30 Day Challenges are all the rage in the fitness industry right now. The squat challenge, ab challenge, kettlebell challenge, fat-loss challenge, cleanse challenge, detox challenge… Basically, you can use any health- or fitness-related term to fill out the “30 Day _____ Challenge” template and BOOM! You’ve got a new program on your hands.
This form of marketing is, quite honestly, pretty great. To even the most out-of-shape consumer, the toughest of programs seems doable for just 30 days. And calling it a 30 Day Challenge? Well, they might as well dare you to do it.
30 days seems plausible. Heck, it might even seem easy.
- Week 1 was rough, but hey! It’s only 30 days.
- I’m having to upend my entire life to fit in the all the workouts, but hey! It’s only 30 days.
- I’m hungry, sore, and exhausted all the time, but hey! It’s only 30 days.
What’s 30 days out of 365, especially if you come out sexier on the other end? You can work your butt off, see some results, and be proud of yourself. And you know what? You should be proud of yourself. Putting in a lot of effort in order to better yourself and seeing it through is an admirable and commendable feat.
But it doesn’t mean you’re not also being led astray.
Nothing is permanent in health and fitness. Nothing. So any challenge that promises to provide lasting results is completely false. If you want your results to last, then so, too, must your efforts.
What you need is a sustainable exercise routine. A habit, if you will.
OVERLY EXTREME WORKOUTS
When it comes to living a healthy, fit life, consistency is key. Exercising intensely 6-7 days a week is not only difficult to commit to in the long-term, but it can quickly become unhealthy and counterproductive to reaching your goals.
It’s better to aim for most of the time. Do you exercise 3-4 days per week? Most of the time. Do you eat foods that fuel your body and not just tickle your palate? Most of the time. Do you get adequate sleep? Most of the time.
WHAT COMES NEXT?
This is the biggest problem with 30 Day Challenges. The answer is usually I’ll reward myself for a job well done with some time off, extra food, desserts, and alcohol; and when I feel up for it again (re: when I’ve decided that I’m still not happy with my body), I’ll do another challenge. After all - IT’S ONLY 30 DAYS!
What have you learned? What have you changed that you can maintain? What have you gained other than perhaps a feeling of accomplishment?
With this model, nothing really changes. You might see a little weight loss, and you might have some more energy because you’re adding exercise back into your life. Then you go back to the way you were living before, taking comfort in the fact that whenever your distaste for your body begins to take hold again, you can just tuck in to another 30 Day Challenge and all will be right with the world.
In a world of instant results, shortcuts, and “hacks,” it’s easy to brush these off as non-issues. But before you jump into one, ask yourself “is this REALLY what I want?” Forget about the promises and the hype from the commercials. Don’t think about what your friends have said about how great their last challenge was. Just think long and hard about whether your goal is to make some sustainable, healthy changes to your life; or simply to complete a challenge.
A NEW KIND OF CHALLENGE
What should a 30 Day Challenge look like? Well, to begin with, it should not be a program based on extreme intensity and radically altering your life for a short period of time, nor should it be 30 days of “fun” workouts targeted arbitrarily on one body part (I’m looking at you, ab challenge).
It should be a guide. A template for changing your life for the better, for good. A step-by-step, 30 Day education that ends not because 30 days have passed, but because you will no longer need the guide to lead you.
Is a 30 Day Guide all you will ever need to reach your fitness goals and be Happy, Healthy, and Strong For Life? No. I would never make such ridiculous claims. But you should learn some things in those 30 days, both about fitness and about yourself. You should form some new habits and figure out how to integrate healthier choices into your life rather than setting aside a couple of weeks to temporarily force them in. You should get leaner, you should get stronger, and you should know how to keep it that way.