a teenager.
Picture this… you are walking through the ethereal Scottish landscape on the West Highland Way. What 5 tracks would you play for your journey?
Can I just pick ATB 9 pm Till I Come again? Maybe Ólafur Arnalds as well, with some Jóhann Jóhannsson thrown in.
Midges and Rain, often put people off hillwalking in our beautiful Scottish highlands, any tips for keen walkers starting out?
Skin is waterproof, so don’t worry about the rain, and if we’re gonna really respect Scottish Right of Way, then Midges have just as much of a right to be there as you do, so learn to live with it. Maybe buy a midge net too, you’ll look ridiculous, but that’s fine. West Highland Way isn’t a fashion contest… not that I’ve done it mind you.
You can watch all episodes of Scary Adult Things on BBCiPlayer. Including Duncan's Visit to Hampden Sports Clinic Series 1:5....
Follow Duncan on Twitter @DuncanCowles, on Instagram @DuncanCowles and watch many of his past films on his website duncancowles.com."