As I mentioned. When starting my 30 day challenge. I had attempted it before, only to fall short twice. This time, I made sure that wasn’t going to happen. I was dedicated. Motivated and ready to attack. I had given myself ample time off. Healing a troublesome shoulder. Which in turn made the starting point a little rough. I had taken to laziness in the month leading up to the challenge.
The purpose of this challenge was to see what types of changes I could evoke. Both mentally and physically. Of course I was intent on losing weight and becoming more fit. Though I wanted to see how broad the reach of change really is. Does attempting something physical only change your appearance? Can it also bleed into your mental capabilities? I think it’s safe to say, that we all understand that exercise, physical tests and pushing ourselves to our limits, can help harden our focus and self discipline. But how does it affect our general strain of thought?
When I began the challenge, I weighed in at 205 lbs. My goal was to see what would happen in 30 days. Working out every day, with no days off. Utilizing body weight exercises and limited home gym equipment. To achieve a weight of 185 lbs. It’s only 20 lbs, doesn’t seem too hard, seems realistic.
When I started out I changed nothing about my diet. It was a week into the new year. Despite having goals, I wasn’t totally ready to give up on the seasonal slaughter of every sugar cookie and cup of rum infused eggnog, I could get my hands on. Lets not forget the Superbowl and all it’s beer soaked chicken fried goodness.
Half way through the challenge I smartened up and got a better handle on my nutritional intentions. I never want to be the guy that’s strict on his diet though. I do enjoy food. I want to be able to understand it’s effects and in turn eat the things I like, when I can. It’s all about moderation. Limiting intake. Testing your resolve and rewarding your ability to reach goals. There’s nothing wrong with indulging. It is an issue when your indulging every chance you get.
Now Let’s get to the meat and potatoes…
I am not a personal trainer, physician or physiotherapist. I highly recommend, you consult a health care professional before attempting any type of workout, exercise or fitness routine. Before using any equipment or training routines discussed in this blog. You should again consult with a physician and make sure you are not putting yourself at unnecessary risk.
30 day workout challenge. No days off.
During this challenge I used the Fitify App for android and apple. A body weight exercise program. It starts you off with a 5 week plan based on your current fitness level and the goals you want to achieve. The workouts involve full body movements, great for over all endurance and strength, as well as body manipulation. And really what’s the point of being ripped if you can’t throw yourself around. The workouts include HIIT, Light Cardio, Circuit training and Endurance training.
I tried to complete each 20 minute routine, at the start of my workouts. Even though it took me some time to be able to complete all of the exercises and sometimes all of the routines. I found it to be a solid warm up for your training sessions.
As I progressed through the challenge, I ended up doing just that. Completing all of the exercises and routines. Even though I was exhausted, drenched in sweat and could barely feel my thighs. A 5 minute break and I was ready to go again. The routines in this app seemed to really energize me. I’m not sure if it’s how the workouts are laid out, or, if it’s a side effect of recognizing the improvements in strength and control. After a brief rest, it was like an adrenaline explosion. I just didn’t want to stop.
Clearly I highly recommend Fitify. I’ve mentioned it to others on Twitter. They seem very happy with their results, in just the first few weeks of use.
Aside from body weight exercises I did use some equipment. I don’t have a gym membership and I do all my “training” if you want to call it that. At home. I have a few pieces of equipment, acquired over the past couple of years, that I feel are the best for people of all income and fitness levels. It won’t break the bank and you don’t need a large space. The reason I picked this equipment specifically, is because I want to be functionally fit. I want to be able to manipulate my body as best I can, for the immediate physical responsibilities that I have.
The following are affiliate links. Equipment that I highly recommend. Any proceeds made from these ads, are at no extra cost to you. The products I recommend, I have used. Tested and found to hold great value. If you do decide to purchase, I thank you in advance.
Marcy Power Tower
A test of discipline, starting off…
Five days after my original start date, was when I actually began the challenge. I put in a couple half hour, free weight, workouts in those five days. Nothing strenuous, just something to give me a little taste. Some times I need the carrot dangled in front of me. Something to chase, sparks my competitive nature. Putting in minimal effort does a couple things for me.
