My Active Every Day Challenge – to celebrate Hugo’s fourth birthday, and me being alive, as well as raise money for Tommy’s and First Touch – is complete!
A huge thank you to everyone who has supported me during the challenge, whether through cheering me on via social media, or making a donation. My JustGiving page is still open: I’ve so far raised 36% of my £1000 total, which is brilliant. I’d love to raise more to get closer to my target, and help other families through the crucial work of Tommy’s and First Touch.
I am supporting Tommy’s because of their research into conditions such as HELLP syndrome, which no woman or baby should die from. First Touch is the charity for the neonatal unit at St George’s Hospital, where Hugo was cared for – they provide state-of-the-art equipment to help give babies the best-possible chance, as well as things such as a comfortable room for mums to express milk in, and furnishing a parents’ room where you can get a much-needed bit of quiet away from the beeps of the incubator, while remaining as close as possible to your baby.
How did I get on with the challenge?
Well, part of my motivation to do the challenge was also about reclaiming my love of spring, my favourite season. The longer days, sunshine, the glory of the array of colours of spring flowers. Unfortunately the weather during this period was generally terrible – with snow, and lots of rain! Oh the irony…I still managed to get out in all weathers, though.
An unexpected highlight was being a human husky on day 12 – I pulled along my friend’s three-year-old in a sledge while being ordered “Faster, Leigh! Mush!” Apparently there was a wolf chasing us. So much fun – good for the soul, as well as being a fantastic workout!
Many of the activities involved heading to the gym for a workout – throwing things, lifting things, and boxing – fantastic for my physical and mental fitness. Another part of my challenge was to push myself out of my comfort zone and celebrate what my body is able to do, so running featured on several days.
I pushed outside of my comfort zone by going for a run after a day working in London (day 2) – which hurt yet felt good; doing hill intervals (day 16); and while working away in Leeds I got up extra early to go for a run before the work event – I was up at 6.15am, and out of my hotel room by 6.33am (day 22). Leeds is my university town – I wouldn’t have got up so early while I was a student, and I wouldn’t have dreamt of going for a run then either! I discovered that the run helped me face the day with lots of energy, thanks to the endorphins.
Day 20 was Mother’s Day, and also the day of my very first ‘proper’ race, a 5km at the MK Festival of Running. I loved it! The atmosphere was brilliant, and I was just a couple of seconds away from my best 5km time. I proudly wore my medal for most of the day!
Day 23 saw me pushing my distance comfort zone, achieving a 10.6km run/walk – my farthest ever. I’ve entered a 10km race at the end of April, so this distance provided good reassurance that I can physically complete the distance.
There were days when I’d had a really busy working day and under other circumstances when I’d switched off my laptop I’d hit the sofa…during the challenge though I made sure I was active, whether it was going out for a walk. During the walks, I was rewarded by the soothing sound of birdsong, pretty spring flowers, and even a stunning sunset – all things that I would have missed inside on the sofa – and I returned home feeling refreshed.
On other occasions, I would do a bodyweight workout session at home, involving things like planks and squats, as well as stretch and roll (Oscar, my cat, is fascinated by my stretching – he probably thinks my attempts are hilarious!). Stretching and rolling is crucial for keeping your body moving and preventing injury, especially if you’re pushing your body, as I’ve discovered the hard way in the past (even on day 31, when I attempted a run after a day of too much sitting at my desk – my lower back responded by seizing up. Should have stretched first). This offers mental benefits, too – when I am having a tough day emotionally I tend to withdraw into myself. Performing a simple bodyweight exercise session at home, or stretching and rolling helps bring me back in to the present.
Day 35, the final day of the challenge and the anniversary of the day that Hugo died saw me going out for a 6km run. I said H-U-G-O to myself to keep my feet going.
I took a daily photo during the 35 days of the challenge (and a video on day 26):
On day 26, I had a bit of fun taking photos and videos of my workout:
Before the challenge, I understood how crucial physical activity is for my mental wellbeing: the challenge underlined, highlighted, put in bold that fact! Life and work can threaten to get in the way of exercise – the challenge showed me that I can fit it in to my day, no matter how busy I am. I need to prioritise my physical and mental wellbeing, and any amount of physical activity is better than nothing.
So, when I travel for work I’ll be making sure I pack my running gear; when I feel spent after a busy working day I’ll be making sure I go for a brisk walk; when my head starts to dissociate I’ll bring myself back again by reconnecting with my body through stretching.
If you’d like to sponsor me for the challenge, the JustGiving page is still open. You can also give donations by text: for Tommy’s, text HPAR80 and your donation amount £x to 70070 or for First Touch text HPAR90 and your donation amount £x to 70070. Thank you!