by Martha Hicks Leta
You may have noticed a preponderance of “30 Day Challenge” postings in your social media of late. It’s one of those trends that’s been slowly gathering steam over the past few years and suddenly seems to have exploded into the interweb zeitgeist. Some trends can be fleeting and silly, but the good ones stick when people find value in them.
“Thirty days is enough to get started in the right way, to begin to understand what makes change easier and most importantly, how to stay on the right track,” says Ariane de Bonvoisin, author of “The First 30 Days: Your Guide to Making Any Change Easier.”
For people thinking about fitness, the 30 Day Challenge concept has merit for beginners and experts alike. The idea is to pick an exercise or a small series of exercises and repeat them daily, gradually increasing reps throughout the 30 days with periodic rest days, building toward a goal on day 30 that is significantly greater than the starting point. It’s perfect for beginners because the starting number of reps and duration is very manageable and not terribly time consuming; most people can bang out fifty squats on a commercial break. Such a challenge is also worthwhile for those with more advanced fitness goals as a way to boost the benefits of an existing routine. The idea that you can make a gradual but significant change or achieve something in as short as 30 days is appealing in our world of instant gratification and often inspires greater challenges to follow.
Fitness Together trainer Mike Eaton has spent the last year rehabilitating a severe arm and shoulder injury and knows the value of baby steps; it takes patience and perseverance to claw your way through the tiny achievements of those painful post-surgery PT sessions. It takes still more discipline to fully reclaim your pre-injury fitness, flexibility and strength. As a Fitness Together trainer, Mike sees the value of accountability not just for himself but with his clients every day because they identify the accountability component of their appointments as the key to their fitness success. For Mike, building accountability into his own routine by adding a 30 Day Challenge gave him a “no excuses mentality” and kept him on task.
Toward that end, he designed a grueling 30 Day Challenge for himself. “I had to do at least 100 chest-to-floor burpees, 200 squats, and 200 double-unders (where) the jump-rope passes under you twice instead of once.” (See video box above). For added discipline, Mike decided that the workout had to be completed in one structured session, not in piecemeal throughout the day. He logged each workout with a running total of each day.
“There were plenty of nights after work that I just wanted to get home but I needed to push myself and get the challenge done for the day. After a week I kind of looked forward to getting it done and logging my numbers.”
Mike completed the challenge in early May and says it was definitely worth it. “During and after the challenge I definitely saw improvements in CrossFit as well as my long distance running. I highly recommend trying a challenge and structure it to what you need improvements on.”
Fitness Together Norwell trainer Alicia Tasney began the 30 Day Squat Challenge in April as a way to motivate a few friends who have been historically reluctant to begin exercising. She baited these friends into doing the challenge by promising them that she would to do twice the amount outlined on the challenge web site.
“The squat is a great exercise to focus on for it’s functional benefits,” says Tasney. “It translates to things we do regularly in our every day lives, like getting in and out of the car, walking up stairs, bending over to tie shoes or pick up an object.” When done properly, the benefits of the squat include building muscle; improving flexibility and balance; and gaining strength in the glutes, legs, knees, feet and lower back.
Form is important when doing any exercise, but especially where high reps are involved. Even more important if you’re adding weights. Tasney says that for such a simple exercise, there are many ways to go wrong, and that can lead to injuries of the knees and lower back. (See below for tips on proper form.)
As of tomorrow, Alicia will be on day 21 of the challenge, which means 180 squats for her friends and 360 for her. By the time all is said and done, she’ll have completed 6,590 squats! She says she’s already feeling the benefits from the challenge. When running, her legs feel stronger and take much longer to fatigue. Another benefit? Friends have offered compliments, which we’ll refrain from repeating, but suffice it to say we could rename this challenge the “30 Day ‘Damn, Gurl!’ Awesome Booty Squat Challenge.”
