Ali’s 50 Challenge

This page is a list of the 50 Challenges that I hope to acheive before my 50th birthday on 6th May, 2021. I want to do challenges that are in some way beneficial to me, to others or to our planet. Most of all, I want to use them to raise money for charities, who are all struggling in this pandemic. If you would like to, you can support me by making a donation, large or tiny, to any of my suggested charities or a charity of your own choice. These are some suggestions: Suffolk Mind ( Mental health) World Land Trust (preserving threatened habitats) Suffolk Home Start

Suggestions of challenges are very welcome. If you would like to suggest a particular challenge and help me find sponsors for your own charity, then message me or email me at:

The challenge list so far. In no particular order.

  1. Vegan November. For the sake of animal welfare. I will also be interested to note any health changes.. Challenge completed. These are my conclusions:
  1. I loved all the vegan recipes that I tried and I find my palate prefers food that is naturally vegan ( as opposed to faux substitutes).
  2. I no longer dislike tofu and don’t mind including it as part of my diet due to its great nutritional values
  3. My digestion prefers a vegan diet and I felt somehow lighter in myself
  4. I dont like the ‘faux’ food, especially the cheese substitutes. ‘Chedddar’ is the worst, ‘Feta’ has a pleasant creamy texture but not much flavour. ‘Halloumi’ is OK  in small quantities. I also don’t like the soya ‘meat’ substitutes
  5. There are milk products in so many foods, including foods you would not expect to find it in. Must be really frustrating for dairy intolerant people as well as vegans
  6. Vegan farts are room-clearing ( if harnessed, possible green energy?)
  7. When pubs, cafes and restaurants resume full service, it would be lovely to see at least 2 vegan options available. They also provide another option for everyone else.
  8. Will I continue to be vegan? No, I can’t quite wean myself off eggs and dairy ( including milk chocolate)  just yet, but I will certainly reduce the dairy that I eat and stick to my own hens’eggs when possible. I will also continue cooking vegan meals for myself for the most part

2. 10 Minute High Plank / 5 Minute Forearm Plank At the moment I can barely hold 3 minutes in high plank, and 1 minute in forearm. It is to build up my arm strength

3. Hold ‘Crow Pose’ for at least a minute. I have always wanted to achieve this, but weak wrist and arm muscles have prevented me from holding this pose for more than a few seconds

4. ‘Dry’ January. Because I drink too much!  I did not stick to strictly a full month, more like 4 weeks, but it was just enough time to break a lockdown/festive habit of having a drink most nights. My plan is not to have a dedicated drinking day, but have a slowly savoured drink if the mood takes me, or happier times when in company. I also dont drink after my evening meal, so having a pleasant glass or two before I start cooking two or three days a week will be perfect.

5. To be 9 stone. I have wanted to be this weight for a very long time, partly for vanity but mostly because I know it is achievable if I cut down on booze and cheese, so I am hoping the other challenges will help me lose weight in a healthy and sustainable way. Weigh-in is 6th May and I plan on spending £50 on clothes in charity shops to celebrate.

6. ‘Ration Box Week’. To live for a week on the rations that a refugee might have to survive on. I like the concept as it reminds me of the empathy aspect of fasting for Ramadam. Donation to a refugee charity would be great if you would like to support me on this one.

7. To run 21k ( ie. half a marathon). Because I never thought I could run 10k, and thanks to Occold plodders I can, so why not double it? This one I find the most daunting. Thank you Louisa Way for volunteering to be my running buddy. This run will be dedicated to the charity Tango2.

8. Zero Waste Week. The idea is to create no more waste than can be squeezed into a jam jar. Plastic food packaging is easily the worst offender.(Thanks Phee Watson for the suggestion).  I have decided instead of having a dedicated week, to just reduce the plastic packaging for the rest of my life.

9. To do 500 consecutive belly rolls. In the past I raised money for Occold pre-school by doing a sponsored 200 belly rolls, so this will be quite a challenge!

10. To plant an extra 50 plants in the garden. – already exceeded!  You can never have too many plants…..and Im not counting bulbs because that is too easy! So far: 6 x violas, 12 x assorted perenniel, 3 x star jasmine, 2 x clematis, 6 x wallflowers, 4 x winter cherry, 3 x blackthorn, 1 x dog rose, 1 x honeysuckle, 2 x damson, 2 x crab apple, 1 x azalea, 1 x agapanthus, 27 extra hedging plants ( willow, hornbeam, beech, dog roses, dogwood, hazel, rowan).

11. To see sunset then sunrise in the same day. What a lovely, spiritual thing to do. Im looking at winter solstice. Thanks for the suggestion Cath Lockwood. Fancy joining me? Thank you Jo van der Hoeven for your lovely Druid ritual guidance. I have decided to alter this challenge, as I know I will not stay awake for the night and I am not sure what I would acheive by doing so. Instead I would like to alter it to a meditation walk for winter solstice Monday 21st December, and then a  lovely dawn meditation walk for Spring equinox March 20th 2021.

