As a former college volleyball athlete, I’ve always been kind of a fitness junkie. My teammates had a running joke that I’d be the first to become a bodybuilder once college was over—because you know it’s really all about those gainz. Working out in college was basically my job, and I really enjoyed the feeling of working up a good sweat. I didn’t have to find a six-week workout plan to stay on track—working out was already the plan. After the ~glory days~ were over, staying in a routine of going to the gym wasn’t a problem for me. But in order to see the results I wanted, I knew I needed to stick with a consistent, structured training program. I just couldn’t get myself to do it alone.
Between moving across the country twice and having three different jobs, adhering to an actual program has been impossible. I’ve started (and not finished) Kayla Itsines‘ Bikini Body Guides about six different times. I think I made it to week seven (out of 12). Maybe. My previous training regimen for volleyball required 12 weeks of grueling workouts. I’m talking sprints, puke-worthy HIIT circuits, and heavy AF Olympic lifting. I did that every summer for four years. So why was sticking to a plan so damn hard now?
I’ve concocted every possible excuse: I’m a commitment-phobe. I’m too busy. The plans are too hard. I’m getting older. It wasn’t due to a lack of interest, it was a problem with the logistics. So when my SELF coworkers invited (ahem, challenged) me to participate in SELF’s 6 Weeks To Summer program with A Bikini A Day I figured I’d give it a shot. I agreed to do the entire thing, but I was mentally preparing for the fact that I’d likely check out around week three or four.
The good news, I completed the ENTIRE six-week workout plan. Every strength workout, fitness class, and cardio session became a big check mark on my calendar. I wasn’t expecting a massive transformation or really anything radical at all. But I’ve noticed a lot of changes as a result from this challenge. Some are physical (hello teeny-weeny baby abs), some are emotional, but the most important takeaway for me has been mental. Here’s what I learned that helped me be successful in sticking with it.
The most important thing you can do when it comes to fitness challenges is getting your life organized. With other challenges I had always written my workouts in a notebook that I took with me to the gym every day. Funny though, I never wrote the entire program. Maybe that’s why it didn’t stick—figuring out what I had to do and when I had to do it was a daily chore. All the materials for this challenge though were available online (aka they were written out for me). I could skim the entire program for an overview (this also helped me plan ahead). Being an athlete I like to know what the game plan is—both short and long term. I downloaded all the workout graphics on my phone so I would never have the excuse of “Meh. I don’t know what I have to do today.” I was also sent daily emails about what exactly I had to do that day as a little reminder to get it done!
I started to consider working out as an appointment with myself. Just like I’d never flake on an meeting for work or a lunch date with a friend, bailing on myself shouldn’t be an option either. In college, being late to a workout or practice was practically a sin. And not showing up…well I never figured out what the punishment for that would be. *Shudders.* My daily routine started to become a non-negotiable.
I also told everyone what I was doing. Once I told my co-workers, close friends and oh-so-personal Insta audience, I was pretty much committed. It’s kinda like liquid eyeliner: Once you start, you’ve gotta finish.
Everything we do, every decision we make in life is motivated by something. The hardest part is nailing down what that something really is. When it came to fitness challenges I had tried previously, my why was pretty shallow. I wanted Kayla Itsines’ abs, Katrina Scott’s arms, Tash Okaley’s booty, Emily Skye’s legs, you get it. I was really into looking a certain way, or even more unobtainable, looking like someone else. It’s totally fine to want those things, but I put a lot of pressure on myself to do things perfectly, see results quickly, and have a badass transformation pic.
Well that never happened. I’d get burnt out, frustrated, or just plain annoyed that I was working out all the time and didn’t have dem abs yet.
Compare that mindset to when I was training for volleyball, my why had nothing to do with how I looked. Training was about how my body could function. I wanted to jump higher, run faster, beat out my teammates, and ultimately beat myself. Nothing about that why was aesthetic.
Midway through this challenge I realized my why was no longer to look good for a summer vacation I booked, it was to prove that I could follow through on a commitment I made to myself. I didn’t burden myself with expectations. I let it all happen. I did my workouts day in and day out, because I knew I had to finish. I hate disappointing people, but why in the past had I been so comfortable disappointing myself?
Deep thought, right? But, it was a good question to ask myself because the answer was clear—I shouldn’t be. So I was going to step it up and be good to my body and my mind. For the first time, the challenge was less about making myself look different, and more about feeling proud of my hard work.
That shift didn’t make it easy though. It was still hard as hell to stick with it for six full weeks. Had I not committed to writing this article, or had I not told friends what I was doing, I may not have made it through. I usually don’t like telling people about working out because I don’t want to come off as that annoying fitness friend. Working out has always been my thing that I enjoyed doing for myself and didn’t feel the need to really include anyone else.
When I didn’t feel like doing a workout or doubted whether it was really worth it, my co-workers pushed me to dig deep and stick with my why. This challenge was an incredibly important lesson in accountability and the power of including others in your goals. In classic social media editor fashion I loved looking at the #TeamSELF on Instagram. There’s a serious community working their asses off and it’s pretty much impossible not to be inspired.
Take some time to sit down and get prepared. Jumping into things without a why usually leaves you making excuses for why you don’t want to. Without a clear vision of why you want to do something you’ll often let other distractions get in your way.
The change in my why was extremely powerful for me. And, I think I’ll go back and try the other fitness programs again in the future because I can easily apply this mindset to those workouts.
You may be asking, “Why no before and after picture?” Well, that’s because I’m not into the physical comparison anymore. Everyone’s fitness journey is different and what this challenge did for my body will be completely different than what it does for yours. Ultimately I learned that fitness challenges are about so much more than just the physical. This was about holding myself accountable, adding variety to my gym time and stepping out of my comfort zone. Done and done.
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