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The Octopus Active Challenge: keeping fit at home

28 Apr 2020

We might all be cooped up inside (albeit for a good reason), but that doesn’t mean that our physical wellbeing has to take a nosedive.

In fact, keeping fit and healthy is more important than it ever has been. Forget New Year’s resolutions, if there has ever been a time to start a new fitness challenge it might be now.

At Octopus, we’ve just launched a new wellbeing initiative to keep our employees moving during lockdown. We thought we’d share some of the details to give you some stay-at-home fitness inspiration.

Spearheaded by Octopus Wellness Ambassador Uliana Kumiz, the Octopus Active Challenge began on 6 April and has seen over 400 employees sign up to take part.

How we’re staying active at Octopus

The Octopus Active Challenge is a fitness/wellness related initiative that’s running over three months, from April to July, during the coronavirus lockdown.

In teams of up to ten people, the name of the game is to get moving and burn calories. Whether it’s dog walking, stretching, cycling, interpretive dance — as long as you’re active it all counts.

Any exercise is logged on an app called Endomondo that we’re all using, so we can keep track of the team rankings and how we’re doing.

Of course, to spur people on there’s a little competitive element to it. The winning team, the one that logs the most activity, will be rewarded with the top prize (currently a secret) and there will be smaller prizes along the way.

We spoke to Uliana to find out more about the company-wide challenge and to get her top tips for keeping active during the current climate.

What inspired you to launch the Active Challenge?

I’m a strong believer that fitness and physical exercise has a powerful impact on an individual’s sense of wellbeing. It’s also a great way to build up our stress resilience.

As we entered the C-19 lockdown, a lot of people’s stress levels went through the roof. Being isolated at home alone elevated anxiety levels and feelings of loneliness for many. 

The Octopus Active challenge is an all inclusive way of improving the physical and mental wellbeing of our colleagues while having a bit of fun during these unusual circumstances.

With over 400 people taking part, it’s the biggest fitness related initiative we have ever rolled out here at Octopus. It’s a fantastic way of connecting with teammates and others from across the business — we even have Octopus Australia joining in!

Ultimately though, I think we all need something positive and exciting in our daily routine given the circumstances. If this challenge is able to put a smile on the faces of those that take part, I’ll be happy. That is good enough for me.

What are your top tips for keeping fit now that we’re all staying at home?

Well, aside from the fridge being in close proximity at all times, there are some real positives to working from home in terms of keeping active.

For starters, we’ve all gained some extra time. Many of us have long commutes to work that are no longer eating up our day. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to use that time to do something you’ve always wanted to. For a lot of people that’s getting in shape, or taking up a new physical activity.

Of course, with no one pushing you but yourself, working out at home does require some discipline.

Picking a regular time of the day really helps. I’m not a morning person at all, but I find exercising first thing (even though I might be half asleep) sets me up for a more productive day overall. Others will find they’re most motivated at night — everyone’s different.

Writing out what exercise you’ll be doing each day is a good idea too. It’s all too easy to give up after five minutes if you’re doing your workout on a whim.

You could also try making a public commitment if you’re struggling to stick to your workout plan. Many find that posting a picture or video of their workouts on social media helps them to commit. It might be easier to complete that 30 day abs challenge, or whatever it might be, with support from friends and colleagues.

How do you stay in shape?

Outside of these unusual circumstances, I’m actually a trail runner.

I’ve been volunteering with the Outdoor Adventure Club as a hiking leader for several years and I’m now the founder of the trail running division there. It’s a Community Interest Company that aims to get people outside — we have around 11,000 members in total and more than 700 trail runners.

I have to keep my fitness levels high to ensure my body can handle the distances I run every weekend. I’ve found running home from work gives me space to clear my head after a busy day, while not compromising on time with my family.

At the moment though, I’m spending much more time in my living room “gym”…

Are you involved in any fitness programmes at work?

I’m the captain of the Octopus Triathlon Club.

Over the last 5 years, Octopus has been taking part in the London Triathlon, the largest triathlon in the world. We typically send 8-10 teams to compete each year, and while there are some really strong athletes in the company, we usually do it for fun.

It’s a great way for people to get to know each other and share this fantastic sense of camaraderie. Last year spectators even asked us who we worked for and if we were hiring!

Any final encouragement to get people up and moving?

The most important thing is to have fun. Find some form of exercise you really enjoy and it won’t ever seem like a chore.

The circumstances might be tough at the moment, but exercise has an incredibly powerful way of restoring calm and improving overall wellbeing. Give it a go!