Last month I decided to do a 30-day fitness challenge. Part of the reason for this was to try to get back into shape. The second reason was to see whether these challenges actually work or not. I was pretty sure ti wouldn’t work. Afterall, how could adding some exercise for a month really make a huge difference? Especially when I was still eating like I always have. Well, that was a bit reason why I wanted to test one of these challenges out. To see just how accurate the results were. I highly doubted that I would go from fat to a ripped skinny girl, but why not give it a try. In the end, no matter the results, I would at least be in a better place than where I started. And so today I will be sharing my 30-day fitness challenge results.
The starting point
Before I get to the results, I figured it would be a good idea to go over where I was when this started. I had spent the last few years doing next to nothing. Most of my time was spent sitting in front of the computer. Any exercise I got was more incidental than deliberate. After all, I had to walk through the house to go get my food or to reach the bedroom for sleep. Otherwise, I didn’t do much. A few factors led to a sudden weight gain last year, although I had been a few pounds over my normal weight before that happened.
The biggest thing that pushed me towards trying this challenge, was the fact that I no longer liked what I looked like. While I have always struggled with liking who I saw in the mirror, it had come to the point that I avoided looking at myself as much as possible. My already low confidence dropped, my anxiety skyrocketed and I just didn’t like going out, even though I put on baggy clothes to hide myself in. At this point, I knew I had to make a change or I would likely slip into depression, and I didn’t want that to happen.
What I learned along the way
I knew this whole challenge would be difficult. However, there were a few things along the way that acted as stumbling blocks. So, before I get to the results, I want to share some things I learned and a few tips for those who may be considering doing a similar challenge or simply working on getting back into shape.
In all of the challenged that I looked through, not a single one of them mentioned any stretching or cooling down afterward. This was something I added into my routine and it made a big difference. It only takes a couple of minutes to stretch your muscles in preparation for the workout ahead. There were a few days where I skipped the stretched and I felt it immediately. So, I would stop and make sure to give my muscles the proper warmup before continuing. A cool down period is also important. More stretching, or even walking around the house, is a good way to cool down and lower your heart rate back down to normal.
Listen to your body
It’s so important to listen to your body. Starting out, you will be sore, your breath will be short and your heart rate will be high. However, it’s important to pay attention to these and the rest of what your body is saying. You do not want to push yourself so hard that you injure yourself. If something in a joint or muscle doesn’t feel right, then your form may be off, or you may need to take a break. If you can only do 10 jumping jacks and then need to rest before doing more, that’s fine! You will eventually be able to increase that number as you go.
A big thing to take into account is any old injuries you may have. I have two bad knees and shoulders, and one really bad ankle. I honestly wondered whether they would hold up to all of these exercises. Almost from day one, my knees were revolting against me. However, I took it slow and gave them breaks along the way, and for the most part, they were fine. I will admit, that by day 14 my knees were done when it came to the wall sit and the jumping jacks. Even after getting a brace, they could not hold up to those exercises. So, I made a decision. I would cut out the wall sit and do an extra plank to make up for it. As far as the jumping jacks are concerned, I went with alternative ones that lessened the impact on my knees.
Do alternatives if needed
As I mentioned above, I had to start doing alternative jumping jacks because my knees were causing me too much pain. I could do about five of them by the middle of the challenge before the pain was too much. So, I did some research and found some alternatives. The alternative that I chose was the single leg balance hip abduction. To be honest, I found these to be more exhausting than the regular jumping jacks. Even my husband commented on how tiring they were when he tried them.
Another way to do alternative exercises, if to not go as deep into things like squats and lunges when you start. I certainly did not go all the way into a lunge at the beginning of the month. Yet, as the month progressed I was able to build up my strength and soon I was doing a full lunge with little issue.
This sounds like common sense, but it can be easy to forget to drink as you workout. I found that the best thing to do was to fill up my water bottle before I started. Then, even time I took a break or between each exercise, I would take a small drink. You definitely don’t want to chug the water. The last thing you need is a belly full of water before starting your jumping jacks. By the time I was done with the day’s workout, my water bottle was near empty.
Don’t forget to breath
Another thing that should be obvious. Yet, from personal experience, I know how easy it can be to hold one’s breath while exercising. But doing this robs your muscles of oxygen as you workout. Just be conscious of your breathing along the way.
