A 44-year-old fitness fanatic has revealed how his own brush with depression lead to him kickstarting the Push-Up challenge which has raised $16 million for mental health in just three years.
Mining Engineer Nick Hudson lost his grip on his own good mental health in 2018 when doctors told him he needed open heart surgery.
Speaking to FEMAIL the Perth-based surf life saver said doctors banned him from elevating his heart rate and told him to ‘chill’ while he waited for the surgery.
Mining Engineer Nick Hudson, pictured second from left, has revealed how his mental health battle in 2018 and 2019 lead to the viral Push-Up challenge
Nick felt himself spiral into depression in the leadup-up to and following his lifesaving open heart surgery in 2018
But the orders to simply relax were hard to follow for the man who had spent 40-years building his closest relationships around keeping active.
‘My friends are very active as well and our whole social life evolves around exercise which I wasn’t allowed to participate in anymore,’ he said.
‘Then when mental health started to deteriorate I didn’t want to burden them, I didn’t want them to be around depressed Nick because I felt my presence would not give them any joy,’ he said.
‘So I removed myself from society.’
Nick, who lived alone, became increasingly reclusive in the two-month leadup to his surgery, slowly dropping out of his place in every social setting.
He had been doing his best to comply with the no-exercise orders but didn’t know how critical they were until he found himself on the side of a road struggling for breath.
‘One day I was trying to cross the road and the green man started flashing red so I decided to jog to the other side of the road,’ he said.
Nick’s whole social life revolved around exercise so he felt like he lost everything when doctors told him to keep his heartrate down
He was shocked when his physical health deteriorated so quickly and he could barely jog across the road without breathing difficulties
‘It was less than ten metres to the other side and I found myself out of breath and felt my heart doing weird things.’
This came as a huge shock for the engineer who used to spend most days forward paddling, ski paddling and swimming at the beach and would knockout 1000 pushups with mates ‘for fun’.
‘It was all a lot, the sudden change of lifestyle, knowing that I cant just jog the last little bit when I am crossing the road or walk up the escalator.’
He slowly turned his back on his friends because he didn’t want them to see ‘sad Nick’
After his surgery Nick was still stuck in bed and feeling wretched, he fell deeper into his depression but his mates continued to send him ‘light’ texts to let them know they were there.
Then one day Nick started walking and slowly increased his level of physical activity.
He text his friends back and very slowly allowed himself to be social.
‘I realised that my friendships might have been based around exercise but they were also much deeper than that, these people liked me for me,’ he said.
After being distant for months he felt ‘nothing had changed’ and ‘it felt like the old days’ when he finally spent time with his friends.
‘The only thing that had changed the whole time was my perspective on out friendship,’ he said.
He used his recovery time to raise awareness for mental health with the now well-know Push-Up challenge
What are Nick’s top tips for improving your mental health?
1 – Know the depression will end at some point. You could go backwards and might not be able to see an end but it will get better.
2 – I ramped up my exercise as soon as I could and it did wonders
3 – Make sure you are getting the right amount of sleep
4 – Keep in contact with your loved ones
This is something her realised too late that he should have know, a year earlier his mother had burst into tears over dinner, revealing his dad’s battle with depression.
‘I remember telling her she should have shared it with me sooner becasue I could have been there for him,’ he said.
‘Now being on both sides I realise how tough it is, you don’t want to bring the people you love down by telling them. Even after seeing my dad and wanting more than anything to have been able to help I couldn’t let others in when I went through it.’
Nick’s dad had been through his own battle with depression a few years earlier, keeping it from his sons, who were disappointed they couldn’t have helped him once they did find out
Nick was no stranger push-up challenges, he did one with his mates in 2017 to get fit for summer with each man aiming for 3000 repetitions in a month.
The following year they decided to make it bigger than his immediate group and 1000 friends and friends of friends got involved.
It was during this time, in mid-2018, he realised he would need the open-heart surgery.
So when 2019 rolled around and he found out he still couldn’t exercise Nick decided to start an initiative for mental health and a Push-Up challenge seemed perfect.
But Nick finally understood his dad’s dilemma when he couldn’t bear to ‘burden’ his friends and family with his own mental health battle
What is the Push-Up challenge?
The goal of the Push-Up challenge is to complete about 3,139 push-ups over 24 days. But participants can choose to do alternative exercises and aim to do a quarter, half or three quarters of each if 3000 seems too daunting.
Fundraising is optional and encouraged.
To get started as an official member of the challenge you need to sign up on the website, this is free.
You can join a community, team or start one of your own or you can do it independently.
Money goes towards mental health charities like Lifeline and Movember as well as the Push for Better Foundation which is linked to the initiative.
To register click here.
That year 50,000 people took part and the initiative raised $2.5M for mental health charities and, more importantly, sparked a conversation on the topic.
In 2020 the challenge kicked off in May, a month early, to help keep people in Covid lockdowns across the country in high spirits.
130,000 people joined in and together raised $5.1M for mental health.
This exploded to 170,000 participants in 2021, with the challenge tweaked to allow sit-ups and squats for people who prefer not to do push ups.
Nick is back to being very active but now understands his personal relationships are based on more than physical exercise
So far the initiative has helped raise more than $16M, something Nick still doesn’t quite believe.
‘To me raising awareness is the most important thing, the money is an added bonus,’ he said.
Participants are given a mental health tip every day for the duration of the challenge.