21 December, 2023

No stranger to tough physical challenges, Jim Saunderson, a CrossFit fan, took on a slightly different endurance test. This time around he took part in the Battle Cancer Challenge event for Breast Cancer UK, with a personal motivation.

Jim’s wife Hazel, 57, was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year. She has since undergone chemotherapy and had an operation to remove the cancer, meeting the challenge ‘head on’, says Jim.

In response to Hazel’s diagnosis, the avid CrossFit enthusiast decided to channel his passion for high-intensity interval training into fundraising. Jim hoped that by fundraising for breast cancer charity, he could help to raise awareness about prevention.

Jim, 55, said: “Hazel is doing good at the moment and her recent biopsy results showed the cancer has all gone! She’s still going to need some radiotherapy and an injection every three weeks but she’s doing okay.

Jim’s motivation

“Seeing Hazel face this thing head on motivated me to do something and raise money for Breast Cancer UK. This competition was much more personal for me and gave me that extra motivation I needed.”

The Unit Gym and Fitness club in Banchory near Aberdeen, where Jim trains regularly, had five different teams sign up for the Battle Cancer event in Scotland with ages ranging from 18 to 66-years-old. In June this year, all 16 of them joined other competitors at the event in Edinburgh for a day of functional exercises and to be ‘pushed to their limit’!

Jim’s team, The Ninjas not Winjas, were made up of Steve Kilner, Sean Saluja & Paul Law.

And the winner is… Breast cancer prevention

The event involves teams taking part in five 10-minute rounds of high intensity exercises including weighted squats, dumbbell lifts, box jumps and burpees over 2.5 hours. Because today, 1 in 2 people are affected by cancer.

The 10-minute workouts are followed by 20 minutes of recovery. Each team is then given a score for the number of repetitions they clock up in each round. These results are added to the fundraising leaderboard throughout the event where competitors can keep a close eye on other team’s scores to help motivate them to work harder!

Jim, a guitar player and big music fan, is no stranger to physical exercise having trained in martial arts and taken part in several high intensity exercise competitions over the years but training for the Battle Cancer Challenge involved some special training with his teammates.

He said: “I’ve done quite a few competitions but for this particular event it was about synchronised movements. You can only go as fast as the slowest person so that was hard, and you needed to slow yourself down and pace yourself to get through the different rounds as a team.

“Considering my team were all over 50 we did pretty good coming ninth and were really happy.”

The mechanical engineer raised just under £5,000 for Breast Cancer UK. However, the total raised by all five teams from The Unit gym amounted to nearly £15,000.

What’s next for Jim?

“After Hazel got her diagnosis, and the shock of our friend who died from breast cancer several years ago, I wanted to do more. We’ve donated to cancer charities since our friend died, but this event was more personal. It definitely gave me that motivation to work harder both in training and at the event,” said Jim.

Being active can reduce your risk of breast cancer by around 20%. It’s thought that physical activity lowers the level of certain circulating hormones and reduces inflammation. This can help lower the likelihood of cancer developing and progressing.

The Battle Cancer Challenge is a global fitness event uniting individuals for one purpose: fighting cancer.

If you would like to take part in Battle Cancer or raise funds for Breast Cancer UK like Jim, or if you find a cycle challenge you like, email the team [email protected] to get started. 

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