I normally think of a “fitness challenge” as something I’m going to fail at. It’s an old habit. I remember once seeing a sign-up for a 100-day yoga challenge on the wall of my local studio and thinking, Oh wow, that would be amazing. I would be so flexible and centered and wise by the end. But I’d never dare to put my name on that sheet. Because I’m a lazy loser, I’d think. Not once did it occur to me that I didn’t actually have the money, the time, or the work schedule to go to yoga class every day for one hundred goddamn days in a row. No, it was because I didn’t have the work ethic.
This is not that kind of challenge.
Rational fitness is all about the individual. It recognizes that exercise is meant to support your life (not the other way around), and that everyone’s lifestyle and body are different. Most fitness challenges (like the mainstream fitness industry in general) try to put us all in the same box: Everyone should do this workout, look like this body, and aim for these goals. And we’re so used to it that we often don’t realize we’re still walking around inside that box. That’s why another part of rational fitness is about poking holes in it, that metaphorical box, and questioning your beliefs about what your body can and can’t do.
“When you've been stuck in a certain mode of fitness — whether it's the actual exercising you're doing or your attitude about it — it can be really hard to get unstuck,” says Anna Maltby, our own deputy editor of health and wellness (and resident certified personal trainer, to boot). “Setting up a few very specific goals for yourself can help knock you out of that rut and discover a new way of doing things. And the goals that work best here are less about your workout itself and more about your thoughts and feelings about the workout.” That’s the real benefit of fitness challenges: It’s not just the physical moves, but the mental shift. “Hopefully, they'll help you figure out a way to have more fun with your fitness routine, and even make it healthier and more sustainable in the long run.”
This week, I invite you to join me in a new kind of fitness challenge: Seven goals that will challenge your body and brain to reframe fitness in a new way. Furthermore, I’m going to put my money where my big mouth is and take this challenge with you. Until now, I’ve shied away from every fitness challenge I’ve ever seen, assuming I would fail — and I’m no fail-er. This week, I’m showing up to prove it to myself. That’s one goal I think we all can and deserve to meet.
But remember, this is not about having a perfect week, a perfect body, or any kind of perfection. It’s about setting a challenge only for yourself, and then stepping up to meet it — for no one else but you.