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Angela Pacienza is the Executive Editor at The Globe and Mail.
We call it the “50×50 Challenge” and it has its own logo and group message board.
I started the challenge last fall, with two neighborhood women. We were all struggling to stick with our workouts while juggling work, parenting and, of course, the on again / off again lockdowns. One of the women had a big birthday coming up (”49 + 1 ″ as she called it) and pleaded for us to help keep her accountable.
So we promised to be each other’s cheerleaders. We counted 70 days ahead to the big birthday and vowed to get in 50 workouts before the celebration. We defined a workout as one of the following: an in-person or virtual class (via the gym we all belong to), a run outside, a home yoga / Pilates / workout that lasts 30-minutes or longer, or 10,000 steps.
“There’s no way I’d be here if I wasn’t meeting you two,” texted my friend Natalie that first morning as we logged into a Zoom class from our respective basements at 6:10 am
The challenge wasn’t meant as a competition. It was a co-operative effort where we all had to hit 50 workouts in order to get our reward – a dinner out to celebrate our friend’s special day.
Through daily text messages we counted our progress, and pulled each other along.
“4/50 with Bomb,” I wrote referencing our gym, Bomb Fitness, which held daily virtual boot camps throughout the pandemic.
“6/50 13,459 steps,” wrote my friend Lorraine.
The beauty of the challenge was it forced me to keep my daily movement at a consistent pace. I couldn’t afford to take too many days off in a row lest I fall behind. I didn’t want to let anyone down.
It also gave me visibility into the multitude of ways the others squeeze in movement. I am a strict 6 am boot camp class person. If I don’t get a workout in before the kids wake up, it’s not going to happen.
Doing the challenge with two friends, also mothers with full-time jobs in management positions, was helpful because they understood my continuing struggles to keep a routine. The game we created was medicine for our ailing mental health. We were all trying to be the cheerleaders for our families and our staff, while forgetting about our own state.
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I was impressed (and motivated) by how one of the moms forced herself to leave her computer to take short walks throughout the day, frequently amassing 10,000 steps. I am lucky if my counter hits 500 some days. She inspired me to start doing some work calls outside while walking my way to thousands more.
The other mom somehow had the energy to work out at night before bed. She introduced me to the benefits of yoga or a stretch class at that hour.
I looked forward to the daily check-ins and found myself happier on those days I worked out. No surprise there.
“Getting active is the closest thing we have to a ‘magic pill,’” wrote Andrew Pipe, a professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Ottawa and a clinician-scientist at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, in this piece for The Globe.
“Even just a little bit of exercise per day can provide broad benefits to our physical and mental health, and in many settings can also enhance our sense of belonging and inclusion. That’s why regular physical activity is so much more than a nice-to-have hobby for those who can afford it – it is a necessity of life. “
Our first foray into 50×50 Challenge last fall was so successful – we all hit 50 workouts within 3 days of each other – that we started another one on New Year’s Day. (We were also motivated to do it again because we were never able to get our celebratory dinner when Omicron shut everything down in our province.)
We counted 67 days between Jan 5 and March 13 (the start of the kids’ March Break) and challenged ourselves to get in another 50 workouts. We also committed to a weekly 6 am walk so we could get in our steps while socializing. Getting up at 5:45 am to walk outside in the cold was not my idea of a good time, but after the first walk I found myself energized and excited for the next one.
As Alex Hutchinson wrote in a Globe Jockology column, winter blues are a real thing and “exercising and socializing are two good countermeasures.”
I currently sit at 36/50. Natalie is at 37/50. And the leader of our trio, Lorraine, is at 41/50. Wish me luck.
What else we’re thinking about:
I recently finished a binge listen of Reveal’s podcast Mississippi, Goddam: The Ballad of Billey Joe. Over the course of seven parts, we are taken along as Al Letson and Jonathan Jones investigate the death of a 17-year-old Black student and high school football star from Lucedale, Miss.
The podcast is a compelling and honest journey into the shoe leather reporting the journalists undertook as they tried to understand the circumstances of Billey Joe’s death. The teen allegedly died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after he was pulled over by a white police officer. Don’t want to give any spoilers away so I’ll just say the reporters found several flaws in the original police investigation. I really appreciated host Letson’s style di lui – he is relatable, honest and sincere. When he doesn’t know something, he tells you. When he’s upset by the answers he finds, he shares that. Most of all, he never lets the listener forget that Billey Joe was a real teen, with a mom and dad, brothers and sisters, and with dreams and a bright future ahead of him. Letson puts the death into context for listeners, exploring Mississippi’s uncomfortable history with racism. I appreciated the short lessons about segregation, lynching and views against interracial marriage woven into the main storyline.
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