First it gets me interested. Then I take it away. Creating a desire to go back and do the exercises again, because I didn’t feel like I got enough on the first go. That back and forth goes on for five days. Until finally, I slide into the zone. The one, where, it’s no longer about having to work out. Instead it becomes about what happens when you workout. Slowly, after each training session it starts to be you. Lending itself to who you are and what you can be.
Mindset was the first thing to change. Yeah I could lift a good amount of weight. Get crazy competitive. Push and push, forcing one more rep, one more push up. The mindset to want to do the exercise. The need to get a workout in and train harder. Without the initial mental war. Came surprisingly quickly. Seeing as I wasn’t taking any days off and I had a purpose. That helped. However I was still surprised at how fast negative cerebral interjection died off.
I should have had my nutrition on point from the beginning. I wanted to see if I could still eat like I was, and lose the weight. Well I was way wrong on that. Not that I was eating crazy unhealthy, but I was definitely a little too indulgent in pizza, Christmas treats, beer and chicken wings.
Thinking I was going to be able to maintain this diet and hit my goal weight of 185 lbs, was going to be impossible. As soon as I started to add heavier weights to my exercise routine, working out for longer periods of time. I started eating more. The key to eating more, is not, eat what you want. Hoping the workouts will take care of the over indulgence. No sir or ma’am. You have to be that much more vigilant in what you put into your body.
Two things happened.
First I did notice a change in my physique. I did see a little more muscular development. Probably a side effect of all the hot sauce covered protein I was shoveling in my face. Combined with the jump in weight. Made for a little bit thicker Justin.
The second thing that happened. Even though I was seeing muscular gains and seeing a little bit of thickness throughout my shoulders and upper body. I Jumped up in weight by 6 lbs. Even though It doesn’t seem like much. When your 2 weeks in to a challenge expecting to be dropping weight and you jump up 6 lbs. It can blow the air right out of your tires.
The only way to fix this. Was to cut out the bad food. I didn’t cut it out completely. Instead what I did was. Eliminate any fast food. No more buying food from a restaurant. Everything had to be cooked at home. Not even a coffee shop coffee. This impacted my weight loss the most. As soon as I cut out restaurant food and fast food. The pounds started to melt off.
If you are trying to effect your weight. The most important thing you can do, is limit your food in take, to smaller portions. Remove junk food, fast food and snack foods, anything that won’t help fuel your body. Lifting weights will sculpt your body. Nutrition is the hands of the sculptor.
Here are a couple tips.
1, instead of chips, have assorted nuts. Almonds and Cashews are my go to.
2, Instead of refined white sugar in your coffee, add sugarcane, raw brown sugar crystals. It is natural and much better for you.
3, Try intermittent fasting. Where you don’t eat from 8pm until Lunch time the next day. It is great for losing weight. Teaching yourself to hold off and build up that self discipline. The results are pretty incredible and it’s an easily sustained way of life. The first couple days are a little tough in the morning. You do adjust quickly to it though.
Having no days off in this challenge. It became essential, to have my nutrition on point as best as I could. Avoiding mid afternoon crashes, and early morning groggy wake ups, was a top priority. Which had me rethinking, my no rest days policy, as well.
While redesigning my plan. I was able to reset the exercise routines. Moving away from isolation exercises and overload. On the days that would have been potential for a day off. I would do a 20-30 minute routine or ride the bike. Something a little lighter, more cardio based. That way I wasn’t straining my joints all the time. Or attempting to haul around heavy weight. So my rest days essentially became my cardio days. In addition to this I made sure to get a strict 8 hrs of sleep every night.
This time around I didn’t experience any of the tweaks, like the first attempt. My shoulder was great, no issues. I credit those half hour days, the stretching routines and sleep schedule, as major contributing factors in completing this challenge.
I recommend rest days. You really do need them. Your body can’t fully recover, repair and grow without them. Even though I was making progress, I felt like I wasn’t making as much progress as I could. Part of that was due to the fact that I didn’t have those full rest days. Once the challenge was complete and I took a few days off. I noticed much more dramatic change. My arms got thicker, shoulders popped out a little more. My neck stood up slightly higher, my lats got a little wider, and the V shape we all wish we had, started to show some definition.
