As part of the agency’s On Solid Ground mental health and wellbeing awareness work, our very first Wellbeing Team Challenge saw 40 teams and 190 staff participating in the 4-week competition to get staff more physically active and improve their wellbeing.

The Wellbeing Challenge started during Get Active Week, a national campaign to tackle inactivity by getting people to play sports at least once weekly for 30 minutes.

The Wellbeing Challenge carried on for another three weeks after Get Fit and has been a huge success, with over 295573 minutes of activity recorded. Special congratulations go to the overall team winner, The Venerables, who logged 18612 minutes, followed by Get with the Programmes in 2nd place with 16005. The top Individual was from the Warrington-based Venerables, clocking up an amazing 7754 minutes.

How were those minutes achieved? Beverley Barnes, Wellbeing Champion, recalls some amazing stories: 

“We received many inspirational stories of team members participating in events such as the London to Brighton Cycle ride, 5K and 10K Race for Life runs, Muddy Muckers and Iron Man Challenges, 5-hour sea kayaking in Kefalonia, not to mention a few blisters and uncomfy bike saddles – despite good padding!

“The challenge did exactly what it aimed to do: to motivate staff to go for a walk rather than sit at desks for lunch, or walk/cycle to work rather than use the car or bus. There have also been stories of staff who had not exercised regularly before joining the challenge but are now walking, running and have even joined a gym.”

The HCA recognises the importance of staff wellbeing and the benefits of having a healthy and happy workforce. Feedback from team champions and staff who participated in the event has been positive, and interest in a Wellbeing Challenge 2016 has already been mentioned!

In the meantime, enjoy the collection of photos and stories from teams taking part. An awards ceremony will be held in 2MS sometime in September.

If you missed this challenge, there will be an opportunity to participate in the Resilience Challenge later in the year. So look out for further news coming soon!

Please see here for more information on Wellbeing and Solid Ground HCA activities.


Participant stories

Pauline’s new best friend for the 4-week challenge!! And beyond

‘I confess to being one of life’s greatest procrastinators regarding activity/exercise; there’s always something more pressing to do instead – sleeping, socialising, TV watching…….!! However, the past month has been a revelation, and the Active Challenge has helped me prove to myself that, given my competitive nature and fear of letting the team down, I could find time for some exercise every day for four weeks – a miracle!! Highlights from the month have been a trip to Northumberland incorporating a 10-mile walk to and from The Holy Island, still enjoying watching Wimbledon – even in a boiling hot conservatory on an exercise bike, and venturing out on a ‘real bike’ that had been gathering dust in the shed since Christmas!

Lowlights: A few blisters, un-comfy bike saddles – despite good padding!

Jane Stanton’s Inspirational Sea Kayaking Story

From pretty inactive couch potato with lazy dog walks to a 5-hour sea kayaking day in Kefalonia, a real activity challenge that pushed me to the limits and was quite an achievement for me! I loved it, and other than the heavy arms, that meant I didn’t have the strength to lift myself out of the kayak at the end of the day and the aches in muscles I didn’t know existed. Nevertheless, it was a fantastic experience! I’m keeping up the swimming and brisk walking/jogging with Bella rather than lazy walks – and she loves it! I’ve also lost 8 lbs over the four weeks, which motivates me to keep up the exercise regime.

Mission Slim Possible

A word from a member of the team: Thank you for your help in coordinating the wellbeing challenge; the two teams of home workers that I have been working with have found it to be a great motivator in helping us all to get more active and has also been a great opportunity to find out what our colleagues get up to outside of work, which has been a good talking point. I have thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and the other activities it has exposed me to.

How keeping active helps in managing my long-term health condition

I developed Rheumatoid Arthritis in my mid-twenties; the realisation that something was wrong started one evening whilst attending an evening class. I was asked to sign the attendance register and had great difficulty picking up the pen and could barely scribble my name as my fingers were so swollen and painful. Following a visit to my GP, numerous blood tests, and a rheumatology referral, I was diagnosed formally. I can remember now sitting in the rheumatology waiting room, seeing posters showing the effects of the condition and patients sitting around me with varying stages of joint deformity and restricted mobility. This painted a very dark picture of my future and the impact that the condition could have.

