A Month of Challenges

Pointe shoes, painted by me in 2018. Sold.

One of the few downsides I’ve found to making art (and also getting older, and being human in general) is how easy it is to be sedentary during the process. Sitting in one place painting for hours is great for the mind and soul and all that, but not so great for the body. I’ve been a little unhappy with my weight over the last couple years; since moving from Baltimore where I walked pretty much everywhere (including up and down the stairs to my 6th story apartment every day) and hitting my 30’s, I’ve gained 15-20 lbs that I really didn’t want.

(Disclaimer: I’m not overweight, and I know that. I’m otherwise very healthy, and thankful to be so. But I am getting soft and squishy in a few places that I don’t want to be.)

A slightly blurry picture of me in my new pointe shoes in early 2018.

In spring of 2017, I started taking an adult ballet class, and then moved to a tougher class that summer. I eventually was able to start doing pointe work, which requires a certain level of strength and technique. I got stronger, but instead of decreasing, my weight sloooooowly kept increasing, to the point where some of my favorite clothes didn’t fit anymore.

So I tried some different exercise videos from the library this past spring and summer. Some of them were fun (and really effective, at least gauging by my soreness the next day) for the first couple sessions. Then I’d get bored. I don’t like a lot of repetition; I like things to be changed up.

In mid-October, I kept seeing an ad on Facebook for a 12-week yoga burn program that I really debated trying. It’s formatted in three tiers of yoga routines that are created to lose weight and tone up. I hemmed and hawed about that one, trying to decide if I liked yoga (and the $47 price tag) enough to commit. Well, of course when you click on an ad on Facebook, it starts showing you a bunch of similar ads, and one day an ad popped up for the free Betty Rocker 30-day exercise challenge. A new 15-minute exercise routine every day for 30 days, right to your inbox every morning. I signed up and got the first workout the next morning. And the next one. I took a couple days off for Jake’s and my anniversary trip to New York, but after we got back, I managed to show up every day for the rest of the challenge throughout the month of November. (Not always first thing in the morning, but I still did one every day.)

Did I lose a bunch of weight? No. I barely lost any, actually. But I did lose some inches in my waist and thighs. Some of my clothes fit a little looser again. I also had more energy and noticed that I was physically stronger in my ballet classes. The workouts are formatted for the most part in short, 5-minute circuits that you repeat 3 times, and every day they change, focusing on different parts of the body. (There were some yoga days in there too, which were meant to be rest days; they actually ended up being my least favorite, so I’m glad I skipped the yoga burn.)

Doesn’t that look yummy? Cuz it is.

More importantly, after I finished the 30 days, I felt like I could keep it up. So I bought her 90-day challenge, which comes with meal plans and recipes too. The workout routine is formatted a little differently (there are full-on rest days now) and has been slightly harder to stick to (especially over Thanksgiving, with traveling and whatnot) but I’ve been doing it; I’m somewhere around day 22 now. She’s also introduced me to the glories of the green protein smoothie (the key is finding a protein that you actually like the taste of, which we were lucky to do — some of them are pretty gross). They also give me energy — more than coffee, surprisingly — and now that I’ve been drinking them fairly regularly for a few weeks, I actually get cravings for them. (Here’s a recipe to a pretty simple one pictured here; you can substitute the banana for half an apple or just leave it out if you don’t like bananas. Also, thus far I’ve always used kale as my greens.)

Obviously the key has been slowly integrating the workouts and recipes into my daily routine. Big, drastic changes are harder to stick to, and figuring out little ways to make the small changes easier (batch prepping recipes or smoothie ingredients for busier days, for example) helps a lot. I’ll check in with a progress report on how I’m doing with this particular challenge in a few weeks.

So yeah, that was challenge number one. I also participated in a 30-day journal challenge, where you sign up to have therapist and life coach Michelle Chalfant email you a new introspection-generating prompt every day for the month of November. I started off pretty strong on that one, too, but by the end of the month, I fizzled out (again, largely thanks to holiday-related travel). In fact, I have yet to fill in the pages for Nov 27 and 28. Who knows if I ever will. Some of the prompts made me feel really introspective-y and challenged my views of myself, and some of them asked me to do work I’ve already done. Which I guess is useful, to know I’m somewhere on the path toward self-actualization and all that.

So, how about you? Have you ever participated in a 30-day challenge (or anything similar)? Did you find it easier or harder to stick to than other goals you might’ve set for yourself without a time line or end date? Is there a challenge (exercise, organization, etc.) that you’d want to try?

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