On a whim, I decided to participate in Lent this year by giving up not working out. Yes, you heard that right, I would be working out for the next 40 days straight (and even Sundays). From March 1st to April 13th I would work out once a day, however I saw fit.
Although I am by no means stopping this new daily routine anytime soon, I wanted to document my experience at least for the Lent period. Now, before you yell at me about how I was hurting my body more than helping, just hear me out. I had time to recover, I had carefully listened to everything my body was telling me, and I wasn't running 6 miles a day (only 6 miles once a week haha). This is the simple plan I followed:
Monday, Wednesday, Friday--Cardio (at least 30 minutes, usually running)
Tuesday, Thursday--Strength training (abs, back, legs, arms, by lifting and machines)
Saturday--Easy cardio (hiking, inclined walk, elliptical, stair stepper, etc)
Sunday--Hard cardio (Mainly long runs)
The reason this program worked for me was that I wasn't planning on becoming a marathoner in two months or having rock-hard abs by the end of it all. I was doing something more than I would've done before and that was the whole point. By putting my physical health as a top priority, I became a priority.
Even going to the gym for only 15-20 minutes, that was still something. That was 20 minutes more than I would've done normally. I was making a goal for myself, sticking to it, and not letting it burn me out. By following my routine, I was able to stay consistent, happy, and determined. I wasn't getting bored because I could change up my plan as much as I wanted to, there was no one there to tell me that I was doing something wrong, or that I needed to be doing something else. I was just doing me, in the easiest way possible.
As a runner, I liked to plan out my weeks mileage and how far I wanted to go each day, especially in the summertime. But if I didn't reach that goal, I was disappointed in myself and turned away from running the next day because I didn't want another bad run. This plan made it easy for me to be versatile, to not set goals, and to honestly just watch myself change my perspective of working out. This plan didn't make me feel disappointed or awful, it just showed that I got off my butt that day and that was reason enough to be proud of myself.
Of course there were bad days and days I definitely had to drag myself to the gym, but there were so many good days too. I always was charged for my day after my morning workout and it kept me productive for classes, homework, and other responsibilities I had to get to. I liked knowing I had already ran a few miles that morning or that my arms (though little) were fierce. Haha!
The first time I felt like the plan was a bad idea was when my back started to hurt about a month in. At first, it was just sore, which I assumed was from the strength workout earlier that day. But as the hours went on, it got to the point where I couldn't even sit in a chair without cringing in pain. I had to leave a review session for one of my tests early, because I was shifting in my seat so much I felt like a distraction to everyone else. I went home to deal with some of the worst lower back pain I had ever experienced. Nothing helped--standing up, sitting down, lying on my stomach. I iced and heated and iced and heated. It kept me up into hours of the night, until I caved and took Ibuprofen. I hate taking painkillers, so that means something is really wrong with me, and I even took two (I never take more than one at a time). I waited for the pain to subside and fell asleep in the process, only to wake up like nothing had even happened. I continued working out, without any other serious problems. On occasion my back still hurts, but I watch it carefully and try not to stress out my body too much on those days.
Otherwise, it was the usual shinsplints from running more and more each week, or just the occasional soreness in my arms after arm day. I made sure to leave over 24 hours between strength workouts in order for my muscles to recover. As for cardio, 5 days a week isn't a problem.
I learned that it takes a long time for something to become a habit, or a long time to break one. I heard its 21 days (3 weeks) for it to truly make its mark on you, but for me it felt closer to a month. I had to keep reminding myself at first that I had to go to the gym, I had to go for a run. Now, its just something I do as part of my daily routine like brushing my teeth or going to class. I don't really need to think about it anymore, it just is.
I've learned a lot in this experience, as it was something I thought there was no way in hell I could do. I have school, I have labs, I have service events, I have homework, the list goes on and on. But I made myself a priority in my life--and that has helped me in many other ways as well:
- It sets my sleep schedule in that I sleep better and as often as I need to (especially naps!)
- Lower blood pressure, strengthens bones and endurance, prevents disease, boosts immunity, weakens my asthma, and longevity
- It relieves stress, anxiety, and makes me feel productive
- It gives me confidence in myself and my abilities, thus making my mental health a priority as well
- Its changed how I look, not only physically, but how I view my body now
- It proves that I can do anything I set my mind to no matter how lazy I am
- It has led me watching what I eat even more, and with the hope of becoming a vegan over the summer (although, I love cheeseburgers!)
- Its trained me for my half marathon next week
- Its kept me honest with others and myself that I am doing what I set out to do
- It made me HAPPY
Nothing else matters except for the fact that it made me happy. It makes me feel good, it makes me proud, it makes me love life. Working out for 45 days straight seems like a big hurdle, but taking it day by day without pressuring myself over it, really made it seem like a much smaller goal. I hope to continue this streak until the end of the school year, but taking a day off every now and then is okay too. You have to set reasonable limits and not be too hard on yourself--that'll hurt you in the long run.
I worked out for 45 days straight and it made me happy.