Daily Interval Thinking

What a 30-Day Fitness Challenge Revealed About Myself

As I mentioned in my last post, I had started a fitness regime. It was 20 minutes a day for 30 days. There were 3 levels of intensity. By the end of the 30 days, I had completed all 3 levels. I have worked out at the gym and have taken fitness classes before. I have worked out for longer. So the challenges I faced while completing the 30 days were eye-opening. It taught me about my weaknesses and strengths, how I think and what I can improve on.


Getting Started

Initially, I wanted a change in my at-home workouts. Sometimes, I would go for walks in the evening or play Just Dance on the Wii - a video game where players copy the dance moves of characters on the screen. But I did not see a lot of changes with those form of workouts. I played Just Dance when I was bored and went for walks to clear my head. The changes I wanted to see were physical as well as mental. I was not feeling to healthy. My eating and sleeping patterns were chaotic. I wanted to build a habit and develop some consistency (as some of you may know is something I am working on). So I thought a fitness challenge was perfect: 20 minutes for 30 days.

That first day, I pulled out a yoga mat that I got from Christmas that I had not opened. With a couple sets of 3 and 5 pound weights, and the DVD playing on my laptop, I dived right in. At the time, I was going to the gym and taking cardio classes like Zumba for a while now. So I did not feel like it was a challenge at the beginning of the workout. But introducing strength moves and weights got me hustling. Those 20 minutes packed a punch! I would be sweating bullets at the end - even at level 1. Yet the feeling of completing something challenging was incredible.


For the Long-Run

Working out for 20 minutes a day did not become a habit. I slowly started changing my diet though. In my mind, it would be a shame to waste all this hard work by eating junk food. It is still a struggle. After working out I just want to eat a burger or some chicken wings. But there is a balance of course. I did not restrict myself, rather challenge myself to eat better where I could. Another change that is still tough is sleeping at the right times. My body needed more rest to recover from the workouts. As much as I think waking up early would be the ideal, the real challenge is sleeping early.

I think the multiple workout levels gave the 30 days some variety so one did not get bored or discouraged. There was always something new to try and improve on. For example, at the start, I could hardly do a push-up. But by the end of it I could do push-ups! Also, midway through I got myself some 10 pound weights for some of the level 3 exercises. I began to see the changes physically and mentally as well. The workout is designed in sets and intervals. I set my mind to doing each move as best as I could, no matter what. When you give your best, it is like carving out another layer to yourself. You know your limits and are pushing them just a little further each day.

Those who say it can not be done, should not interrupt those doing it.
— Chinese Proverb

Daily Matters

A daily regime matters. I have a weekly set of fitness classes that I like participating in at the gym. But if I missed a class because of another appointment, I did not think much of it. I can always take another class the following week. Overtime, missing one class turned into missing two or three, and even a whole week of missed classes. Like I mentioned in earlier posts, setting up a framework of what is important to you is the best way to build a routine that works for you.

The framework of a healthy lifestyle may require a set time for exercising, meditating or going for a walk. It can also include certain foods to avoid and cooking healthier meal options. This framework is something we build on everyday - or not. You want to see your mansion of dreams become reality? Lay a good foundation: be healthy, be active, and know yourself. From there, any challenges that do come up, you will always have a good set of habits to support you.

I thought it was not much to give 20 minutes of my time to exercise. I was proven wrong. Some days I felt very motivated while others I just wanted to relax. I worked out at different times. Trying to fit the workout throughout my day was sometimes stressful, especially if I missed a couple of workouts. Whatever I missed added up quickly. I was happy that I had the fortitude to complete the missed workouts. But, I if I had just one the workout each day, I would avoid an hour of back-to-back workout.

The past 30 days were not perfect. I struggled. I learned that I am motivated the most in the morning. When I wake up early, complete the workout before 8am was more gratifying than scrambling it at the end of the day. I have to sleep early in order to give myself time to recover and wake up early the next day. Once I wake up, I need to get up or I will just climb back into bed. I knew that if I had a busy day the next day I would just want to do nothing the next day. I need to balance my days so that I still challenged myself enough and avoided being lazy.


Actions Speak Louder Than Words

We say that we will do certain things, but we do not always get around to doing them. Later can so easily become never. I will work out later when I have the time. I will start my work when I get back from lunch. I will study after this video. I still struggle with this, too. But I have become more aware with balancing each day with a challenge and a time to relax. This can mean setting hours in the day to work on a portfolio project with time for a walk in the evening. The time adds up.

Where and what do you spend most of your time? We may say that we want to improve our work ethic or workout, but if we do not put the time and the effort, than we are just kidding ourselves. You make time for what is important to you. Although we may know what we want to change, making those changes are not always easy. For me, going to bet by 9am to start winding down is tough. I may be finishing a tv show or on my phone until 10:30pm. So if there is a change that you want to make that is important to you, do what you can to make it happen. Ask for support from your friends and family. Have an accountability buddy. This can be a friend that you go to the gym with. It will not be easy, but it is possible.


Do Not Make Excuses

My biggest excuses struggling with the 30 day challenge were: sleeping late, prioritizing, and relationships. As I mentioned earlier, my time for rest has not been very consistent. For many designers that I know of, this is something that seems to be a part of the job. We can be working odd hours, some stressful due to deadlines. Although getting enough sleep can affect how we work, at home, I fell to sleeping in a lot. This did not help my mood, as I always feel that I have already missed half the day. So I would be playing catch up the rest of the day. On top of that, I found that with the high interval training, even if I slept early, I struggled to get up early. I was learning more about my body and the importance of rest.

My other issue what prioritizing my work, fitness and relationships. Life happens. We try to make time for so many things, but there can seem to be no time. In an earlier post, I mentioned that there is enough time, but how you prioritize your time is up to you. My goal was to prioritize my workouts to complete the challenge. But I began to see other priorities getting jumbled up and messed up. I noticed that I was not working and designing as much. I have been wanting to update my portfolio with projects that I have been working on and completed. But something always seemed to come. It was my excuse.

I am still trying to figure it out now. I do not know if I am just paralyzed by the amount of work I know I need to complete or just laziness. But avoiding it has to stop. I know that. Yet I still catch myself. To combat that, I try to focus on the times that I have overcome those feelings. That is how I felt after completing a workout, especially when I knew how much I pushed myself. Even though it was the same workout for days, each day was new. I still gave in something. When I surprised myself doing a push-up or working with heavier weights I knew that I was becoming more confident.

I think this mentality applies to my work. I may be scared and anxious at the beginning. But overtime as you grow and give your all each day, it will accumulate to more confidence and strength for new challenges. I am not as hard on myself anymore. Each day is a gift and I try to make the most of it, balancing my work with fun and rest. I do not know what will come, but taking the time to invest in yourself is never wrong. To be the best version of yourself will cause you to learn a lot and grow more than you can imagine. As of now, I am thinking daily and in intervals. ■

Patricia Atienza