Finding time for exercise 5×50

My wife @lynneahpd recently invited me to join her team in the 5×50 challenge. I asked what it involved. Essentially the deal is that you have to do 5km walking, running, cycling, kayaking, crawling on hands and knees or by whatever self powered means, each day for 50 days. The distance is not a problem but the 50 days is. Why 50 days? well my understanding is that this is perceived to be the amount of time that it takes to change peoples behaviour patterns and establish new patterns, in this case regular exercise. So I was very worried with all my on call as a surgeon and irregular hours that I would not be able to meet the obligation and would let the team down.

We discussed how to go forward and with some trepidation I signed up in the 5×50 challenge for team Gandhi, named after Mahatma Gandhi’s famous quote “be the change you want to see in the world”.

By any stretch of the imagination I have a pretty busy life. As a surgeon my working day starts at 8am and I finish around 6pm. I have 3 kids and have to get them organised in the morning  and pick them up at night. My wife works full time and so we share the cooking and domestic chores. I normally get up at 6.15 and go to bed around 11pm. Every so often every thing goes to pot when I get stuck in the operating theatre (OR) with a sick patient, and being a transplant surgeon, the only thing predictable is that life is very unpredictable. How could I squeeze in half an hour of exercise every day for 50 days?

photo by Bayat 

The interesting thing about this challenge is that it demands a level of planning that I am not usually accustomed to. The exercise is actually the easy bit. Most of the time I go for a run first thing in the morning so that means around 6 am. Out of bed, into running stuff, switch the kettle on, get the coffee in to the cafetiere and go. 5km running takes us around 25 minutes plus or minus one or two depending how tired or energetic we feel. Back to the kitchen, kettle back on coffee on, wake up the kids, into the shower, wake up the kids again and organise breakfast. Amazingly it actually works most of the time and I only have to get up 15 minutes earlier than I would if I wasnt doing anything!

Sometimes mornings just dont work and so I go for either a run or a bike ride when I get home. The last ditch emergency plan was to put a bike on rollers in the garage and use that to do 5km if all else proved impossible. We have not had to resort to that yet. I have managed to do a minimum of 5km every day for the past two weeks including on a day when I had to go down to London and back on the train in a day and then straight out for dinner. With a little planning we worked out that the only way to do it was to ‘power walk’ 2.5km from King’s Cross station to my meeting in a street off Trafalgar Square and back (the alternative of walking the full length of the train twenty times would have annoyed my fellow travellers so much that we decided that was unfeasible).

Lynne managed to keep her 5km going despite a 4 day trip to Boston and transatlantic flights at funny times. So I have learnt that if you really want to find time to do something like exercise you can do it. The key is planning and commitment, the easiest bit is the exercise itself. I should of course burst the bubble and point out that I have had days where I ran like a donkey and days when I got soaked and cold and didn’t enjoy the run or ride much. On the whole however it has been a really good experience and the discipline of being more organised has had some off-target beneficial effects in terms of general family organisation that I hadn’t considered.

Three great things about this project are 1. the team thing provides an impetus to keep going so that you don’t let anyone down (including self) and this is a powerful motivator. 2. on the website there is a way of entering your activity, where you did it , what your time was and how you felt. The totalizer allows you to see what you have accomplished – So since the 9th September I have run, cycled and walked a total of 165 km  and I find this information of accumulating activity quite a powerful incentive too. 3. The kids have fully engaged in the programme and check up on us to make sure we have met our obligations. My daughter has been out on a bike ride with me several times to help me met my 5km requirement. We like to think that them seeing us doing regular exercise will make them more inspired to do this kind of thing when they are adults too.

Its too late now to sign up for this year but I believe the project will be repeated again next year and there is no reason why you couldn’t set up your own project to do this kind of thing anyway. Whether this turns out to be 5×50 or 5xforever remains to be seen but I am now pleased to say that I am now getting to a point where I think I might actually miss doing 5km every day.

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