The 5×50 Challenge

I’ve become a bit unfit over the past few months, due to, well, laziness, predominantly. The weather has been awful, and I’ve not been feeling particularly motivated towards getting out in the hills.

However, a month or so ago, I realised that if I was going to enter the TGO Challenge next year, I’m going to need to get a lot fitter, and maintain it, too.

So, I decided I’d try running. It was something cheap (the cost of a pair of cheap running shoes – £35!), not very time consuming and something I could do directly from home.

Obviously, having never really tried running before, I knew I couldn’t just go diving straight in there – not unless I wanted an injury!

After a quick search online, I found several references to the Couch to 5k (c25k) program. This program takes people from no exercise to being able to run a 5k over a period of weeks (8 weeks on the course I’m choosing, but the timescale can vary, depending on your needs). It’s a gradual program, where you alternate between running and walking. As the weeks progress, the amount of running increases and conversely, walking decreases.

At the time of writing, I’ve just finished week 4, which equates to 16 minutes running and 10 mins 30 secs walking over a 26 min 30 sec period (and this includes a 5 min warm-up walk), and I’m averaging about 4km in that time.

To help me with all the timings, and to measure my progress, I use the Endomondo App for my Samsung Galaxy S3, and it works a treat!


So, what’s this 5×50 challenge, then?

Pretty much as soon as I started doing the running thing, I realised that I needed to have some sort of goal. Running for the sake of running isn’t really that fun (although, as it turns out, I really quite enjoy it – as long as I don’t have to try and run uphill!). I decided that the best option would be to try and find a 5k run that I could aim for some time on October, when I reckon I should have the c25k completed and be of a fitness level where it is achievable.

While searching online, I stumbled across the website for the 5×50 Challenge. Rather than participate in a one-off 5k race, the challenge would be to run, walk, cycle or swim 5k every single day for 50 days!

As a training plan for a 200 mile walk across Scotland, it seemed like the perfect option to me. The plan is to alternate between running, cycling and walking, so that I’m:

  1. Not doing the same thing every single day and getting bored
  2. able to incorporate any hikes into the plan, as the 5k for that day
  3. providing a little bit of recovery time for my body by alternating with lower intensity tasks such as walking
  4. exercising different muscle groups when cycling
  5. having fun!

The challenge runs from Sunday 9th September until Saturday 28th October, just before the clocks go back and we lose the light for the winter months.

I actually think it could be a real challenge. Not in the sense of doing 5k a day. That part, physically, is quite easy. The real challenge is in changing routines and forming new ones – to find the time to cycle, run or walk every single day.

I’m really looking forward to it!

I’m hoping that I’ll be able to maintain the running during the winter months, at least a few times a week, to try and maintain fitness levels. (after all, if conditions get bad underfoot, I can simply don the Microspikes!) Hopefully, next year I’ll be able to expand on it, and go for long cycle tours or try some distance running or hill running – who knows!

As it stands, I’ve already decided not to apply for the TGO challenge next year, after all. I’ve not got out backpacking nearly as much as I would have liked this year, and I still feel I’m a little bit inexperienced. Sure, I’ve done both the West Highland Way and the Speyside Way, but those are clearly waymarked routes. The TGO challenge definitely is not. Hopefully next year I’ll be able to get out more and build my experience and confidence up for me to apply for 2014.

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