On Monthly Challenges

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Try something new.
Make a change.
Be accountable.
I dare you.

Raise your hand if doing new things isn’t your thing. Now smile awkwardly at someone who just saw you raise your hand. Good work. I raised my hand, by the way. I’m at home by myself though, so I didn’t smile at anyone.

I probably should say doing new things wasn’t my thing. I like comfort and routine and I really don’t like change. I do like small, incremental changes like a new hair color or cupcake flavor, but those things are well within my comfort zone. Stepping out of that zone scares me. Uncertainty, pain, loss, and failure live out there, and I fear those things. Always have. I prefer safety, security, and the confident knowledge that comes with doing things I know I’m good at, with people I know and like.

In the last fifteen years or so, I’ve learned some important lessons about my comfort zone. Sure, it feels good to stay safely inside, but when I step out of it and face what I fear, I also find some pretty amazing things that don’t live inside of it. Growth, adventure, and even success all happen outside of my comfort zone. By forcing myself to stretch and try new things, I’ve discovered things I love, new friendships, and new experiences that I would have missed out on if I’d stayed in my safe little cocoon. When I decided to start breaking out of it, I found my wings. Now, doing new things is totally my thing. So much so that now if I catch myself saying “Oh I don’t do that,” about something that’s perfectly acceptable to do, I feel an almost compulsive need to go ahead and do it. I’m sure this drives some people in my life crazy. I’m loving it, and also still kind of hating it at the same time, if I’m being totally honest. But I will say it has changed my life.

And now, I’d like to invite you to join me for the ride.

Okay actually in September I’d like you to join me for the run.

Monthly challenges happened completely by accident. A few years ago, a friend posted an invite to a Facebook group that was doing a 30-day squats, pushups, and leg lifts challenge. I’d been gaining weight pretty steadily and thinking I needed to get more active, so I decided to try it. Secretly. I didn’t even join the group. I checked it out, stole the image, saved it on my phone, and got started without telling anyone. I didn’t even join the group. The fact was, I could barely do squats, I had no idea what leg lifts even were, and I absolutely could not do a pushup. So if I failed horribly, I didn’t want anyone to know. Funny thing was, I didn’t fail. I did remember why I hated exercise. It hurts when you start. If you push your muscles beyond what they’re used to doing, they will protest. Loudly. For days. I wanted to quit, but I wanted to get in better shape, and getting in better shape won, so I didn’t quit. After just a week I started to see a difference. My arms started looking different. I felt different, tired but better, stronger. Two weeks in I actually peaked in the challenge. Almost every day, I was doing 50 squats and leg lifts, and 20 kneeling pushups, and I thought that was a lot so I finished out the 30 days just doing that. I figured no one knew I was doing it anyway, so I could just keep going at that pace for while. I did start letting a couple friends in on the secret of what I was doing, and they encouraged me to keep at it. I started getting bored doing the same thing all the time, so I added some moves. I switched to a classic 7-minute workout for awhile. I started looking into ways to get more out of my workouts, fuel my body better, and keep pushing myself to see how much more I could do. In just a few years I went from a moderately unhealthy person who hated exercise to loving exercise, sometimes being called “one of those fitness people,” and wanting to help people find their own fitness journey. It all started with one decision to try one challenge, on my own in the dark.

This year I’ve been stretching myself outside of my comfort zone again. I’ve written on doing what you can’t and doing what you don’t want to, and I’ve challenged myself to say yes to things I usually say no to. I did planks for a month. I joined a “gym.” Planet Fitness, but it’s close enough and it’s something I swore I’d ever do. Baby steps. And now, tomorrow, I’m going to attempt to run a 5K. Let me be absolutely clear: I HATE running. I’ve always said people who run are crazy (still true) and that no one would ever see me run, unless a bear was chasing me. Even at that, I might have suggested that death by bear mauling might be preferable to running. My husband has run a few 5Ks and he has actually been training (extra points to him!) for this one tomorrow. So last week I said, “Hey, I’ll do that with you.” Then I immediately went to Planet Fitness and got on the treadmill to see if I can even run. I can, but not far or for long, so we’ll see how it goes tomorrow. The next one is in early October, so I’m actually going to train for that one, three days a week. Me. Running. Like a crazy person.

What does all this have to do with monthly challenges? I’m glad you asked. In March, I decided to try planks every day and I asked people to join me. (See how that went here) A couple months later, I went back and did the 30-day challenge I started with, and this time I actually finished it. 100 squats, 100 leg lifts, 40 full pushups, like a boss. I found out it’s fun to do these challenges with other people, moaning and groaning together on the hard days and celebrating successes. While I was working on refreshing this website, I decided to make the challenges a monthly thing. They won’t always be exercise challenges, but they will be designed to stretch our comfort zones. If you like a challenge, come on. Let’s do this.

So… dear reader, I’d love for you to join me September’s 5K Challenge. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never run before, if you do a few minutes of cardio a few times a week, or if you run five miles a day*. For the month of September, let’s run together. I’m giving you three levels to choose from:

Level One (beginner): Pick a Couch to 5K program. There are some great apps out there that tell you exactly what to do. Start at week one and complete four weeks.

Level Two (me): Start at week five of Couch to 5K and complete four weeks.

Level Three (runners): Run 5 kilometers or more three times a week.

Bonus: Run a 5K in October

Join my Facebook Group and check in every time you complete a day of training. I’m prize motivated, so I offer drawings if enough people get through the challenge. I won’t promise it’ll be fun, but it might be. You might surprise yourself and start something you never thought you’d do.

Try something new.
Make a change.
Be accountable.
I dare you.

Comment with any questions! I moderate the Facebook group so if you aren’t one of my friends, please answer the questions and I’ll let you in. Thanks!

*As always when beginning any fitness program, be wise. Don’t injure yourself. Consult a physician if you’re not sure whether or not this kind of exercise is appropriate for you.




2 thoughts on “On Monthly Challenges”

  1. Fantastic article Allison! Secretly I have a goal that is twofold: to be able to do a split into finally be able to hold crow pose! Maybe I should turn those into monthly challenges …

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