Setting goals for your health – the 30 mile challenge

A slight different blog this month, taking a personal look back at my experience over Men’s Health Week.  My name’s Drew, and I support the work of the Blue Ribbon Foundation by writing news stories, blogs and social media content.

Men’s Health Week was from 15th – 21st June 2015, and focussed on overall healthy living for men.  This is organised annually by the Men’s Health Forum, another great charity concerned with ensuring men look after themselves.

We practice what we preach here at the Blue Ribbon Foundation.  So I took it upon myself to set an ‘activity’ goal for Men’s Health Week: I would run 30 miles in total, and in so hopefully set an example for anyone out there who is struggling to fit exercise into their busy schedule.

In context, 30 miles would be a stretch, but not impossible for me – I jog regularly, and have recently ran a half marathon race.  What attracted me to the 30-mile goal was that I would need to be consistently active, in keeping with the messages the Blue Ribbon Foundation gives to men.  Preparing for the week, I would have to balance the distance carefully.  Too far on one run, and I would be too tired to run the next day; too short a distance, or I skipped a run, I would leave myself a literal marathon ahead of me come Sunday!

30 miles is about 48km.  10km is a comfortable distance for me, so I surmised if I ran an average of 7km a day, or five 10km runs during the week, that would do it!  I also have the advantage of working flexibly, so I can sometimes fit in exercise during the day while many people are in the office.

So how did I do?  Well, the week started well – two 10km runs under my belt by Tuesday, and I felt no ill effects.  Over 2/5ths of the way there!  Positivity was the name of the game!  However, as so often happens, life intruded.  My work as a consultant can be unpredictable, as new opportunities can turn up out of the blue.  In this case, two brand new, urgent pieces of work arrived which I was keen to take on.  Alas, that meant less flexibility in my timing.

Wednesday came and went and I didn’t leave my house – never a good sign.  Thursday began, and I went to get shopping, and then hurried back to my computer.  Friday arrived, and I hit the road before work and managed to cover a fitful 7km.  Work continued all day Saturday, by which point my goal was clearly in jeopardy.  Knowing this, I went for a conciliatory run on Sunday, covering about 10km up and down hills.

So, total distance travelled = 37km, leaving me 11km short of my goal.  I was disappointed, but at the same time pleased with what I had achieved.  37km, or 23 miles is still a substantial distance for a mere mortal such as myself, and I had managed to fit this around one of the busiest weeks of the year.

This struck me as a good lesson in honourable failure, and one I, and many other men, could learn from.  Three key points stood out for me from this experience:

  • Setting goals is vital, if you are looking to motivate yourself.  While you may or may not achieve them, if you don’t pick a target, how will you know when you’ve succeeded?
  • Enjoy the process, as much as the final goal.  I loved the running during Men’s Health Week, and didn’t see it as pain I had to go through to reach a goal.  Whatever exercise you do, ensure that you enjoy it, or at least, find things to enjoy within it, rather than simply seeing it as a means to an end.
  • Learn from all your exercise experiences, even if you don’t achieve your aim, and take pride in what you do.  This is a lesson that could be positively applied to pretty much any experience, but this is definitely important when thinking about keeping active.  It can be so easy to let yourself get out of the habit, start putting your feet up a bit too much, or even letting work or other responsibilities enable you to make excuses.

And in case you’re wondering, I haven’t given up on my running exploits.  I’m running the British 10k London Run on Sunday, and aiming to finish in under 50 minutes.  The speed trial is a whole new ball game for me, so we’ll see how well my training regime has prepared me!  And if you’ll excuse me, I’ll just go tie up my shoelaces…