The wellbeing challenge has been a great help along the way as it has allowed me to reflect on the types of activities I undertake and to think about other forms of activity I can incorporate into my working day, such as taking a walk at lunchtime to take a break from the working environment. In addition, I introduced running into my fitness regime ten weeks ago, and the wellbeing challenge encouraged me to sign up for my first 5k event, which I completed on 18th June. Getting around the very steep course, which incorporated a disused quarry, was a great sense of achievement, and as a result, I have now built hill work into my running sessions, as all of my runnings to date had been on flat terrain. In the last month, I have also benefitted from the Run! City initiative offered to all HCA employees in the Bristol Office. This initiative has included three sessions with a professional running coach learning about form and technique, and I have found them to be very beneficial. As a result, I now regularly run on a Sunday morning, covering a distance of 10k.


Morecambe and Wise, Wiser, Wiser & Wisest of all

As part of the MWWWW team! Jane Hunt tried to record miles equivalent to those required to connect various HCA offices (alongside time input). Jane and her friend Claire cycled coast to coast on the Way of the Roses from Morecambe to Bridlington over three days (26-28 June), a total of 170 miles and 7,848 feet of climbs, which for two not-so-proficient cyclists without very fancy bikes was quite a challenge. The whole challenge forced them to get out on their bikes to train a lot more – trying to get some practice miles in around work, in all weathers and also cycle up and down their local hill several times in succession to try and prepare them for what the Yorkshire Dales may offer. However, they did make it, having pedalled (or occasionally pushed) the full 170 miles, struggled up every ascent, coasted, or screamed (depending on the gradient) down every descent, battled through rain, headwinds, blazing sunshine and occasional perfect conditions with no injury or punctures. They even gave up alcohol (practically) for a month beforehand. They also raised over £1,500 to be shared between Parkinson’s UK and St Gemma’s Hospice in Leeds.

Project Support Team 

The Project Support put forward five active souls for the Active Challenge who approached the initiative in five slightly different ways:

  • Mark Canning – Mark chose to make himself unpopular at home – his bulldog Buster is worn out from the extra walking and has lost half a stone in weight; his kids have been enrolled in a gym. They suffer from X-Box detachment syndrome, and his misses struggle with the extra washing from all his sweaty post-exercise t-shirts.
  • Jon Byrom – Jon went for an up-front financial investment in the challenge via a new Pure Gym membership and Fit Bit wearable fitness tracker wristband. Jon also organised a 26-mile 3 Peaks mountain walk in Yorkshire and raised several hundred pounds for the Mustard Tree Charity. He also is grateful to his teammates for the resulting foot blisters, sunburn, dehydration and haemorrhoids.
  • Paul Creed – the ‘Sir Bradley’ of the team, clocked up hundreds of miles on his bike and will probably need new stabilisers when the challenge is over. Had Paul slowed down a bit, though, the team would have secured more points – Paul was typically doing 60 miles in under three hours on his Raleigh Chopper when other slower mortals would have scored an extra 90 minutes to log over this distance. 
  • Alistair Sinclair would only deliver ‘cool points’ for the team with his snowboarding and abs classes activities – the team’s very own Fonze. He did selflessly manage to lift the team’s spirits on the 3 Peaks walk, though, when struck on the head by a flying Frisbee by a random teenager and just calmly laughing the incident off. Ahem.
  • Karl Tupling – the Team General – and christened Tungsten Tupling by his teammates, Karl managed to post 4.5 hours of exercise a day whilst on his beach holiday – running, swimming, hitting the gym and taking romantic hikes with Mrs T. Showing true Churchill spirit, Karl also managed to break the rowing machine in the resort gym early one day before the Germans got to go on it – something which really should have secured bonus points in the view of his team!