12 May THIRTY DAYS TO A BETTER YOU? OR NOT…
I am a sucker for self-improvement challenges. I hate to admit how easily I am roped in by promises of a ‘new you in thirty days!’ or ‘the top secrets to success!’, and workouts are no exception. From multiple attempts at Cosmo’s “Twenty-Eight Days to your Best A** Ever,” which consumed me in the ninth grade, to performing hundreds of squats a day, I am constantly pushing myself to take part in the latest fitness trends. During my most recent endeavour, which was Chloe Ting’s infamous two-week shred challenge, I noticed myself slump just a few days into the expected fourteen. Despite sticking through the rest of the challenge, which I consider an accomplishment in itself, my effort significantly declined after my initial spike of excitement. Both out of boredom from the repetitive cycle of videos (and music!) and exhaustion from a lack of rest days, the program grew into a chore. Countless experiences like this one have left me to question whether these challenges create lasting change or are bound to fail.
Social media has created a particularly unique platform for workout programs to spread. Instagram influencers, YouTubers, and A-list celebrities alike claim that they hold the key to fitness progress, as shared through their own routines and challenges. These programs follow the same general template. Participants are presented with a series of videos or exercises to complete every day for a few weeks, which alternate regularly to keep things interesting. Among the masses of workout challenges on the Internet, the fundamental fitness goals of each program differentiate them. Individuals can select one that best suits their needs, whether weight loss, upper body strength, or increased endurance, allowing for some flexibility in committing to a strict plan. While some offerings are unreasonable and inevitably end in defeat, legitimate fitness plans can spread rapidly through social platforms, often building a community in the process. Through expansive social media networks, challenges are easily shared among social groups, connecting participants around their common fitness goals. These digital support systems foster a feeling of togetherness, encourage others to establish healthier habits, and reduce the stress that may come from taking on a challenge alone. I can absolutely attest that seeing promising “before and after” photos of people who have completed a given program encourages me to participate and persist in the challenges.
That said, is thirty days–let alone two weeks–enough to create a visible change in personal fitness? In reality, this short amount of time often does not lead to rapid weight-loss or definitive abs. These challenges often overlook the most important component of fitness–its incorporation into one’s lifestyle. Doing a plank or squats every day can yield positive results for one specific area of the body but neglects the significance of health (mental and physical) to fitness. In order to be effective, fitness challenges must be integrated into an overall active lifestyle.
Fitness is not one-size-fits-all, and the result of any particular plan depends on age, sex, and height, among other factors. As each participant in a challenge has distinct needs, flexibility within and outside these structured workout plans is necessary to reach personal goals. When beginning a challenge, one must consider one’s current athletic ability. A fitness newcomer should not jump into 100 squats on the first day of a challenge as this mistake risks improper form, cheating oneself out of a goal, or even injury. It is necessary to gradually increase the intensity of exercises based on one’s prior fitness level in order to safely and successfully attempt a workout program. Beyond these challenges, lifestyle decisions must be made to compliment fitness progress. Optimal results can only be achieved upon balancing cardio, muscular training, and healthy eating within an active lifestyle. This equilibrium leads to sustainable results both throughout and following a workout challenge.
With patience, workout challenges can become a gateway to developing more positive habits. New behaviours take an average of 66 days to become ingrained, meaning commitment beyond just one workout challenge is necessary to see any real change. By incorporating consistent exercise into our daily routines and focusing on small achievements, fitness programs can stimulate beneficial, long-term behaviours. Above all, we must recognize habits that work best for our own bodies and acknowledge that fitness looks different for everyone. Workout challenges do have the power to create lasting change, but such change requires continued effort and self-regulation beyond the promised time-frame. So if, like me, you still don’t have a six-pack after an attempt at Chloe’s two-week shred, stick to the habits you’ve learned from the challenge, and be patient with yourself. Your progress beyond the thirty-day timeline just might surprise you.