On Saturday 19th December 2015, Mike Dales ran the Perth parkrun and reached a remarkable milestone. At least 5 kilometres of active travel on 1,000 consecutive days.
Thank you to the 5x50 Challenge for the inspiration to make such a fundamental change in my life.
I was always into sport and being active in the outdoors, so tended to view this type of initiative as being for other (less active) people, but when I looked more closely at the 5x50 message I realised that it was aimed fairly and squarely at me, along with the full spectrum of the population.
It took the 5x50 website back in 2012 to make me realise that whilst I was being very active on most weekends of the year, and perhaps the odd evening during the week, there were far too many midweek days when I was being much less active than I cared to believe. The combination of sedentary and high impact days was leading to a series of niggly little injuries and erratic sleep patterns.
Taking part in the 5x50 Challenge meant that my big days out in the hills counted towards the 50-day target, but more importantly, so too did the 5-kilometre walks and cycle rides that I started to incorporate into my week. They had been the missing link. They provided the release, the relaxation, the enjoyment at the end of busy days. It was so obvious - once I started to get up out of the chair and go for that walk or bike ride.
Having had that lightbulb moment in the spring of 2012, and completed the challenge of 50 consecutive days, I continued to get out for walks and bike rides whenever I could manage it, but without any real target or attempt to monitor what I was doing. So, at the beginning of 2013 I set a target of making a self-propelled journey of at least 5 kilometres on at least 270 days in the year (5 days out of 7). New Year's resolution sorted.
I missed a few days during January, February and March, but the 270-days target was looking realistic and achievable. By late March, however, I reached the stage where I just didn't feel comfortable if I didn't get out for some exercise on any given day, so I decided to amend my target and try to make it to the end of the year without missing another day. That's what I did, I went from 25th March to 31st December without missing a day. I then went through the whole of 2014 without missing a day and have covered at least 5 kilometres every day this year. 25th March 2013 to 19th December 2015 represents an unbroken run of 1,000 days.
So, it's thanks to the 5x50 Challenge that I've based my challenge on 5 kilometres. I either walk, cycle, run, canoe, kayak or ski 5 kilometres every day now. I take the view that it's my challenge, so it's my rules. On that basis I will vary them if and when I want to. After all, I can't keep up 5 kilometres a day forever. There will come a time when I want a different challenge.
"You don't have to copy the person who inspires you."
Just as I was inspired by 5x50 and Dr Andrew Murray, I have spoken to other people who have been inspired by what I'm doing. However, when Andrew ran from John O'Groats to the Sahara Desert, he inspired me to cycle from Land's End to John O'Groats, which in turn inspired a friend of mine to cycle to work more often. You don't have to copy the person who inspires you.
I've been suggesting various exercise challenges to people recently and emphasising the importance of using your imagination to come up with your own challenge, and then firing your competitive instincts to really want to achieve that target.
Then something happened one day to broaden the advice I was giving. I was walking away from a Saturday morning parkrun, when I saw a group of volunteers working in a parkland garden. They looked so happy and engaged in what they were doing. It was clearly a very healthy way to spend their morning and fitted in with the exercise adage: Stand More – Sit Less. In setting a target for health and fitness, why shouldn't it include activities like gardening? You can't do 5 kilometres of gardening, but you can do an average of 5 hours a week, or just include it in your list of activities for getting out of doors.
Maybe when I eventually make an adjustment to my challenge, I might just include other activities like gardening. In the meantime, I will be out on my bike on Sunday morning, moving the bar along to 1,001. The competitive drive in me wants to push that unbroken run up to 3 years now.
I mentioned above the importance of using your imagination when setting your own challenge. It really is about using your imagination. With that in mind, here are just a few suggestions to get you thinking:
u2022Walk 3 kilometres – 250 days a year
u2022Walk 1,000 miles in the year
u2022Take the stairs to the 7th floor 200 times in the year
u2022Get off the bus one stop early 150 times in the year
u2022Go for a 15-minute lunchtime walk - 3 days a week
u2022Run 16 parkruns in 2016
u2022Bike to work 100 times in the year
u2022Spend 4 hours a week walking or gardening
u2022Get a dog
I'm sure you can come up with your own variation on one of those themes. You never know, once you get started, you might end up adjusting your target. Upwards, of course!
5x50 Challenge started with a vision to make people who are inactive become more active. Challengers become part of something that inspires, motivates, encourages you to live a healthier lifestyle. 5x50 Challenges are open to all. Individuals or groups regardless of age, health condition/ disability or fitness level can take part.
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