Work is really busy at the moment. Since setting up Big Pond Scotland a couple of years ago I have never had so much work on the go. I’m delighted with that and enjoying the many and varied projects that I’m working on.
When work comes in like that it is easy to neglect other aspects of life like getting outdoors for some healthy exercise. Despite being an active person, I have succumbed to work pressures in the past and not taken sufficient exercise for a few weeks. The result has usually been disturbance to sleep patterns and feeling tired during the daytime when trying to concentrate on work.
In 2012 I took part in the 5X50 Challenge. The challenge being to run, walk or cycle 5km for 50 consecutive days. This is the story of how 5X50 has inspired me to take daily exercise, no matter how busy my life might be.
I’ve always been active and always maintained a good level of fitness, but the 5X50 website and an interview given by Dr Andrew Murray on Radio Scotland made me think about my own approach to exercise.
I would have the occasional week where I would exercise every day of the week, but some weeks I would follow a more erratic exercise pattern along the lines of: Monday rest – Tuesday rest – Wednesday rest – Thursday evening training session with the running club – Friday rest – Saturday big hill walk – Sunday big hill walk.
Taking part in 5X50 in 2012 convinced me that I had felt huge benefits from taking daily exercise. Doing something as simple as a 5km walk or bike ride each day raised my base level of fitness, improved my general health and enabled me to enjoy better sleep patterns. Come the Thursday evening training session with the running club and that weekend in the hills I began to notice improved stamina and fewer niggles like tight hamstrings.
At the end of 2012 I made a new year’s resolution to achieve a target of at least 300 days in 2013 in which I would travel at least 5km by self-propelled means. I decided that my modes of self-propelled exercise would consist of walking, running, cycling, skiing, canoeing and kayaking.
On March 18th last year I missed out on taking exercise for the 17th time in the year, but then I got the bit between my teeth and haven’t missed a day since. At the end of 2013 I had travelled at least 5km on 348 days in the year. I had exceeded my target, felt better for it and enjoyed every minute. By going out for a run on March 18th this year I have gone round the calendar and made a self-propelled journey of at least 5km on 365 consecutive days.
So, how have I done it? Well, I have my “bread and butter” circuit that I ride on the bike 2 or 3, and sometimes 4, times a week. Whenever possible though, I look for opportunities to take exercise elsewhere to introduce as much variation as possible. I also watch the weather forecasts to identify the best part of the following day, thereby avoiding too many wet or windy outings. You’ll be surprised how few soakings I’ve had in the year. Through the winter months especially I’ve been out for quite a few early morning bike rides in order to exercise before work rather than after work in the dark, and I quite often take time out at lunchtime to get out for a bike ride or run.
One of the great things about the way you can take inspiration from 5X50 is that you can use it to devise your own personal challenge. My targets and distances suit me, but for others a commitment to walking 3km on 3 days of the week, for example, would be just as challenging and just as rewarding.
I would urge anyone to check out the 5X50 website, take part in this year’s challenge and think about this line that is often quoted by Dr Andrew Murray: “Getting active and staying active is the single best thing you can do for your health. Each step is a step to health and making it a habit will usually lead to health and happiness”.
Not missing a day in a whole year has been quite a challenge, but there are probably a few dog walkers out there that have walked 5km a day, every day, for more than a year without really thinking about it. They will also tell you about the health benefits of daily exercise. Whether you walk a dog or just go out to exercise yourself, I hope you manage to find your own exercise challenge and enjoy the many benefits of regular exercise.
And in case you’re wondering, yes I will be out again tomorrow. Daily exercise is a way of life now rather than a challenge.