Fitness Together client Karen O’Connor Ripley, a client at FT for several years, is always looking for ways to push herself further. A busy mom who also runs a cleaning business as well as a facebook page, “Ecomomics,” Ripley is a busy person. But when she overheard her trainers, Mike and Alicia, talking about their challenges she decided to incorporate one into her own routine as a way to boost her fitness level without eating up a lot of time. To focus on the area she most wants to improve, Ripley chose an abdominal challenge. “It consist of sit-ups, crunches, planks and push-ups with the reps increasing everyday. This also got me to do plank and push-ups which are two exercises I don’t usually do unless I’m at FT. It’s going good, I like it, it’s gets me going.”
As inhabitants of a planet whose circadian rhythms are tied to the 30-day cycle of the moon, you might say we are hard wired to operate within the parameters of this increment of time. When thinking about making a change or an improvement that involves discipline, a month isn’t really a daunting amount of time, but you may be surprised at what you can accomplish.
If you take up a 30-Day Challenge of any kind, keep these tips in mind:
- Choose a challenge that is doable, but challenges you as it progresses. You’re in this to make progress, not waste time or injure yourself.
- Make sure you’re using proper form. Check with your trainer if you have questions.
- Journal your progress. This will keep you on task and give you a real sense of accomplishment at the end.
- Don’t Beat Yourself Up: If you miss a day, pick up where you left off if possible. If you miss more than a few days, back up or start again. Just don’t give up!
Here are the challenges happening at Fitness Together in Norwell. If you try one, let us know how it goes, or share your challenge here. We’d love to know how you’re doing!
Mike Eaton’s 30 Day Beatin’
To be completed in one session each day for 30 Days
- 100 chest-to-floor burpees
- 200 squats
- 200 double-unders
30 Day Squat Challenge
(Again, Tasney’s doubling this.)
To do a proper squat, keep this slightly bizarre visual in mind: you’re testing a metal chair with your butt to see if it’s hot, discover it is and stand up again. You can even place a chair about a foot behind you to lightly touch down on before standing up. Keep these other tips in mind for proper form*:
- Begin in an athletic stance, feet shoulder width apart, feet slightly turned out, spine in neutral position, abs engaged.
- Keeping your weight in your heels, your head up and your eyes looking ahead (not at the floor) bend your knees until your upper leg is parallel or deeper to the ground. Your butt should be moving backwards as well as downward as your knees hinge, preventing your knees from going forward beyond your toes.
- Throughout the squat, your head is still up, eyes forward, shoulders back and chest out. Don’t collapse your spine and hunch downward.
- To return to the standing position, engage your legs, glutes and abs and squeeze as you “explode” back to your starting position.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
*Have your trainer check your form or help you modify if you have any physical constraints, or if you wish to add weights to increase difficulty.
Day 1 – 50 squats
Day 2 – 55 squats
Day 3- 60 squats
Day 4 – Rest
Day 5 – 70 squats
Day 6 – 75 squats
Day 7 – 80 squats
Day 8 – Rest
Day 9- 100 squats
Day 10 – 105 squats
Day 11 – 110 squats
Day 12 – Rest
Day 13 – 130 squats
Day 14 – 135 squats
Day 15 – 140 squats
Day 16 – Rest
Day 17 – 150 squats
Day 18 – 155 squats
Day 19 – 160 squats
Day 20 – Rest
Day 21 – 180 squats
Day 22 – 185 squats
Day 23 – 190 squats
Day 24 – Rest
Day 25 – 220 squats
Day 26 – 225 squats
Day 27 – 230 squats
Day 28 – Rest
Day 29 – 240 squats
Day 30 – 250 squats
The Mean Ab Challenge
(It says “June” but Karen O’Connor Ripley couldn’t wait. “Thirty days is 30 days!” she says.)
For more about Ariane de Bonvoisin’s inspirational books:. First30days.com
To set up an appointment with Mike, Alicia or Joe at Fitness Together in Norwell call 781-659-0034
To find a Fitness Together Studio near you go to FTGetsResults.com