Also, it can be hard to breathe and count at the same time. Sounds silly, but whether counting in your head or out loud, it is so easy to lose track of what number you were on or to start holding your breath so that you can count.
It’s a mental game
The last thing I wanted to touch on is how much of a mental challenge working out is. Especially for those of us who already struggle with mental issues. Since I already hated what I looked like, even long before now, it was so easy to look in the mirror at day 3 and not seeing any change yet I felt discouraged. Even at the end, when I could see a change in my body, there was always that nagging voice in my head that told me it wasn’t good enough.
It can also be a mental game to get the exercises done. Whether it was a long day already, you are tired, sore, hungry or you just aren’t feeling it. The mental roadblock was by far the thing I struggled with the most. This is why I was so grateful that my family did this challenge along with me because it kept me motivated and they were there to tell me to keep going when my brain was telling me to stop.
30 day fitness challenge results
I know what you are thinking. So, did it work? To be honest, yes and no.
As you can see, my belly has shrunk. It still sticks out. However, it definitely has gone down and I am much happier with it than before. My love handles are still present, although they too have gotten smaller. Overall, this was a decent improvement for just 30 days of exercise. While this does not reflect what the challenge promises for results, I am pretty happy with it. I have to say, this challenge was a great way to jumpstart my fitness journey.
My weight really didn’t change much. At the end, I weighed 149 pounds, which is only one pound less than where I started. However, with all of the muscle that I put on, I’m not surprised by the lack of weight loss. After all, muscle does weigh more than fat.
The biggest change of all has been to my overall health. When I first started, it was such a struggle to do all of the exercises. It got them done but I would be so out of breath and my heart would be racing that I seriously questioned whether I should keep going or not. Once I got over the hump, it became a bit easier. Even with the number of each exercise increasing each day, I was able to do it. Sure, I had to spread it out over a larger block of time and to take breaks along the way, but I did it.
My legs show the greatest improvement of all. I have quite impressive calf muscles now. My thigh muscles are growing and I am even gaining back my thigh gap. Hell, even my butt got smaller.
My stomach did shrink, and while I wasn’t blessed with a sixpack or even a flat stomach, it was nice to see there were improvements in this category. Even the fat that remains in this area has softened up quite a bit, which means I’m slowly burning it away.
The area of least change would be my arms. Because so few exercises included the arms, they were the part that felt the most neglected in the process. I will admit that I added some weight lifting along the way to give me arms a bit more attention. I feel that this didn’t really affect the overall results of the challenge too much. However, it did make doing the pushups easier. Pushups have always been my weak point because I have bad shoulders. So improving the overall strength of my arms helped me in this.
What didn’t work
Well, the most obvious answer is that it did not give me those promised results. I did not because skinny and get a sixpack. Am I disappointed? I guess in a way I am. However, it’s also what I expected. Now, some may argue that because I went into this thinking that it wouldn’t work, that it would affect the results. Maybe they are right. However, my husband did this challenge with me and even he didn’t get the ripped look either. Granted, I still saw a big difference in him.
I found that most of the exercises in this challenge were leg focused. The lunges, squats and jumping jacks all worked the legs. Yes, the core was involved to a certain extent, but I definitely would have liked to see more core related exercises. I also felt that there were a number of areas that got little to no work. My arms, for example, really only got a small amount of use through pushups and the jumping jacks.
Now that the 30-day challenge is over, it’s time to consider what I will do next. I definitely plan to continue exercising. I actually crave it now. Which honestly sounds really weird, but it’s true. After sitting for a while, I have the strongest urge to get up and move. Even during the challenge, I would need to get up and do something or my body would revolt.
While I do plan to exercise, I do not plan to follow the exercises in this challenge anymore. I may incorporate some of them into a new routine. But, if I am perfectly honest, I never want to do 300 jumping jacks in a single day ever again. What I will do is find a routine that is a better overall body workout and stick with that for a while. I don’t know what my ultimate fitness goal is yet, but for right now, I just want to continue to improve my overall health and eventually get back down to my usual weight.
On top of continuing to regularly exercise, I will also be making a few changes to my overall diet. I am going to be cutting back on the amount of sugar that I consume. This alone will make a huge difference. I will also be making sure to cut back on my carb intake. These changes are bound to help me going forward.