I decided for the month of July that I wanted to do a 30 day challenge in which I would go to the gym every single day. Consistently going to the gym has always been something I’ve struggled with so I decided that by going every single day I would be able to limit the amount of mental gymnastics I would be able to do to get out of going. It’s pretty difficult to justify not going when it’s something you have to do every day.
My plan was to lift three times a week following the 5/3/1 Building The Monolith program by Jim Wendler. I picked this program because I knew I could get this done in about an hour, depending on the amount of rest I needed between sets. The rest of the week my plan was to do cardio which would vary in intensity depending on how I was feeling. I didn’t want to overdo it and injure myself, and I also knew that I had a busy month involving a fair bit of travel coming up at work.
Below is a screenshot taken from Apple Health. As you can see I only had 2 days where I did nothing, although in reality I had a total of 4 days where I didn’t get to the gym (which is where the two very short workouts are towards the end of the month).
While I failed to go to the gym every single day, I did manage to go 27/31 days in July which works out to be 87%! I’m pretty pleased with this considering how infrequently I was going previously to that.
The first week was the most difficult physically, but I also expected that to be the case. The workout plan starts with squats, and squats tend to give me such bad DOMS that I need a day or two to recover. I knew it was going to be a real challenge dragging myself to the gym on the days afterwards. My goal was on any of the days after squats, I would do some relaxed cardio for 20-30 mins and depending how I felt after cardio, I would do some bicep curls or something. I wasn’t fussed what I did on those days as long as I did something. Turning up is 99% of the battle for me, so even showing up I considered a victory.
The time I spent in the gym was pretty consistent all week. Saturday I went out with friends and I Decided to track my walks which is why it’s so much higher than the rest of the week. In reality my actual time in the gym was pretty consistent – Approximately an hour a day.
While week one was the most difficult physically, week two turned out to be the most challenging mentally. You can see I missed two days that week and along with that every day except Sunday my workouts lasted less than an hour. This was quite a drop off from the previous week. While I was feeling a bit weary and physically tired, the main reason for the drop off was that my original motivation for the challenge had now worn off. Going to the gym was now starting to feel hard.
What didn’t help was that work was starting to get really busy, and along with that we were experiencing a record breaking heatwave. Coupled together they really sapped my motivation for going to the gym. I don’t want to make excuses for not going, because all I had to do was just turn up, but that’s why I didn’t make it.
This week I felt pretty consistent and overall really good. I was determined to stay on track and not fall off the wagon like I did the previous week. My workouts were pretty consistent, and then I had a longer workout in the gym on Sunday because my girlfriend decided to come along.
The last full week of the challenge and I was determined to do well. I started off well on Monday hitting just over an hour in the gym. Come Tuesday though, my body just felt so tired and so worn out I decided I needed to take it easy. Instead of going to the gym, I decided to go for a short walk just to make sure I do something. Wednesday ended up being much the same as Tuesday.
The rest of the week I achieved all of my workouts. I’m really glad I didn’t completely derail after the hiccup on Tuesday and Wednesday, as in the past I feel like I would’ve just petered out at that point.
What I Learnt
I always knew this challenge was going to be tough. Going into it I was conscious of the physical demands of going to the gym every day for a month. What I underestimated was how difficult it was going to be mentally. There were so many days throughout this period where I had so much internal resistance pushing me not to go, but yet nearly every time I managed to overcome that resistance. The only way I found that I could overcome it was to do my absolute best to not think about it at all and just go to the gym. The more I debated it in my head, the less likely I would actually make it to the gym – I basically needed to go into auto pilot mode.
I think I could’ve helped my physical recovery by being more disciplined on what I’m eating. I really feel that squats shouldn’t cause me to be unable to walk for days in a row the way they do. It’s something I need to spend a bit of time researching because I expected it to be rough the first week or two, but my legs never really adjusted to the frequency I had been doing squats. Maybe I need to reduce the number of days I am doing squats – Throughout the month I was squatting on Monday and Friday with deadlifts on a Wednesday.
While I didn’t manage to go every day, I’m proud of the fact I managed to only miss 4 days in the entire period. This 30 day challenge has been one of the most challenging things I’ve done for a long time and I’m proud that I managed to remain disciplined enough to see it out to the end.
Overall I think this challenge went really well and the success of this challenge has inspired me to commit to doing a new challenge every month. I think part of what makes 30 day challenges so attractive is that they’re short enough to commit to without feeling to but long enough to actually make some progress on. My challenge for August is to commit to reading a book for 30 minutes every day.