What I Learned from a Self-Imposed Fitness Challenge

A few weeks ago I got struck down with a cold. Normal kind of deal, sore throat, runny nose, may have even bordered on a sinus infection. Nonetheless it calmed down on its own accord (as most colds do).

During that time I went to the gym once or twice and found surprisingly it didn’t really affect my running, so I knew I could do a few workouts, breathing through my mouth, and get through.

However in the last throes of it I was feeling quite ill and queasy so I didn’t go to the gym for four days. My usual ‘maximum of not going’ is three, so I felt a bit blah and like I needed a restart as soon as I was completely better.

So I came up with an insane kick-starter to remind my body that I was working out again. It was called:

The 40K in 40 Days Challenge! 

It was basically run 10km a day. Daunting.

Considering I hadn’t run 10km (all in one go) for almost ten years this was quite the throwdown, but I was determined.

Note: I do running almost every time I go to the gym, but I frequently do 30 minute and 45 minute runs at my absolute maximum. 10 kilometres is on the higher end of what I am used to. So it was a good challenge to push myself just that little bit more.

The First Day 

The first day went surprisingly well. I ran the whole 10km with a quick 1 minute warmup all within an hour. I had absolutely no energy to do anything else though so all I could do was push myself through a pretty weak arms workout.

The Second Day 

The second day I was tired. I got to 41 minutes and had to take another minute walk break and then lower my pace substantially to get through. I didn’t end up doing anything else at the gym, just basically ran.

The Third Day

I felt incredible the third day. Smashed the run, but had to pick up my husband at the airport afterwards so again had no time to do anything else.


The Fourth Day

The fourth day was the absolute pits. One of the worst runs I had done probably all year. I couldn’t keep running, my legs were sore, my stamina was in the toilet and I had to reduce my pace so much that I finished the 10k actually after the 1 hour mark. Ideally on a normal week I would have made this my rest day but since it was my own challenge and I’m so bloody stubborn I had to finish it.

For the first three days I ran at a pace of 11.0km on a 1.5 incline for the first half hour, then toned it down to 10.5 for the second half hour. I found the reward of going down in pace actually helped me enjoy the challenge more and made it easier to complete. As for the fourth day…don’t even go there, I was up and down and all over the shop, but the main thing is..I DID IT. 

So What Did I Learn? 

  • My body is capable of more than I thought it was.
  • I can push myself a lot, lot harder if I need to.
  • I can workout throughout a light cold.
  • I can, indeed, take a short break from working out and not suffer any major damage to my overall fitness.
  • When I run long distance (eg: 7.5km plus), I have no energy left in the tank for absolutely anything else, so I shouldn’t make a habit of doing this too often, as I want to do weights and body weight exercises too.

I’m going to stick to 30 minute and 45 minute runs from now on, and try for speed challenges as well. The long distances just absolutely deplete me of any energy and turn running from something fun into something more of a thing I feel like I have to do, which I don’t like.

My advice to anyone about to start or devise a challenge for themselves such as this, is:

  • Keep it within your means –  it should be a bit harder than you’re used to, but not so hard you feel like it’s hurting or you could be pushing yourself too much.
  • Keep it reachable – If you’re working long hours every day and know you’re going to be tired or anything like that, plan to the nth degree to get it right.
  • Keep calm – if something comes up or you don’t finish it, it doesn’t matter! Just try again another time! That’s the beauty of self-imposed challenges. Contingency plans are automatically factored in. Don’t beat yourself up! Life happens.
  • Keep fuelled – if you’re starting long challenges to kick it up a notch you should eat more to compensate. Even if it just means slightly larger portions of what you’re used to.

Above all things, have fun with it! Try something new, hit up a new class, try hitting a new personal best, or do something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t had the chance. Personal fitness challenges are simply there to challenge yourself, you are the only one you’re ever in competition with!

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