Monday, December 30, 2013
Without a doubt, the best thing I did during the frustrating holiday season was complete a fitness challenge. I was inspired by Elise's #mileaday challenge to run a mile a day every day from Thanksgiving to New Year's Eve. When Elise first blogged about this challenge two years ago, I admit I thought it was crazy. Commit to daily exercise during the busiest and most stressful time of the year? I ain't got time for that! Exercise on Christmas Day? No way! Why not just wait until January 1st to get into shape like everyone else does?
But I quickly realized this challenge was not crazy, it was genius! Exercise is the perfect solution to the stress, winter blues, and indulgence of the holiday season and it's a great time to get a jumpstart on being healthy and active in the new year. So this year, I was on board. Except that I don't run. And while "I hate running" and "I suck at it" are not really valid excuses since the purpose of this challenge is to challenge myself, the fact that I have crappy post-surgical hips and constant joint pain is a valid excuse. So running was definitely out for me. The second difficulty was that I don't live in Southern California and I do live in a place with winter weather, so outdoor exercise is also out for me during this time of year. (Freezing my butt off and/or exercising while wearing a parka are two things that definitely suck, in my opinion.)
My low-impact indoor solution was #ridefive: I would ride five miles on my recumbent stationary bike every day from the day after Thanksgiving through the end of the year. Five miles turned out to be the perfect distance - it took about 20+ minutes for me to complete, so there was no excuse for not being able to fit in a 20 minute work out each day. And five miles was long enough that it was challenging and got my heart pumping, but short enough that I could ride every day without burning myself out or risking injury.
And I did it! This is huge for me because I suck at exercising and I suck at completing goals and staying motivated. I am usually very easily discouraged and I am often a quitter. But this challenge was perfect for me. The key to my success was the daily commitment - I actually found this easier than an "I will exercise three times a week" kind of goal because you can't make excuses like "Oh, I'll just exercise tomorrow instead" and put it off and completely fall off the wagon. You have to do this every single day. And while I didn't have a perfect record and I did end up missing a few days (and I had to end the challenge on December 29th instead of the 31st because we were going out of town to a place without a bike), I didn't let that stop me. It wasn't easy. There were days where it suddenly ended up being 11:30 pm and I had to drag myself upstairs to ride before bed. There were days that I spent all day on my feet vending at art markets that were 100 miles away, and I had to come home and get on the bike. There were a couple times when I went out in the evening for drinks and made myself ride (while slightly intoxicated) afterwards - those days definitely felt like two steps forward, one step back. (Lesson learned: It is definitely preferable to exercise in the morning.) But I did it, and I'm pretty darn proud of myself for sticking with it! And many of my friends and followers commented or e-mailed me that I was inspiring them, which blows my mind. I'm pretty sure this is the first time that I've ever inspired anyone to exercise!
I learned a lot from this challenge and I'll definitely use this method to set myself up for success with future goals. Here are a few things that kept me motivated throughout #ridefive:
+ Daily commitment - The daily requirement prevented me from being able to put off exercising to another day, plus it helped create a new habit that will hopefully continue to be part of my daily routine. Also, not wanting to break my streak was a great motivator!
+ Defined start/end dates - I can do anything for 30ish days, especially when the end is in sight!
+ Setting a reasonable goal - Five miles was not too hard or time consuming, so there was no reason I couldn't complete the goal daily. This challenge wasn't about pushing myself to the max - it was about being active every day.
+ Not riding more than five miles - I think my past failures have been the result of trying to do too much. Even if I was feeling really good during my ride, I made myself stop at five miles to make sure I'd be able to complete the goal the next day, too.
+ Not letting small setbacks discourage me - In the past, missing one day might have caused me to give up on the whole thing. While it was disappointing to miss a few days, I reminded myself that exercising 25 days out of 30 is still a lot better than not exercising at all.
+ Combining the fitness challenge with a photo challenge - I took a daily photo of my ride and posted it to Instagram with hashtag #ridefive. This made the challenge feel more creative, plus I got a lot of encouragement by sharing on social media - thank you!
+ Tegan and Sara - T&S have definitely been the soundtrack to my entire year, and Heartthrob is the perfect workout album.
So that's my recap of a challenge that will hopefully become a yearly holiday tradition. I feel great and am totally inspired right now. And while I'll never become a fitness blogger, I do hope to be more active in 2014 and maybe get into outdoor cycling! (Just as soon as the weather gets nicer...)