I can’t even deny it - I used to hate fitness challenges. You know, the ones that generate a lot of hype and then are over after thirty days or so. As a coach who prioritizes longevity, I want …
I can’t even deny it - I used to hate fitness challenges. You know, the ones that generate a lot of hype and then are over after thirty days or so. As a coach who prioritizes longevity, I want to see people make changes to their habits that last and impact their entire lives. Oftentimes, our habits we begin to build during challenges disappear once the challenge is over.
This has led me to shy away from recommending or hosting challenges altogether. However, as I’ve gotten older and more experienced in coaching, I can see more clearly the place challenges have in a person’s health journey and the benefits they can bring.
Building off of my recent article about using seasons to avoid burnout, challenges can be used to jumpstart new habits while decreasing overwhelm. One of the main struggles people face when it comes to their health and fitness is generating and maintaining momentum. Momentum can be created when we pair motivation with action, and we often feel motivated when we start something new like a challenge.
It’s easier to take action when we feel motivated and when the actions we need to take are clearly laid out for us. The short time frame, added accountability, and spark of excitement we feel from joining a challenge is not something to be dismissed.
Focusing deeply on a part of our health and fitness for the timeframe of a challenge, usually somewhere between four to twelve weeks, can exponentially improve our progress. Committing to ourselves for an amount of time that doesn’t feel overwhelming helps us see what we are capable of and can be a great confidence booster.
We can see increases in our baseline expectations of ourselves and still mitigate the burnout that can come from being “in-season” every day of the year.
It’s also important to recognize that our health journey is not linear and will not always be moving forward. We will have setbacks and challenges. We will have to take time off for one reason or another and we will get bored and tired.
Although we will have to pause from time to time, we rarely will rebound all the way back to where we started. We will probably see some decreases in our strength and face challenges with consistency again, but we will never have to completely start over. From this perspective, it can be very helpful to look at challenges as a tool to help us reignite our fire, dial in when we are able to focus on our health the most, or change direction when we need a little extra boost.
With all of this being said, I still don’t think we should approach our health and fitness by jumping from one challenge to another or completely stopping all of our healthy habits once we finish a program. I also see problems with the way that many challenges are marketed, often misleading us into believing all of our problems will be solved in an unrealistically short amount of time.
As we discuss often in this column, Moving Toward Health is a lifelong journey, and challenges are just one tool we can use to help us keep moving in the right direction. Although you will likely see some results in a few weeks, the changes you’re looking to make will usually take longer than a few weeks to accomplish. Using challenges strategically and infrequently will allow you to capitalize on the power they hold the most.
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