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I Love a Good Challenge

My life has been filled with accepting challenges; I love a good challenge. Just challenge me to try to do something and I am all in-but NOT without a great deal of introspection. According to Gretchin Rubin’s four tendencies, I am mostly a Questioner, with Upholder tendencies. What does that mean? It means if I am given a challenge, a task, or a rule, my first inclination is to ask,

What is in it for me? Why would I do this?”

And then I research the heck out of it. It took me almost 3 years to decide to get my Master’s degree. It took another 3 years to decide to get an advanced degree beyond a Master’s. Every purchase I make, every decision I make, I spend weeks researching and weighing the pros and cons. It can be exhausting.

But I have found that most challenges I have accepted have made me a stronger person-both literally and figuratively. Because once I decide to accept the challenge, I give it 110%.

Nearly four years ago I was challenged to try running. Once I decided to do it, I did not give up. I ran every day until I could run 5 minutes without stopping, and then a mile, and then 5 miles, and eventually I was able to run farther and run faster and now I cannot imagine a life without running. I was challenged to run a 5k, then a 10k, then a half marathon. Once I decided to do it, I was all in and became obsessed with my training and conditioning-because I take my challenges seriously.

Three years ago I was challenged to change my diet for 14 days-to eat only fruits, vegetables and protein. It took a week for me to research recipes and foods to have on hand before I decided I could do it. And then I was all in. Once I changed how I was eating I stayed with it, more or less, for almost a year and lost over 30 pounds. As long as I ate enough to fuel my running and strength and conditioning, I felt great.

That was the last serious physical challenge I accepted. Until now.

Yesterday marked the beginning of a 4 week “Lifestyle Challenge” offered at my gym. After a couple weeks of thinking about my goals and how and why I could and would benefit from accepting the challenge which includes Nutrition, Hydration, Sleep,Mobility, Exercise, and Lifestyle categories, I decided to accept it.

I have been thinking for weeks about how my eating habits have slowly been deteriorating-not to the point where I am gaining weight and feeling the consequences of poor food choices, but enough for me to be thinking about it and wanting to make a change. Bring on the Nutrition challenge for 4 weeks.

I have also been thinking about my hydration and beating myself up over not drinking enough water throughout the day. The Hydration challenge is one that I need to accept.

I also want to become more consistent with my running and bring my yoga practice back at least once a week. The Workout challenge is a way for me to focus on both of those things.

Considering my aches and pains from working out, adding a second Mobility session to my day and spending extra time on the weekends giving attention to muscles and joints is a no brainer.

The Sleeping challenge is something I deal with every night. I understand getting a good night of restful sleep is paramount to recovery and functioning in life, so I am happy to be able to pay attention to my sleeping patterns to see what is affecting the quality and quantity of my sleep.

The Lifestyle category is something to try each week to become more mindful about your daily routines. How addicted are you to your cell phone? How much time do you spend sitting? I would like to think we can all become better by focusing on more positive choices and creating some simple positive lifestyle habits to our daily routines.

Now that I have committed to the 4 week Challenge I am looking forward to what I learn about myself. Be prepared for a series of blog posts as I become more mindful about my lifestyle habits. I understand that in order to make my goals stick, they must become daily habits-habits that are easy to stick to and that give meaning and purpose to how I am already living my life. I am not looking to do a complete overhaul, but as Gretchin Rubin says, to become better than before. From her Habits Manifesto:

Things often get harder before they get easier.

After Day One of the 4 week Gain Lifestyle Challenge here is what I have discovered:

NUTRITION: Getting ready for this challenge I knew having the right foods on hand is crucial, so grocery shopping and stocking up on fruits, vegetables, nuts, and protein has to happen. Pick one day to shop and stick with it.

HABIT: Pack a lunch-with more than enough healthy snacks to last throughout the day and include pre and post workout fuel. Adding protein to a fruit or vegetable snack helps stave off hunger! Since I don’t eat peanut butter, I chose Hummus. I always make sure I have a frozen lean cuisine meal in the freezer at work-just in case I run out of healthy lunch options. And try to make enough food at dinner to have enough leftovers for lunch the next day.

HYDRATION: I am not a water drinker during the day, so to get 2-3 L in is a challenge.

HABIT: If I make sure I drink water with every meal AND with every cup of coffee, that helps! 64 oz is only 4 bottled waters. Since the cap on my 32 ouncer broke, I have broken my water drinking habit. I ordered a new water bottle this weekend.

WORKING OUT: This category could encourage me to over do it. My goal is to do something every day, but I will earn extra points for a full recovery day, because in order to adapt, your body needs to recover.

HABIT:In order to do this I literally schedule my workouts AND my recovery day. It is far too tempting if the sun is shining to ignore the planned recovery day and go for a short run.

MOBILITY: If I feel good, this is the area that gets the least attention, but like anything you do that is good for you-the reason you feel good is because you make it part of your daily life. Making a conscious effort to work on mobility 2x day will be good for me and my body. It is also a great way to unwind and take 10.

HABIT: work on mobility to yoga music before I shower each morning. I will have to work on when to schedule th esecond mobility session; last night it was before bed and I had a hard time falling asleep. Coincidence? Maybe not…

SLEEP: I understand the importance of quality of sleep, and I am looking forward to paying attention to my habits before going to sleep each night, to try to figure out what, if anything, in my daily life contributes to either a good or poor night’s sleep.


LIFESTYLE: Week 1 we were asked to refrain from using our cell phone for the first hour in the morning and for an hour before bed, as well as during meals. What I discovered is it is more complicated than that. Paying attention to why you pick up the phone is key. And are you substituting  your laptop, iPad, or TV for your phone? My morning habit consists of looking at my iPad to see what time it is, and then opening up my laptop to read the news. My habit is to go to a few blogs which appear in my email box, and then go to Twitter to read through links; I drink my coffee, make my breakfast and I am ready to start my day. This is ME time. I do not check or respond to work or personal emails until I get to work. I purposely do not have work email on my phone or devices. I cringe if I have to send a text before 8:30 am to cancel or reschedule an appointment, and I even refrain from opening my work email for at least 30 minutes once I arrive at work.

HABIT:  not using my laptop, phone or device during meals, even if I am alone or at my desk at work, and I am leaving my phone downstairs at night. I never have notifications turned on, so that is not an issue for me.

*Since I use my lunch hour to go to the gym, I usually eat at my desk. Yesterday was the first day I can remember that I ate my lunch at my desk at work after my workout and I actually tasted my food. I resisted the temptation to rush through my meal and jump up to check my email and get on my computer before I was done eating. It was only 15 minutes, but it was a good choice.

So after many, many questions and lots of reading up on my challenge categories, after only 1 day, I am off to a very good start. Four weeks is a long time. Is it long enough to build a habit and learn something new? We’ll see..




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