It's that time again, another article to write for Pro Mobile and this time, the topic walked off the page. As you may have read in previous articles of mine, I have been on a journey the last couple of years, both mentally and physically. Now, I will attempt to expand on the mental health benefits I have discovered on my journey; things we can all do to alleviate some of the daily work and life pressures.
At the 2019 Pro Mobile Conference, we saw a presentation called ‘Tips for Bringing Your Best Self to Every Gig’, presented by George Anderson, a performance and wellbeing coach, author and motivational speaker. At the end of the presentation, I was invited to share the stage with George, to demonstrate my four-stone weight loss. The invitation came off the back of an article I had written, ‘Are You Fit Enough to DJ’, where I documented some of the lifestyle changes that had led me from ‘Fat Al’ to ‘Healthy Al’.
By way of a quick recap: Sunday 24th June 2018 was the day after I performed as a host for the entire duration of a wedding, and I was exhausted. To wake myself up I treated myself to a good soak in the bath, after which I looked in the mirror and realised I was overweight! For the first time, I saw ‘Fat Al’. How had that happened? Whilst I'd never considered myself to be fit, I had always thought my weight was in check. But the reality was staring back at me in a way I simply couldn't ignore.
Over the next few months I took on a challenge to lose weight. I started with a diet, but my research revealed that crash diets rarely work and, even worse, by exerting yourself too much too quickly, you could suffer serious injury. The best advice I found was on the NHS website, where I discovered a walking programme called Active Ten. The idea is that 10 minutes of brisk walking is better than no exercise. Plus, it’s designed for people starting from where I was starting - from scratch!
By the time I arrived in Las Vegas in early March 2019 for Mobile Beat Conference, my weight loss was very noticeable, especially by anyone who hadn’t seen me in a while. US-based DJ and wedding host Bill Hermann, who is a good friend (and past Pro Mobile Conference keynote speaker), wanted to know more! As I explained, I was being careful with my diet, but most important of all was my daily walk – something I’ve since learnt had Bill intrigued.
Very shortly after my trip to Mobile Beat was Pro Mobile Conference weekend. I had volunteered to help set up the NADJ (National Association of Disc Jockeys) stand at the venue and planned to travel to Birmingham the day before the conference. Before leaving home, I checked my Facebook feed. Bill had been so impressed with my weight loss that he’d decided if I could do it, so could he. There he was, declaring – with Bill’s usual confidence – that he could do this every day for a whole year!
Now, a couple of essential points. Bill thought he was sending me a personal message but, in reality, was broadcasting his promise on Facebook Live, to anyone and everyone he knew. And the six-hour time difference between our locations meant that I was only seeing his declaration now, well after the event. My initial reaction was one of shock. I had started walking for fitness reasons and, other than immediate family and close friends, nobody knew. Here was Bill committing to the same course of action, but in a very public way!
All I could think was, how could I support my friend with this venture before I leave for Birmingham? I grabbed my phone and franticly tried to figure out Facebook Live. When Bill woke up, he would see I had also done a walk, which would in turn encourage him to keep going. 30 minutes later and I had done my very first Facebook Live! (Bill does like to remind me, he's been walking on Facebook Live one day longer than I have.)
So, my daily walk now had new meaning. Through the magic of Facebook, I could watch Bill’s own efforts from across the pond. It was also a lot of fun to hear him moan about doing something he didn't want to do, but that he would begrudgingly carry on, not wanting to let anyone down. Through this mutual experience, I felt even more connected to my friend. I was feeling even better about my own walking, too. After all, I was no longer alone, but a part of something bigger; even my sense of self-worth was positively affected.
Now that I was broadcasting my walks, the challenge was to find something worth talking about whilst I walked. To this end, I set myself a few rules. I needed to be honest, even if it meant feeling vulnerable. For example, if I had a lousy day, then I would talk about it – being fake wouldn't serve me, or anyone taking time out their day to listen. The broadcast needed to inspire, on occasion, and it required me to consider how I was feeling.
Along with the daily walks, I also took on another positive habit. I started to create a daily positive affirmation as a meme, based on ideas I thought about whilst walking; a kind of ‘thought for the day’. The idea was if I had to post something alongside my walk every day, I would need to do a little more research, as I wanted those who took the time to engage with me to gain from the experience, even if it was just getting another perspective.
It then hit me that these simple positive habits were causing a chemical change in my brain, which helped change my mood, raise my self-esteem, and create positivity in my entire day. No longer was I dwelling on problems, I was beginning to establish a much more positive outlook! I was also more open to different perspectives, and the time spent on my walks allowed me to set new goals.
I found myself reading and researching more, not just for my own development but to find topics to talk about on my walks. With each completed walk and meme, I felt a sense of accomplishment and purpose; my daily walk could help others as well as raising my self-confidence. Every day was successful already, no matter what else happened.
Over time, friends from around the world – including the US, Canada, Australia and the UK – started to join in, inspired to take up the challenge of completing their own daily walks. Suddenly we had a whole community of walkers supporting each other, in turn supported by their own communities of viewers. A new platform for positivity was born.
As the anniversary of Bill and I starting our daily walk approached, the world was beginning to lockdown due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Without the ability to go out and do our job as DJs, the daily walks took on an even more profound meaning. So, we committed to a second year. This was now an opportunity to stay connected and share our concerns about the challenges that all of us in the entertainment industry face. Whilst our venture started as a dare, we were now able to consistently raise spirits, both for ourselves and for those who joined us on our live sessions.
A real high point from our two years of walking was ‘500 Miles for Bill’. In order to celebrate Bill’s birthday, I had an idea to bring together all our friends from across the world who were sharing our daily walking experience. I wanted to create something that involved individuals, couples and families, all with connections to Bill. So, I assigned each willing participant, or group of participants, a line from the Proclaimers’ ‘500 Miles’ and asked them to video themselves singing it. I then made an edit from all the recordings, creating a special birthday gift from everyone. Once the project was completed, 84 people from all corners of the globe had contributed their time and talent.
A simple idea had grown into a huge collaborative effort and, as I’m sure you can imagine, Bill was blown away!
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 106, Pages 49-52.