We have introduced our Movingwell Challenges to the platform to encourage our members to practice consistency, from exercising to crafting. The idea is to motivate ourselves, colleagues and friends by nudging them along and completing them together, to build a routine of daily practice. And this is because daily routines help us when things feel tough and we need to take extra care of ourselves. But what about those of us who find exercise or moving difficult because of our health?
We know exercise isn’t for everyone here at Beingwell, and we like to think we provide plenty of alternative and simple ways to get moving without forcing ourselves to the gym or out on a hike when we really don’t find it enjoyable or worthwhile. But we also know, annoyingly, that all these kinds of tips, moving more, eating better, sleeping well, de-stressing etc, actually do work to make us feel better - but it ain’t overnight and it ain’t a one trick pony. It’s more like a long slog of practice that over time becomes routine and maybe even habit - the premise for these Movingwell Challenges.
But when our health limits what we can do, whether it’s a physical health condition, disability, an invisible illness, or our mental health, joining in with these practices can feel challenging beyond the challenge, lonely and exclusive to those who are more physically able. So, over to Grace, our Life Coach and Copingwell Expert.
Here’s how I found the Movingwell Challenge and how I adapted it to stay involved with the rest of our Beingwell team.
For background, I have a chronic illness, Endometriosis, which is a condition that, in short, causes inflammation and pain all over the body. Lot’s of things can help and lots of things can make it worse, including exercise and lots of movement for me. So when our Movingwell challenge was announced, I was a little concerned I wouldn't be able to get involved and would instead be watching from the side lines.
Our team challenge was to walk, run, jog or skip for a mile a day, throughout August. A lot of walking tends to cause a flare up of pain and symptoms for me, so the prospect of walking a mile each day was daunting and felt nearly impossible - never mind running it. So to avoid feeling left out, I came up with some ideas to adapt the challenge to my needs and abilities, and still feel part of the team!
How I adapted the challenge
I did what works for me
The challenge was to walk (run or jog) a mile a day, so I tried walking as long as it was comfortable for me (whilst factoring in the return home). I roped in friend's to walk with, took my sweet, sweet time, and lots of breaks on park benches. I also came up with the genius idea (even if I do say so myself) to calculate (Google) the number of steps in a mile, which is about 2000, so on days where going out for a walk wasn’t really possible I would try to get those steps in at home, during breaks from work, house jobs, and mostly the trips between my office, the kitchen and the bathroom.
I did what I could
When I didn't manage to move in my way for the challenge, I didn't beat myself up. It’s easy to think of ourselves as failures or not good enough when we can’t take part in the norm, which in this case, was the challenge. So, I practised being compassionate with myself, cheered on others, and rested instead - unfortunately no one offered to carry me for the mile but I guess that’s ok. I may not have completed the walk myself, but I could still encourage the others and check in, all while reminding myself I do have to take it easy sometimes and that’s ok. Our health absolutely comes before any friendly competition, even if it is a wellbeing initiative.
I spoke about it with the team
Having a chronic illness isn’t something I usually include in an introduction of myself, and I only recently got a diagnosis to share. And although it’s not always easy talking about these things in a professional environment or with colleagues, just mentioning I might not be top of the leader board here was helpful - especially when the ‘no excuses’, ‘keep it up’ and the high fives (the ‘poke’ of our challenges) came flooding in. Of course, it’s up to the individual to disclose any health issues, but I found it helpful knowing that others understood and weren’t left to think I wasn't a team player - or even just lazy.
How did I find the (adapted) challenge?
Honestly, it still wasn’t always easy. While I did the above, and these ideas might help others, it’s rarely as easy to do as it is to say, right? I adapted it, did my best and spoke about it but there were moments where I was annoyed with my lack of ability and even with the challenge itself.
So I tried to focus on how the practice of moving regularly was making me feel. Not so much the practice of walking a mile a day, but regular movement itself. There were some obvious benefits of moving more; better quality sleep, some relief from brain fog, and better focus when I was engaged in a task. But the most obvious thing I noticed was feeling more positive towards movement in general. I have never been a gym bunny, and since exercise can make me feel worse, I've tended to avoid it where possible for a while. But the challenge shifted my mindset a little, which made it easier to just move at all even if it's getting up from my desk (or sofa) to stretch for a few minutes.
Welcome to Movingwell Challenges: Chronic illness, disability, or simply not a big fan of exercise, these challenges are about more than just walking the furthest, completing the most days or being the best. It’s about noticing those benefits for you, even if they aren’t super obvious. Noticing those smaller things, feeling sleepier at night, finding it easier to concentrate at work or just noticing a shift in how you think about these wellbeing tips. The little things that add up to help us live a little better each day, no matter where you’re starting from or what your goal is. That's what our Movingwell Challenges are really about!