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GP Lives: Run Hussain Run

Hussain Al Zubaidi on a run with a companion
Dr Hussain Al-Zubaidi running the Eco-Trail Morocco 70km race

Four years ago, Hussain Al-Zubaidi's free time consisted of relaxing on the sofa and watching Netflix. Today, he fills much of his spare time with exercise, having trained to complete numerous events including the Great North Swim, 30 marathons, three ultra-marathons and an Ironman 140.4 mile triathlon race. His most recent adventure was in April, finishing the Eco Trail Morocco 70km desert race in second place.

His journey started as a GP trainee when hearing a GP partner encouraging staff and patients to participate in a local parkrun. Inspired, Hussain attended with his wife, already an avid runner. He described the 5k course as a 'real struggle', “200 meters in, elderly people and people pushing buggies were passing me. It was a wakeup call that I needed to improve my fitness,” he said.

Hussain completed the run in just under 30 minutes but described himself as being ‘totally wasted' afterwards. He started joining his wife on runs and attended parkruns to build up endurance. He has since won nine official races and is now a ranked athlete with a personal best 5km time of 16 minutes, 31 seconds.

His passion for running has infiltrated all aspects of his life. He signed his practice up to the Run Talk Run and Walk Talk Walk initiative, a programme that creates a safe space for participants to talk about mental health whilst simultaneously getting the benefits of exercise and community support. “It is as simple as having a chat and going for a run or walk, but the positive benefits have been enormous. It’s been easier than I thought to talk to patients about stresses outside of practice whilst maintaining professionalism.”

Hussain says the programme has strengthened relationships between practice staff and patients, and that there is a greater appreciation of the pressures the team is working under. He attributes this to the high number of patients who volunteered to help the practice deliver the Covid-19 vaccination programme. He now wants to promote the Run Talk Run programme to other areas.

Spurred on by the success of Run Talk Run, Hussain founded the Clarendon Lodge Medical Practice Fitness Club (CLMPFC) on social media, allowing participants to share their exercise activity and encourage others to achieve their goals. The practice also sets challenges for patients to complete, such as #pledge10000, encouraging them to collectively run, walk, cycle, or swim 10,000km.

In September 2019 the club met in real life with a fitness day in the practice's car park, offering taster sessions with local fitness groups such as yoga, spin, salsa, taekwondo and a session by the local Wasps rugby team.

Hussain has used his involvement in CLMPFC to tackle health inequalities by addressing factors that may make it more challenging for patients to exercise. He curated and linked with specialised activities to make exercise more accessible to these groups, for example Bhangra classes for Asian female’s over-50s, and walking groups tailored to people with mental health challenges, obesity and osteoporosis.

In January, Hussain also started the Leamington Lifestyle Clinic through his primary care network, offering group sessions on nutrition and physical activity followed by entry into a fitness club.

“It was really rewarding to see the positive effect the club and lifestyle clinic was having on patients, some have kicked unhealthy habits such as smoking, improved their self-esteem, social skills and reduced their painkillers or come off medication for anxiety and depression altogether,” he said.

Hussain regularly features on Channel 4's Steph's Packed Lunch, extolling the importance of physical activity. He's on the Swim England board advising people with certain health conditions to swim safely. As a member of the College's Physical Activity and Lifestyle project, he encourages practices to sign up to the RCGP Active Practice Charter scheme promoting the health benefits of physical activity for staff and patients.