30-Day Challenges: The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly
Google this: "30-day challenge."
You will find fitness and wellness challenges for just about anything. Drinking water challenges, sun salutation challenges, running challenges, fill-in-the blank body part challenges, paleo challenges, 50 push-up challenges. Basically anything you can think of has been offered as a 30-day challenge!
These have been around for several years now. I've even had the opportunity to not only participate in them, but also present them! I've seen some good ones and some not-so-good ones, and more often than not, I've seen people start out strong and then crash + burn by week two. And so when one of our local training group members sent me a 30-day challenge link, I had ambivalence.
Before I added "30-Day core challenge" to our August programming, I made a little pro/con list for the 30-day challenges. Here's what I came up with.
Focus. We have one solid goal, and that's our focus for that time. It's simple. It's not scatterbrained (like our own brains). Often the biggest barrier to success is not our ability to get results from the training we're doing, but simply the inability to do the training each day! Follow a 1-month challenge to the end, and you will probably see or feel measurable improvements in performance.
Finding teammates/support. Multi-day challenges are awesome for finding those who are seeking a common goal: to get to the end of that challenge. You're in it together, sharing struggles and successes. And, by the way, there is scientific research that when you join a group to get your goal, you're more likely to reach the goal you set.
Bite-sized daily time commitment. These challenges, especially the really tough ones like the 100 push-up challenge, or 'get a pull-up' challenge are pretty much only attainable if you do a little work on it every single day. The good thing; usually it takes up less than 10 minutes of your day. If you're willing to do that (on top of your other basic training), you're ready for a challenge.
Often the Goal doesn't Match Movement or Workload.
When looking at Google Image results, two out of every four challenges is a 'get a firmer/rounder/better tush' challenge. It often consists of squats until the cow come home. This is a perfect example of the goal not matching the exercise. For most people, squats done well can utilize the gluteal muscular group, but often they are not invited to the party (instead, the front of the thighs do all the work). Another problem is that doing 150 squats doesn't build much strength or mass (shape). For this challenge to work it would need significant resistance (barbell/dumbbell training) and therefore fewer reps, and exercises that engage the gluteal muscles.
One-size-fits all. These workouts are built with everyone in mind, so inevitably they will be too advanced or too scaled down for many people's needs. Not everyone is ready for a 4-minute plank on day 22 of the plank challenge! Of course, you are your best judge of what you can do, and what you want out of any particular challenge. Go with your gut or go after it with your trainer!
30 Days is too short to see worthwhile benefits. Many studies have shown that six-to-eight weeks is needed to show significant results. However, if you're starting from scratch, you may be in luck: your body's fitness climbs steeply when you try something new. If you're looking for the next level, you may want to work with a trainer to maximize your improvements without risking injury or burnout.
Four Awesome 30-Day Challenges
Although not every one of these challenges didn't check all the boxes above, they are the most put together, well rounded, and appropriately designed challenges I could find.
1. Ultimate Better Butt Challenge from Brett Contreras.
2. Flexibility Challenge by Blogilates
3. Push-up Challenge by Men's Fitness
4. All Around Fitness Challenge by Betty Rocker
I left off some other pretty good candidates. What's your favorite 30-day challenge?