The biggest problem, not really a problem, was that my belly seemed to be staying the same. All these great things were happening. I was seeing muscles I had never seen before. I was steadily becoming stronger, more powerful and more defined. That gut though, just didn’t want to leave.
Muscle activation and Posture
I was doing some things very wrong. When taking pictures before my workouts, showing the week to week progress. The pictures all looked the same. No real difference. This is when I realized, my posture sucked and angles need to be considered. I wanted the realism of the attempt. Not the magazine version that we get all the time. So I was taking these before pics head on. Making it look like I had made no change. Very discouraging. Then I happened to take a pic from just above eye level. Bam, you could see the changes.
One thing I noticed in the early pics. Is that it seemed like I was pushing my stomach out, instead of pulling up and in. It’s best illustrated in these pics side by side…
You can see the first one has my upper abs flexed out. The next 2 have my abs pulled in and up like they should be. When you do this…
1, you feel much stronger and sturdy.
2, you can lift considerably more weight, much more easily, as you have correctly activated your core.
3, your posture seemingly self corrects, to a certain extent. Improving the moment you activate that core muscle group correctly.
Pay attention to your posture and how you use your muscles. It’s alright to be self critical. Just don’t pick yourself apart and make yourself feel bad. That’s not the point of this. The point of this, is to get stronger physically and mentally. Part of that is self reflection and realistic expectation.
The Finish, a recap…
Nearing the end of the challenge, I found it much harder to go longer than 30 minutes for a work out. I think that, in the last week of this, my mental motivation was there, but, my body couldn’t put in a high rate of effort for longer than 30 minutes. It wasn’t necessarily breaking down, but I had definitely reached the point of diminishing returns.
I may have relied too heavily on the apps I was using, in the end. There was a lot of leg work. A lot of squatting, lunging and lower body exercise. By the final week, I found my legs stiff and sore most days. It took longer to warm up and get in to the exercises. It’s best to set up a routine that alternates more frequently so that you aren’t over working muscle groups. Rest definitely would have helped in this case.
I didn’t hit my goal of 185 lbs. That initial slacking off hurt me in the long run. I started at 205, because I didn’t get my nutrition in check. I jumped up 6 lbs pretty quick to 211. By week 2, I was having to reverse what I had done and work my way down 30 lbs. Instead of the initial 20. I got myself back to 200 lbs by the end of the challenge. My time was severely limited and I was actually pretty proud of myself at the end.
Even with the set backs and my own silliness getting in my way, I was able to drop 11 lbs in 2 weeks. Not to bad. It showed me that with a fire under my ass and clear goals. I can achieve the things I want. I may just have to clear up the messes before hand. Instead of making them along the way. The biggest being, nutrition. Nutrition is 90% of weight loss success.
Challenge finished, I rested for a couple days. Funny thing is, a week after completion, I was down to 198 lbs. Now I hover at the 200 lbs mark. I have been doing more weight training, than cardio lately. Since I lucked out and came in to possession of an extra 100 lbs of free weight plates. I’ve been going to town on making those lats and traps pop. They are coming along. I haven’t gone back on my nutrition either. I want to hit that 185 lbs. I’ve also decided that I want to fill out a bit.
What I am trying to say is when you think you failed, you didn’t. You need to be comfortable finding those mini victories that keep you motivated. You are human, built of imperfections. All you can do is try to improve, manipulate and rebuild yourself as best as you can, with the natural canvas you are. Don’t give up, don’t tap out, you win the war by winning the battles.
Most importantly, I do believe, there is a very clear correlation between physical challenge and mental prowess. Most notable are the improvements in cognitive function. Decision making speeds up. An all round boost in self-confidence occurs. Exploration of lines of logic and thought, that hadn’t occurred in the past.
If you want to be a complete human, optimized to enjoy the experience of life. Fitness should be a top priority, for both your physical and mental health. Be sure to incorporate a variety in your workout, exercise or training routine. Dial in on your nutrition, it’s the most influential thing you can do. Schedule rest days, give your body time to recuperate. Make sure that you set up a sleep schedule, no one likes to be, or be around, a grumpy, stiff, yoked up caveman.
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