12. Every month, starting from October, to write and publish online a short story. I am the worst procrastinator and yet writing makes me so happy so I need to get my arse into gear and get writing again. oops missed november, but did release 3 in October.

13. To try a new recipe each week. I have lots of lovely recipe books and yet I rarely try any of the recipes.

14. To write 10 positive things about my day, every evening before sleep. My lovely friend Catherine Eyre gave me a beautiful gratitude book for Christmas last year, and though I love it, I have yet to open it up! About time I did.

15. To release a workout video for mixed mobility or mental wellbeing every week. I love producing these and it encourages me to research and explore this area.

16. To learn 50 new arabic phrases. I just dont want to lose my knowledge of this wonderful language.

17. To revise French verb tenses and conjugations. Every year in France I regret not practicing my verbs. It really lets my spoken French down and its just laziness.

18. Working my way to acheiving Nauli Kriya. For gut health, for core strength and because it looks amazing:

19. To write and perform the best solo I have ever done. I want to prove to myself that I can improve with age. I have begun to write a new sword dance but my body needs a lot more training before I can dance the way I see in my mind.

20. To build and put up a bird box and an insect hotel. A humble challenge, perhaps, but I have been meaning to do it for some time. Every little helps.

21. To do at least 35,000 steps in one day. My record is about 25,000 and that was doing loads of walking all day, so that will take a very long walk indeed. Part of my marathon training? This is now a Book Club outing. Thanks to Kirsty, Lucy, Rachel, Amanda, Kathryn….. I am doing 2 walks: one in the morning round Thorndon, second after lunch round Occold. If you would like to join me, see maps below:

Route map for Occold Challenge by Alison Cooklin on

22. To make myself a dress. I love craft but am pretty rubbish at it and I have never made a garment from scratch before.

Aisha modelling the dress

23. To grow 50 plants from seed…. and then give them away to friends.

24. To use as many refillable products as possible to reduce packaging. I do to small degree but there are always new ways to reduce plastics. This will be a kickstart to a lifetime habit. Thank you Kirsty Sullivan for the suggestion. Already going well: I have bought 5l tubs of shampoo, conditioner, laundry iiquid, fabric conditioner, detergent. I refill my kitchen spray with diluted detergent and a dash of Zoflora. Also I am reusing my face and body cream pots and refilling with my homemade product.

25. To create a 50-song playlist for my life. I might get cracking on that now, so I can use it for inspiration for my running training!!! Thank you Lucy Elkin for the idea.:

Sound Track of my Life: Decided to do just 3 per decade instead.

The 70’s: Concierto de Aranjuz – Used as theme tune for a radio programme and it entranced me when I was a tot. Still love it.Theme ‘Rhubarb and Custard’ – represents 70’s bonkers kids shows. ‘Forever Autumn’ by Justin Hayward – Didnt understand it but loved it.

The 80’s: Theme ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ – liked to imagine myself playing the piano along to this. Wholesome Sunday evening TV.Warsaw Concerto – the most passionate piece of music ever written. Still thrills me.‘Is there something I should know?’ Duran Duran – I wasn’t a huge fan but this song immediately comes to mind when I think of school.

The 90’s:‘Monkey Gone to Heaven’ by The Pixies – at university I discovered the joy of indie music.‘Perfect Day’ by Lou Reed – though recorded in the 70’s, I was massively into The Velvet Underground during the 90’s. This track makes me feel warm and fuzzy.Theme ‘The Simpsons’ – Used to watch this with my studio colleagues at MBC just before going to air with the business programme.

The 00’s: ‘Take me On’ by Franz Ferdinand – listened to Franz a lot when dating Paul. Gypsy’ by Kan’nal – represents Bellycise, a huge part of my life. This was a gypsy solo I danced for a show. Finale involved spinning for a minute – felt very dizzy! Theme ‘Mr Tumble’ – When Cbeebies took over my life. Hello, hello, how are you?

The 10’s:Theme ‘Come Outside’ – CBBC programme the kids and I loved. Learned all about sewage, how to make pencils, soap, toothpaste…wonderful.Any track from Harry Potter Films – we have watched these films sooo many times!‘Chammak Challo’ by Akon – a fun track that represents my joy in Bollywood dancing.

26. Learn to knit or crochet. And then donate my knitted blanket squares to an animal charity. Thank you Anne Smethhurst for this idea.

27. Write and perform at least 2 dance duets with Rachel Hawkes. Every year we say we will but ‘life’ always gets in the way and we let each year slide by without doing it. No excuses now. Already working on duet no1.

28. To meditate at least once a week… but hopefully more often. I have always felt a great benefit from meditation but have become lazy over the last few years and just use yoga as my meditation.

29. To spend a minimum of half an hour outside every day. So easy in summer. Much harder in the cold and rain. But even in the worst weather, daylight on the skin and fresh air in the lungs is the best medecine. I don’t have a dog to walk so have to rely on will power alone. Thank you Ruth Watson for letting my accompany you and the hounds.

