Back in January, at the very beginning of 2019, I was in a very hopeless place. My husband and I weren’t talking. I was depressed, drowning in wine to avoid my anxiety and heartache from not being able to fix the situation. I was sinking fast, as I stopped caring about myself entirely.
I had only enough energy left to function enough at work and to take care of my kids. It was all a solid struggle. Then one day, I looked over at the bright lights glowing from the LA Fitness sign, as I was taking my son to karate, and drove straight over to sign up for a membership at the gym, which was a move that would bring me back to life.
Since that day, I worked through many more struggles. My husband moved out and the house decided to fall apart. I spent my entire savings on an extensive septic repair, after it had backed up into my basement.
The contractors I hired to fix this disaster were a nightmare. My sweet dog, Stanley, ended up quarantined by animal control because an incompetent contractor sent a random worker to my house without giving me any notice, and the guy walked through my fenced-in backyard while I was at work and claimed to have been bitten by my dog. I had to go to court twice, but it was eventually dismissed. I ended up in court again to finalize my divorce. The one thing that stayed consistent throughout the turbulence was working out at the gym.
Working out grounded and energized me. The focus I placed on my fitness goals never wavered amid the curve-balls life was throwing my way. That Christmas, one of the gifts I got for my boys was a spring break trip to Cancun. I committed myself to the gym, having just 3 months to get my body bikini ready. I stopped drinking wine, I started caring about myself again, and with the encouragement and support of my trainer, I was quickly losing depression weight and feeling better and better in my skin. Once Cancun came and went, I kept going to the gym and continued to train, but I lost all focus, and after a few months, I didn’t feel like my workouts were getting me anywhere.
I realized what I was missing when I showed up for a session with my trainer about a month ago, and she poked my belly. She asked me, “What is going on there?” I was gaining weight and it showed! I immediately recognized that I was spinning my wheels and not working toward any attainable goal.
When I hit the gym to work out just to get a work out in, it does not have the same impact as focusing on a goal and seeing results.
It was Thanksgiving, so I thought what a perfect time for a 30 day challenge to lose weight! Who tries to lose weight during the holidays? I do. I wanted to end 2019 with the best version of me that I could achieve, far from where I began in January as a depressed, soon-to-be divorcee who caught the twinkle of the gym lights in her teary eyes.
I was determined to end 2019 with a bang, and these are the results of my 30 day challenge.
30 Day Challenge Goals: Lose 15-20 pounds and >5% body fat.
30 Day Challenge Diet: Keep calorie intake between 1800-2000, with 50% coming from protein, 30% carbohydrates, 20% fats. I tracked my nutrition using the MyFitnessPal app. I also tried to keep my sodium intake low, cut back on dairy, and eliminate alcohol.
30 Day Challenge Regimen: A 30 day challenge requires vigilance and consistency! It is not for the faint at heart. If you don’t give it your absolute all in 30 days, you might as well not start a challenge. Therefore, my workout schedule might seem excessive, but if I only have 30 days, I have to do what it takes to give myself a chance to get there.
My trainer, Nicky, kept all my personal training sessions in a workout journal. We focused on resistance and weight training to build lean muscle to replace the fat. In 30 days, I only had 4 days when I did not workout. Otherwise, I trained with Nicky for about 45 minutes for 20 days, working specific muscle groups each day. On the other days, I was doing 90 minutes of hot yoga or burning at least 400 calories doing cardio (Hint: track your calorie expenditure with an activity tracker or fitness app). Some days I doubled up on cardio and personal training. It looked like this:
30 Day Challenge Results: I DID NOT reach my goals. But, I got results. Lost 5 pounds, 2% Body Fat, and most impressively lost 2.5 inches in my waist and 3 inches around my chest.
Even with working out daily and tracking nutrition, 30 days was not enough time to lose an ambitious 15-20 pounds and 5% body fat. Realistically, we need at least 3-4 more months to get there, while scaling back to working out 3 days a week. A 30 day challenge goal should overreach your expectations, but don’t be discouraged if you don’t get there. You’re still better off than you were when you started, and you have a clear idea of what it will actually take to get the rest of the way there.
In the 30 days since embarking on this fitness journey, I’ve reestablished good eating habits by tracking my macros. I’ve improved my sleep habits, because of regular exercise but also because I had to be well-rested to get through each day! I stopped having my glass of wine to unwind, because those were calories that I couldn’t afford.
30 Day Challenge Takeaways:
Set high expectations, but don’t be disappointed in realistic results
Challenges are a great way to stay motivated! You know it will be over, which helps push you toward a finish line.
Challenges help eliminate bad habits by keeping you focused on achievement.
More Than a Fitness Challenge
Overall the 30 day challenge has had an enormous impact beyond fitness, helping me become more productive and focused in my creative and professional pursuits. I started writing again and dug into the stack of books I’ve been meaning to read. It helped activate me where I had been slacking off and forced me to function under that high level of discipline.
I started writing early in the mornings and published ten articles on Medium. Since I was on the challenge kick, I set a goal of reaching 1000 views in 30 days, and I surpassed that goal, reaching 1,114 views, 481 reads, 45 followers, and 40 fans in less than 30 days on the platform. I launched my website, which has been a dormant intention for years now. I started branding and promoting my work and initiated a serious effort toward establishing myself as a writer.
I challenged myself to get comfortable with being on video. People use video all over social media, but I’ve always been too self-conscious to go there. Part of taking my writing efforts seriously included getting over this camera shyness. An online presence requires a multimedia production. I forced myself to video tape these workouts as a way to induct myself into the world of video and video editing. With each video, I got more comfortable with being in front of the camera and fairly decent at whipping up some video edits.
What I've relished most about all of the challenges that were inspired by my fitness challenge is the tons of fun along the way! The inspiration that comes from each achievement feeds itself, nurturing even more inspiration to reach new heights.
With a new decade looming, I am taking myself into 2020 on the right foot; high expectations, discipline, and grateful for coming so far from where I started. Cheers.
This challenge went so well, you can count on more challenges to come. Until then, enjoy this interview between me and my incredible trainer, Nicky, where we discuss the results of this 30 day challenge and her professional opinion on how it went and where we go from here. And if you've ever contemplated getting a personal trainer, here’s why you should do that!