May Challenge


I’ve set myself the May Challenge of doing 6,400 bodyweight squats. I did 200 yesterday and today the dreaded delayed onset muscle soreness is wreaking havoc with me. As I type this I have completed my first 100 for today; I want to break day two into three or four blocks, to help me adapt.

Why do it? I Googled the benefits and there are so many benefits to bodyweight squats that each of the first ten search hits gave a different reason. I’m going with the obvious one – it’s a test of habit and endurance. There will also be lower-body muscle toning, more abdominal strength, better mobility, and some cardiovascular improvement. But it’s the number that will drive me on.

I’m not sure I will complete the test, it will be a test for my knee joints and lower back. I know the theory is it should improve joints, but that’s possibly not the case for me, given the decades of injury and wear and tear I’m carrying.

As Well As

It’s an ‘as well as’ May Challenge too. I’m not giving up my other exercise sessions. Which ups the ante a touch. For example today I have my 200 bodyweight squats to do, plus a 90 minute Zwift ride with Black Cyclists Network to do in the afternoon. It’s likely to get very testing on the day I have my deadlift workout at the gym, plus the squats to do.

I’ve been struggling to get my normal 4-5 workouts a week done recently, so it won’t be an easy task. My best-case outcome would be to do the 6,400 and still cycle 2-3 times a week, plus a gym session. Rest will be key, as will good nutrition. The latter will mean me having to increase the amount of protein, to help recovery.

The Real Reason

The May Challenge is driven by me having had enough of the lockdown-driven homeworking regime. I’ve blogged about it previously and the situation has worsened for me. All the usual disclaimers, such as understanding how fortunate I am to have a great apartment and job and life. But I can only calibrate the ebb and flow of my own feelings.

Homeworking was a novelty for … not very long at all. It makes me wonder what societal price we will pay when the COVID pandemic has left us. As well as the economic damage and the effect of the deaths of over three million people on their families, there is a bigger drag on our health.

We are all aware that there is a backlog of ‘routine’ health issues in health services around the world. Routine including diseases such as cancer. Sharp increases in domestic abuse. A major rise in mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, substance use and other psychiatric disorders. This paper on pandemic related suicide risk is much more eloquent and troubling than any words I can draft.

Missing The Office

Several people have said to me how much they miss the office. Including some people who thought they wouldn’t miss the office and welcomed home working only a year ago. It’s apparent to many why work and home life have traditionally been kept separate. Why the much-touted home working revolution that’s been written about in management press for longer than I can remember, has never really taken off.

Management writers rail against out of office, always-on email and texts, but also espouse home working. I can argue there’s a contradiction in that.

I thought I would be better equipped for home-working given my very high introversion and individualism. I’ve always worked at the office, but then carried on at home in the early morning, evening and weekend. So working in the spare bedroom should be nirvana. But it has ground me down and led to poorer sleep and dips in mental health. It turns out I need the change of scenery and the company of other people more than I thought.

Why The May Challenge?

It sounds like an odd answer. I’m doing my May Challenge to give me another focus during the interminable lockdown. The blurred days and evenings, weekdays and weekends, confinement and poor sleep are taxing me. With vaccines rolled out widely, and a much touted release of restrictions underway, we can all see an end of some sort in sight. In the UK, that is. But even with an end in sight, the cumulative drag of the last year is still there.

Remaining disciplined and having positive habits are major tools in my mental and physical and wellness repertoire. It’s important to keep this focus. The May Challenge gives me another anchor, something positive and demanding to undertake. Part of the complex solution to keeping mind and body together.

One More Question

Why is the May Challenge to do 6,400 bodyweight squats? Why 6,400? You can work it out. If not, I’ll update on 31 May. This is not a gimme in any sense. My creaking infrastructure may well protest at some stage during the month. My mind won’t but my body … well that’s a different story. My ikigai drives me on.

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