During the month of January, I challenged myself to "Get Back to Active." What? Me, get more active? Although it's true that my career is already quite active, it's also important to cross-train. Doing the same thing over and over without variety is a great way to overwork muscles and get injured, and I felt I needed a little kick in the pants to get me in the habit of doing things outside of, and different from, the classes I teach.
My January challenge ran for 21 consecutive days. Why 21? Because, ultimately, I want to do a different challenge each month this year, and my brain can do math, and then it just sounds way long and potentially unattainable. So I figure approximately a week "off" each month isn't too much to ask in exchange for developing or tweaking 12 new habits this year. (Number one rule: know how you tick and plan accordingly!)
My goal in January was to do 30 minutes of physical activity each day. Classes I teach did NOT count toward that 30. High intensity was less important to me than high variety and consistency. That means that I was more interested in doing something gentle and restorative every day than in cranking out a boot camp session three times a week. I wasn't interested in turning the fitness world on its head; I just wanted to feel better after my teaching day.
So how did I do? My activities of choice included yoga, swimming, stretching on my barre at home, taking a walk, and sometimes, low-intensity dance rehearsals on my own. Overall, I was pleased with my success. Throughout the challenge, I felt improvements in muscle strength, endurance, and flexibility, as well as reduced aches and pains. Late in the month, I did miss one day. I decided not to berate myself mentally over losing that one day of consistency, since I paid for it physically with achy muscles waking me up in the middle of the night.
And that's when I realized that the whole challenge thing, for me, is not about how my ego will rejoice or suffer if I do or don't "make" the goal. It's about making any improvements, no matter how small, and noticing what I learn along the way.
[If you are intrigued by the challenge notion, but aren't sure where to start, I recommend ChallengeLoop.com. From the hundreds of open challenges, some of them designed by fitness industry professionals, you can find a challenge that speaks to your health and fitness goals.]