I would walk 500 miles – by Graeme Manuel

With just one month to go in Diabetes UK’s 1 Million Step challenge, Graeme from our Digital team reflects on his progress over the past two months and shares his tips with fellow walkers.

GraemeI’ve just walked the length of the Great Wall of China.

This is the kind of fun fact that my Fitbit activity tracker tells me from time to time as I notch up another milestone in my step-counting, floor-measuring, mile-tracking daily life – since I won a Fitbit and started tracking my activity at the end of 2013 (on World Diabetes Day, in fact).

In that time, doing the tracking has motivated me to walk more than I ever did before. I find myself taking the long way around where possible, and trying to walk rather than hop on a bus or tube – to the extent that last year I stopped buying an annual season ticket and started walking almost everywhere I go in London. Almost.

Both my Dad and his Mum had Type 2 diabetes and I know that a combination of this family history of the condition, plus our ethnicity (South Asian on that side of my family) as well as my age and gender mean that I’m at increased risk of developing the condition myself. Those are the factors I can’t change. But the factors I do have control over are my weight and waist size, so making walking part of my day seemed like a good way of reducing my risk of Type 2.

Diabetes UK’s 1 Million Step Challenge

Despite all the health benefits, it can still be hard to make sure you walk 10,000 steps a day, and my average tends to be closer to 7,000. So, seeking some extra motivation, I was really happy when we at Diabetes UK launched our new 1 Million Step Challenge this summer. More cause to walk, while also fundraising for a good cause.

I must say, when my Fundraising colleagues were planning this challenge, I thought this was very ambitious right from the start. Since I started tracking, I know how hard it has been to build 10,000 steps into my day, every day, and the idea of maintaining that every day across 100 days seemed like it might be, well, impossible. I really admire people who already manage to do this every day, especially people who have made the decision to get more active and built up to 10k a day. Our supporter Pam is taking part in the challenge and I’m really enjoying following her progress on her blog.

Doing the maths

It takes me about 10,000 steps to cover five miles. 10,000 x 100 = 1,000,000 steps, which = five miles x 100, which = 500 miles. Can you see where I’m going with this?

(Apologies for giving you that earworm for the rest of the day.) So I’m accepting the gauntlet thrown down by the Proclaimers, although it might take me a bit longer to do the “500 more”. However, my maths let me down a bit, because for some reason I thought this challenge was 10,000 steps a day for 100 days. But one month in, I realised that it was a three-month challenge (92 days) so I was going to need to find an extra 80,000 steps.

Playing catch-up

I’m about two thirds of the way through the challenge as I write this, and I’ve finally just passed the halfway mark for the step total so far. I keep recalculating my daily step target and right now I need to do about 13,000 a day to complete 1m by the end of September. (I have now got a bit obsessed with steps – but when I say that out loud I have to be very careful people don’t think I’m talking about the 90s pop band.)

Why am I struggling a bit? I’m at a natural disadvantage because my long legs mean I do fewer steps to cover the same distance. (Trust me, I’ve checked this – it takes me about 20 to 30% fewer steps to cover the same distance as some of my colleagues doing the walking challenge!) And I didn’t get out and walking as much as usual in July – but I had the loveliest of reasons: a new baby. Unfortunately, the Fitbit doesn’t seem to pick up the gentle walking her up and down I do to get her off to sleep, otherwise I might have completed the 1m already!

But to try to get back on track, I am trying a combination of different motivations and practical steps to keep me going. See if any of them could work for you.

Practical steps, personal motivation

The challenge itself is providing motivation – to complete a big personal goal – especially one that you have shared with lots of people.

Practical steps:

  • Walk for my whole lunchbreak – and schedule these walks into my calendar so that they’re less likely to get sidelined.
  • Combine it with reading if I’m somewhere safe to walk while reading, like a park.
  • Can also combine it with writing, if inspiration strikes – I wrote some notes for this blog post while walking in the park.
  • I love taking photos and Instagramming, so walking gives me more opportunities to do that.
  • I’m interested in architecture and the city I live in (London) – and there are always new places to discover.
  • If your job permits, try having meetings while walking – a Walk-and-Talk, for those who remember The West Wing – though I must admit, I haven’t tried that one myself yet.
  • Make friends with other Fitbit/fitness tracker users – apparently on average Fitbit users walk an extra 1,000 steps a day for every Fitbit friend they have.

Personal motivation:

  • Staying healthy, for me and for my family – including improving my chances of avoiding Type 2 diabetes.
  • Fundraising in memory of my Dad, for a good cause and a charity which not only employs me but has helped my family and so many others affected by all types of diabetes.
  • It’s a nice little reward when you get a 1m Step Challenge or Fitbit badge for doing a lot of steps in a day or reaching the latest equivalent distance – such as the Great Wall of China – and it helps you push on towards the next milestone.
  • And it spurs you on when you see how well other participants and Fitbit friends are doing, through the 1 Million Step Challenge website, the Fitbit app and social media.

It’s been so nice seeing people sharing their steps and milestones on social media. If you’re taking part, how are you getting on with the challenge? How do you motivate yourself or make walking – or any physical activity – part of your day? Please share your suggestions and experiences in the blog comments, on social media with the hashtag #1millionsteps – or if you’d like to blog for us or share your story on our website, it would be great to hear from you – please share your story.

Good luck with your million steps – and sorry again for the earworm!

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