Wow. So, it’s taken me a few weeks to write this post. If you’ve been paying attention at all around Healthy Crush land, you know I did a 30 Day Fitness Challenge in February. The goal was to have a breakthrough in fitness, which for me, meant pushing my boundaries and trying new workouts that were previously out of my comfort zone.
I committed to working out every day for 30 days for at least 45 minutes — walking didn’t count — and trying at least 8 new workouts over the course of the month.
I completed the challenge successfully, but I expected my post-challenge recap to be much different than this. I started writing this recap immediately after the challenge was over and I had big plans to get it up immediately. But obviously I wasn’t meant to finish it until now. I needed to experience what I’ve experienced over the past few weeks before I could fully give you a recap. (I’m so dramatic I know, but this is serrrrrious stuff)!
Before I get into my learnings from the challenge, I need to give a huge shout out to my “fitness concierge”, Jamie Graber. She scoured the city for workouts she thought I should try, texting me exactly which classes to book and which teachers, and reminding me what time I needed to be there. She also accompanied me on almost every single workout (and listened to me psychoanalyze myself every day in various locker rooms around the city). Such a champ, I’m so grateful. She’s super in the know about workouts around NYC, so get in touch with her if you need a fitness routine refresh.
So, ok, what REALLY happened during my fitness challenge?
Let’s cover the good stuff first.
I ended up trying 10 new workouts I’d never tried before. It was really, really fun. I spent almost the entire month just working out and instagramming it all. Fitness classes and instagram, not a bad career.
It was always possible for me to honor my commitment to the challenge. The main thing I learned is that it’s really not that difficult to fit in 45 minutes of exercise. Even on the days when I had commitments all day long, I went to a 7am yoga class or got out for an evening jog. Now after trying all of these workouts (especially after trying Crossfit), I know that it’s even possible to get a workout in even if you only have 10 minutes. Really, it’s true. If you don’t think you have time to exercise, try doing 15 squats, 10 pushups, and 10 situps – alternating those things over and over without stopping for 10 minutes straight. Then report back and tell me it wasn’t a workout.
Weights/high intensity training changes my body in a different way than any other exercise has. All I was doing before this challenge was jogging and yoga – which are both awesome, and I know you can absolutely build strength from both – but my body began changing in a different way when I incorporated different weight training and high intensity exercises. I always dismissed those types of workouts, but I really could see and feel a difference quite quickly.
Getting stronger physically makes me feel stronger in life. Within the last 2 years, I had at least 3 different energy healers tell me that I needed to build up my physical strength in order to heal some emotional “stuff” that was chilling in my body. Whether that’s true or not (or why I kept finding myself in the presence of so many energy healers…), who cares, but that topic kept coming up, and now I’m starting to understand why. Feeling physically stronger, even just a little bit, makes me feel more invincible and strong in other situations.
My body can do more than I think it can. Before this, I had an idea in my head that 1 yoga class or a light jog was all I needed to do to get the fitness results I wanted. After trying other fitness classes, bootcamps, etc, I realized I’m capable of more than that on most days. It didn’t take long to change my mindset around fitness.
Finding teachers I love being instructed by is the key. Most of the time, I will admit, I prefer male fitness instructors. I already knew this about myself, but it was confirmed once again during the challenge. I just get more amped up when there’s a cute guy telling me what to do. Some people think it’s something I need to “look at” about myself, but hey, I say, who cares? Whatever gets me motivated to get out of bed in the morning and work out, I’ll take it.
OK. Now let’s get to the reality of the situation. It’s important for me to share this, even though it’s been hard to admit and even harder to get myself to sit down and write it.
The truth about the challenge?
I went a little psycho.
And I got really, really sick.
I pushed myself really hard during this challenge. Some days I went to 3 workout classes in one day. It was intense and extreme. Near the end of the challenge, I started to feel fatigued, exhausted on some days, but I kept going anyway.
Towards the end of the challenge when I started to feel fatigued and tired, I began playing with different dietary changes to see how it would affect my workouts and my energy. I got obsessed with researching the perfect diet to optimize every workout, and I found myself stressing out over things like the “optimal window of time” to consume protein after a workout, becoming “fat adapted,” getting my body into “ketosis” as quickly as possible, and making sure I didn’t put one morsel of sugar into my body, not even fruit.
At the same time that I was changing my diet, I was reading the 4-Hour Body every night as a bedtime story, taking cold showers every day, and started taking supplements (the PAGG stack, to be specific). I was pretty sure that I was invincible.
I had this “brilliant plan” that I was going to try all of these things at once and then write an e-book about how to effectively hack your body composition in 2 weeks. I got so excited about this idea that I really didn’t even pay attention to how I was feeling. I didn’t consider the option of it not working out perfectly, I just powered through like a crazy person. (After Landmark, I was like, I can do anyyyythingggg!)
All of a sudden, with all of these changes at once…I crashed. I woke up one day and couldn’t even walk from my bedroom to the kitchen without collapsing on the couch. My entire body ached, I had flu-like symptoms and my energy was zero. My immune system was like, DUDE!!!!!! WTF are you doing?! I couldn’t even walk down the stairs of my apartment to buy garlic at the bodega downstairs.
Now, to be clear, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with doing any of the above things I mentioned, in fact, I think there is great validity and benefits to all of it. But I pushed through so many things with my mind that I didn’t pay attention to how my body was feeling.
After the challenge when I posted on instagram about being sick, I got an email from a professional athlete.
“You just went through an enormous amount of physical activity the last few weeks. Even as a professional athlete I couldn’t do what you did. My body won’t let me. It took guts and determination to keep going like you did. Just keep in mind your body may be asking for a break to recover from the adventure you put it through.”
I went to Nicaragua shortly after the challenge was over and I serendipitously met a guy named Jason who specializes in functional rehab. I told him what happened to me. He wasn’t surprised at all that I got so sick.
I asked him to contribute something for this blog. He said…
“While you may become a little immunosuppressed for several hours after physical training, the immune system returns to an even stronger level post-training. This cycle can be interrupted, however, when an athlete subjects his or herself to overtraining.
Not allowing your body the proper recovery time before resuming intense physical activity can lead to chronic fatigue, breakdown of your body’s tissues, and becoming more injury-prone.
Therefore, it’s important to develop a body awareness. Remember that you’re training to build yourself up not break yourself down. Scaling workouts properly, learning your body’s response to fatigue levels and checking your ego at the door will allow you to avoid that pesty cough that never seems to completely go away. Journaling your workout is ultimately the best way to understand this process.”
Read more from Jason on how to listen to pain.
As a result of my challenge, I’ve been recovering for weeks and haven’t felt 100% since. Pushing to the extreme caused me to actually have to take more time away from exercise than I ever have before. Not my intended result for this challenge.
The challenge really reminded me of my addictive nature, and that I often find myself going to extremes in order to learn unexpected lessons.
The final verdict, and my lesson?
Push past your personal edge. Find your boundaries and test them. But if you want to make sustainable change, it’s important to balance your mind’s determination and dedication with listening to your body and your energy levels. Be willing to change course if something’s not working.
I can be superwoman sometimes….but if I want to function powerfully in life, I really have to slow it down a bit, too.
So that’s the truth. Thanks to everyone who followed along with my challenge. I got a lot of out of the experience, and now I’m on the quest to balance awesome badass workouts with even more badass periods of rest and recovery.
I’m working on developing a more sustainable fitness plan. If you have experience with this type of thing, please, chime in. I’m a work in progress.