Do it for the __________.
Why do you do what you do? When I embarked on this 6-week fitness challenge, I asked myself this. Each day, when I would get ready to workout, I would set my intention. Am I doing this to be stronger? To prove to myself that I can complete a challenge? Am I doing this for the after photos? The endorphin rush? Or am I simply doing this for me?
Whatever it is, there must be some kind of motivating factor. Otherwise, why would we do anything? We have to have something that is helping to kick us in the ass to say, you can do this. There needs to be an answer to the question why. This is exactly why there are cupcakes at the end of every race that I run.
The challenge kicked my ass. Prior to this, I would go to the gym and grab weights of the 5-15lb variety. Leg day consisted of body weight squats and running. To go from this to lifting heavy, and even doubling up days? Yikes. And supersets? What in the world are those? Needless to say, I learned a lot.
My why was all of the above; I wanted to prove to myself that I could complete a challenge, get stronger, and hopefully see some gains. I wanted to learn more about lifting, about strength training, and the discipline required. The endorphin rush was an added bonus. And yes, I was keen on seeing what kind of awesome before and after photos could become of this. Who wouldn’t be?
But honestly, the after photos weren't as dramatic as I'd hoped they'd be. Before I go any further on the photos, watch this Buzzfeed video on faking before and after photos:
When the day came to take the after photos for this challenge, I was so excited to see the change I felt reflected on camera. Not the case. Not only had I just tried 3 different types of new protein that week (which all failed and gave me terrible bloating and indigestion. Yay bloat belly for photos.) But, the lighting was all wrong, and where the hell did my muscle definition go? I have abs. I can feel them! And, I swear there are biceps there that weren't before.
Awkward posture and terrible lighting, but there you have it! While the visible difference isn't much there, let's talk about how much different I feel; in the end, that is what really matters.
First of all, I feel so much stronger. Not only physically, but mentally. Muscle has started taking the place that fat used to occupy. While I did not lose any inches or pounds, I watched as muscles started to tighten up and define themselves in ways I've never seen before. Suddenly, I have triceps when I flex, and I can feel firm abdominal muscles under that troublesome layer of fat. And, oh my quad! I have these muscles that have taken shape around my knees. And my butt...well, I'm definitely happy with it. Here's a ridiculous gym selfie to prove my point.
Second, I feel happier. Not just the endorphin-addicted way. Not just because I feel myself getting stronger. Not just because I had another girl at the gym compliment me on my butt last night. No, it is because I make time each and every day to take care of me, whether it's running, lifting, writing, or just taking a few minutes to just sit still. I took those first 21 days of the challenge and formed a habit. I take care of my body, so it takes care of me. I feel good. And when I feel good, I look good. It is amazing what a little self-confidence can do. I know I'm not at all where I want to be, but I'm working on it. Rhinocorn, remember? I suppose that is the third; I am more confident. I’ve developed the confidence to keep pushing myself to work towards new goals, to continue to try and fail and try again.
So often I feel as if I’ve become a stereotype of my generation. I always seem to expect instant gratification. When I started this challenge, I was so excited to get that sought after six-pack and defined shoulder muscles by the end of the challenge. I woke up every morning and ran to the mirror like this guy…
I had to take a step back with my impatience and realize that good things come in time. Good things, result things, come to those who work their asses off. That takes time. That body I want, the one I’ve conjured up in my head, is going to take years to attain. And that is perfectly okay. I’ve learned this: Embrace the change. Embrace the changes I’ve made in my habits. Embrace the change I am seeing in my body shape. Embrace the fact that my ass is too big for my jeans, and I’ve now ripped two shirts because of the gains I’ve made. Embrace the happiness that comes from the progress I've made.
Jumping off my soapbox now. All I have to say is this: Love your body, please. It is your temple, your home, the only one you'll ever own.
Here’s a little glimpse into what I did for the 6-week challenge.
- Monday, Tuesday: upper body (arms, chest, shoulders)
- Thursday, Friday: lower body (legs, butt, lower back)
- Saturday, total body
- Wednesday, Sunday: cardio
- First day, higher reps (15-25) and lower weight
- Second day, lower reps (4-8) and higher weight
- Abs 3-4 days/week
- At least 3 exercises per muscle group
- 1 minute cardio acceleration between sets
I have a lovely chart if anyone is interested in looking at the list of exercises that I did each week. It was kind of fun to chart progress! Here’s a glimpse at small, measurable improvements I made:
Before: 2 push-ups, 0 pull-ups, 0 tricep dips, benching 50 lbs. max, squatting 100 lbs. max
After: 15 push-ups, 5 pull-ups, 7 tricep dips, benching 105 lbs. max, squatting 205 lbs. max
Next time you want to try something new, a challenge, a training program, a different skill, ask yourself, why. Whatever the reason is, remember the most important one: Do it for you.