30. To train myself to sing and to perform in public… at my lovely friend Ruthie’s 60th in January. Her idea! Mission accomplished. My singing was dreadful but my performance level was outstanding. I think Ruthie was entertained, one way or another.

31. Invent a new recipe. Aisha’s suggestion. Already done, see no37, but also no38.

32. Paint a live watercolour landscape. I love art, and it would be so nice to actually spend some time on this. I’m not fussed if the result is not good, as I am more interested in the experience of painting,

33. To learn to ride a horse. Ruthie is going to source me a horse, apparantly.

34. To take smaller bites, masticate and savour my food. Whilst I don’t wolf my food down like my kids, I think I would eat less if I eat properly and slowly. Better for my digestion and waistline, and also prolong a delicious experience.

35. To make my garden as wildlife friendly as possible. In addition to those extra 50 plants and birdbox and insect hotel, I want to add as many insect/wildlife shelters, water features ( including watercress), green roofs, extra bird feeders and nesting boxes as I can.

36. To run 50k in one week. ie 5 x 10ks in a week. The reason is partly for marathon training, and partly just to see if I have the will power to do it. Scheduled for mid December. This has been adjusted to a 50k month to guard against injury again.

37. Find a way of cooking tofu that makes it less disgusting. Its the texture I hate but as it is such an important vegan food source, and rich in calcium, I am determined to find a way of making it palatable, other than drowning it in a curry.: Done! My own recipe below. Fry half a red onion and 2 cloves of garlic in olive oil, then add finely chopped tofu and fry for a further 3 minutes. Add tin of borlotti beans and some halved cherry tomatoes and continue to cook for a few minutes. Before serving, add generous splash of lemon juice and season to taste. Serve on a bed of quinoa and finish with Egyptian dressing ( tahini, a splash of water, lemon juice). 

Ali’s Gluten-free Vegan Bean Salad with Quinoa

38. To create a tasty gluten-free pizza base. I am planning a gluten-free pizza base as all shop/restaurant versions so far have been disgusting

39. Make my own beauty products from natural ingredients. As an aromatherapist I already often make up my own bits and pieces, but I want to put more effort into creating yummy products for me. So many wonderful recipes available, lovely for the skin, and reduces plastic waste. I have been saving up old pots of moisturizers for just this purpose.

40. To clear out the loft: recycle, reuse, repurpose. I began the job before lockdown, and it ground to halt when charity shops and recycling centres closed. No more excuses now.

41. Learn the Russian alphabet and some simple phrases.s Done!

1st page of my Russian exercise book.

This was inspired by my enjoyment of a Russian serial that I watch and have been trying to learn some of the phrases via subtitles, but would love to at least be able to read the credits in the Cyrillic alphabet so I know who the actors are! This is the serial:

42.  To spend January shopping only at local shops, avoiding main supermarkets ( except local Coops) and not using Amazon. This is both to support local business, and to reduce all the plastic packaging that fills my non-recycling bin. As I have bulk bought 5l shampoo, conditioner, laundry liquid, fabric conditioner and detergent, have lots of bars of soap, and have bulk ordered eco loo paper, toothpaste tablets ( cutting out non-recyclable toothpaste tubes) and buy pet supplies at Diss Garden centre, its proving quite easy. Also if I need to order a product online, I use eBay sellers based in UK. this has been easier than you can imagine – and I have also discovered the delights of the East European shop in Diss – pickle heaven and great place to use my newly acquired Russian skills.

43. To learn to weave wood and create my own garden structures. ie border edging and obelisks for climber support. Hoping by November to be able to weave xmas wreaths, decorations and reindeer! In the long term hoping to use my willow and hazel hedging plants for wood supply.

44 . To do a 5 minute abs workout for 50 consecutive days starting from February 16th and ending April 7th. Because although I quite enjoy working on my abs, I often forget to during my daily yoga practice and the better my abs, the better my back and the better my dancing. Two excellent reasons to bother. Conclusion:I tried a different workout on youtube everyday so lots of different moves and difficulty levels. Pros: I could comfortably do them all. Cons: they were mostly repetitive and boring. Conclusion? I’ve got powerful core muscles under layers of sagging fat and belly dance and yoga gives me the best workout for core that I could need. RESULT!

3Drew Gummerson, Lianne Walsh and 1 other1 ShareLikeCommentShare

45. To give up sweet treats for 4 weeks.. because 1) so much research shows sugar to have such a negative effect on our bodies 2) There is enough sugar present in everyday foods, especially processed foods, that I don’t need to add even more. 3) Whilst I enjoy biscuits, cake, chocolate etc, I have recently been scoffing more than my usual amount and need to break the habit. My one exception will be my Easter egg. It will be nice to see if there is any change in weight from now till 22nd April. Weight this minute is: 64kg