I turned 50 in 2023.  It was also the year where I have zero recorded exercise (ek). I knew I wanted (needed?) to do something in 2024 but I don’t wish to join a gym and I did a running challenge for 2022 so looking for something new.  In a very timely manner, the Mental Health First Aid Team (MHFA) presented the January steps challenge.  This is a 3 week challenge with completely mixed teams across all 3 HRW geographies.  This was it!  This is exactly what I wanted (needed?).

The challenge kicked off for me on January 16th on a minus freezing day in Oxfordshire.  Not really knowing what attire is required for walking I set off with gusto on a 5km fast paced (for me) walk.  How lovely it was, back just in time to start work and feeling super proud I sat down to type and, oh dear, my hands were still frozen for a good 30 minutes or so. For the rest of the week, I marched about with a good step count. Looking forward to the weekend, I planned a 11km hike from my home to my parents’ home – something I would never have thought to do.  My daughters each provided me with a treasured toy animal to be my companions so I stopped along the way for photos of them.  By the time I reached my parents, my mum was at the end of their drive recording the event – part of me was very amused that such as small event could be treated like I’d been on the road for a month, but the other part of me was super proud.  I loved this walk!

In the week after, I realised that keeping up a good step count is not that easy – when will I walk? Where to? When will I make time? I’m a keen free-cycler and I took to walking to collect items I’d requested, and better still, deliver items others wanted from me.  What a surprise for them to not have to collect themselves, but have the person giving it away for free, also delivering to their door!  This makes me feel good both from an environmental angle and also a social perspective – another win for the MHFA team!

I have walked in lots of different directions.  I have walked alone and I have had companions.  I’ve parked much further away from my destination so I can get more steps in.  I’ve ordered items and had them delivered to collection points further than one which would be more convenient to get more steps in.  We had bugs in the office so I set off for a 5km walk to a garden center and back.  After dropping my children at their after school Cubs group, I walked for 8km in circles around a small area to get more steps in.  My best walk was a mini one with one of my 9 year old girls.  We went on a 1,000 step walk around the streets to increase my step count.  As a twin she doesn’t often get 1:1 time with a parent and this was a real pleasure – listening to her stories and imagination while just walking, passing what we discussed could easily be turned into Willy Wonker’s Chocolate Factory.  This walk is my favourite, everyone is stuck on screens at home or at work, ask them to help you get your step count up.

We created a Teams group chat for my team mates to support each other.  One of them was rather pitiful for a couple of extra intensive work days and we joked with him being stuck at his desk.  A bit of self-reflection later and I started to realise that having a laugh with this person about their steps is not the right position at all.  Flipping my thinking around and reframing for a more supportive, encouraging stance on all our team mates.  We are all having a bash and for all of us life gets in the way.  Someone could view my steps as rather pitiful, but I am very proud of myself and I hope others support and encourage me regardless of what  they think I could or should be doing.

I’m very confident this challenge came just at the right time for me.  And looking across the business, a great many people got away from their desks and took time to get their steps in.  Thanks to our fabulous MHFA team for the motivation and encouragement to get us moving and feeling healthier both in body and mind.  Perhaps this is a habit that has now been formed for me (HRW Shift Behavioural science team know all about that) – I feel confident it has.

To see Victoria on her journey, head over to our TikTok page where she shared some of her routes!


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