Everybody loves a bit of healthy competition: whether you compete with yourself or you still have something to prove to your older brother (you know who you are). We as humans are hard-wired to set goals for ourselves. We tend to like winning. Self-improvement is an innate an instinct as is foraging for our next feeding.
Challenges can take on many forms. Of course, when setting any goal, one must be self-aware enough as to not defeat the process by being unrealistic, impatient, or irresponsible. Fitness goals are no different. I cannot tell you how many times I have met a prospective client who tells me she is getting married in three months and needs to drop as many dress sizes. Or a man who, while planning an upcoming exotic beach-bound vacation, suddenly wants to look impressive for the ladies after having spent the past ten years eating fast food lunches. Really, I do encourage ambition. However, I also encourage the truth, and I want to empower people to create real lifestyle changes; not excuses to give up altogether.
The degree of goal pursuit is as varied and ever-changing as human personalities. Some, like myself, have very little competitive drive. Instead, we may set high (and sometimes impossible) personal standards. Or we find ways to compete with ourselves through obsessive record-keeping and record-breaking. Others I know have such an intense craving for sport that winning becomes the most important aspect in life, while losing can be crushing.
An essay from the University of Rochester on human behaviors with regards to the setting and pursuit of goals supports that, “… according to self-determination theory (SDT), a critical issue in the effects of goal pursuit and attainment concerns the degree to which people are able to satisfy their basic psychological needs as they pursue and attain their valued outcomes. In short, needs specify the conditions under which people can most fully realize their human potentials”. In plain English, what the writer is suggesting is that we individually choose, per circumstance, how much effort we will exert based on the value of the outcome.
For some, that may mean public recognition. Others may be driven by medals or trophies. Maybe you just want to know for yourself that you accomplished something that you didn’t think you could before. Decide for yourself what is important and go for it. The ability every day to choose and to improve is a luxury not afforded to many other species.
Ready for the challenge? I want you to choose one exercise: push-ups, pull-ups, burpees, or hip thrusters and do 50 of them for 50 days. Not necessarily in a row- you can split them up however you please- but every day. On top of what your fitness regimen currently looks like. Sound scary? It’s really not that bad, once you commit. Five of anything is cake for most of you. Split into small, attainable goals, and you’ll be surprised how quickly your repetitions add up. Fit them in during lunch breaks, bathroom breaks, commercial breaks, or “children breaks”. After fifty days you will be so much stronger, and only having made one small change to your daily routine (okay, fifty). And guess what? I’ve already done the menial work for you: just ask me the next time you see me and I will hand you a printed form for your 50 Day Challenge. All you have to do is fill it out.
Any excuses? I didn’t think so.
Jodilyn Stuart is the owner of ModaBody Fitness and has been a fitness professional since 1997. She currently contributes to 303 Magazine as a Fitness and Health writer.