They usually make their rounds through facebook, particularly in the new year and then once a month after that. The type of challenge varies but the format stays the same. 30 days to a new ass, flat tummy, or beach body.
I have mixed feelings about these challenges, which I’ll go over in this article- in particular I have one major bone to pick followed by an epiphany- but we’ll get to that. SO…Let us begin with
I’m going to honey-pot you, reader, with all of the things I love about these 30 day challenges.
- They’re simple: Most of these challenges contain movements that most people are familiar with. The same grueling torture our physical ed teachers used to subject us to in high school. And there’s a reason for this- they work. Despite what televised fitness professionals will have you believe- that they’ve created the next, best new thing- most exercises are simply variations and combinations of the god father grand daddies of exercise. The Squat, The Lunge, The Push Up, The Crunch/Sit Up, Jumping Jacks and The Plank. People see these exercises and they recognize them, they’re not intimidating, they’re doable.
- They’re Convenient: With most (not all) of these little nifty 30 days challenges the only thing you need is your own body and gravity. Some of them will include some weights, or maybe one or two pieces of equipment, but reverting back to simplicity there is usually a regressed version of the exercise that does not need the equipment. Better yet, for those who are too intimidated to step into the gym just yet, these exercises can be done from the comfort of your own home.
- They’re Quick: That’s the number one issue/complaint/feedback that I hear from people. “I don’t have enough time to exercise.” I think the longest amount of time I’ve seen on one of these 30 day challenge sheets totaled out to around 15 minutes- because it was Tabata style. For most people, once they do the challenge once, they realize that it’s not that big of a time commitment.
- They plant the seed to develop a habit: For most, fitness is something that people have a tendency to start with relentless vigor and excitement…that quickly fizzles out after about a week. Due to the previous reasons, people are more likely to stick with the program, and get people excited about exercise.
- Accountability & Peer Support: Most of the challenges are shared publicly on facebook, instagram, or whatever social media outlet chosen. Friends see it, they get excited about it, they decide to do it together. It becomes a “thing.” People remember, they ask the poster how they’re doing on the squat challenge. If other people are doing it (and doing it correctly, you’re supposed to share the challenge every day and post a hashtag) then your peer accountability factor rises.
- Bragging Rights: On some of these badboys I see as many as 300 squats, or 100 push ups, or what not. Numbers like that are a big accomplishment for most. People want to be able to say “Yeah I can do 300 squats and I got there in 30 days.”
So, I went over some things that I liked about these challenges, now I’m going to go over what I dislike- but err on the line of being personal preference.
- Overtraining just to force DOMs (delayed onset muscle soreness): While most of these challenges have rest days, I see this mostly with the squat challenges. Because they’re a thirty day challenge, I think these creators make these challenges with the intention of making people hurt- for no other reason than to have people say “man that squat challenge is kicking my ass.” There was one I saw with 500 squats one day and 550 the next. I’m sorry, but there’s no world where 500 squats- even body weight, is even practical. I feel like when the challenge numbers are too high, even slipping into the realm of unrealistic it will cause someone to drop out of the challenge because they’re just too sore to do it the next day. Being sore is fine, being so sore you can barely move is not fine.
- Not so clear instructions: Some things may seem like common sense to people who are familiar with the fitness world (like breaking up some of those high reps into sets if going to failure is too difficult. So 75 squats would be 3 sets of 25.) But the average person will try to the do those 75+ squats. The only time I’ve seen these challenges done well, is when it’s run by an actual fitness challenge site or page that provides instruction on how to do them and not just a simplified picture.
- Creating imbalances: While it’s true, you’re not going to pack on a massive amount of muscle from doing a single exercise over and over again for 30 whole days, it still encourages muscle imbalances. You’re developing strength, endurance and if it is something such as the squat and it’s not being varied to activate different muscles, I feel like it could do more harm than good. Most of the time demonstrations are not given for the challenges- and a lot of people have a tendency to be quad focused when they squat (they don’t break parallel, they don’t activate their glutes coming up and they don’t have proper foot placement.) Or peopleThis is just encouraging bad habits unless people take the time to learn to do the movement properly.
Finally, there’s one last issue I want to go over in which I find is the biggest grievance I have with 30 day challenges.
- Unrealistic Expectations: The challenges are meant to hook people, presumably to get shares and gain traffic to a site or page in ADDITION to hopefully inspiring people to get into better shape. It’s an unfortunate reality that our minds are drawn to a standard of beauty that we think we need to achieve. So these photos are usually depicting a perfectly round bum, a chiseled mid section or toned arms all placed on a half naked, tanned girl in a bitching bikini or pair of yoga pants.
- Also, there’s the concept of 30 days. Do you ever notice you tend to click on “Ten photos that will change how you think about dogs” or “5 steps to get him to propose” I don’t know why, but we’re hard wired to respond better to numbers. Again, while it may seem like common sense to people in the fitness world who know these challenges are for fun, rather than dramatic results- to the average person who does not have the background knowledge- people think they’ll do a ton of crunches for a month and have abs at the end of 30 days. Or they’ll do a ton of squats and their bums will have that perfectly round sculpted look. That’s just not reality. Most people also, don’t change their other habits while they take on these challenges. They stay eating the same, they generally do not supplement the challenges with any other forms of fitness and they reach the end of 30 days and realize that their butt and stomach doesn’t look like the picture. I feel like this leads to getting discouraged and thinking the challenges are bogus.
My final thoughts: I don’t love 30 day challenges, but I don’t hate them. I think they’re something neat, different and fun to do for the already fit. I also think they’re a good introduction to fitness for those who are new to it. As long as people don’t start them with the mindset that they’ll have these amazing results after 30 days, I think they’re beneficial. The challenge attached is one of the favorites that I’ve found, I think I may do it as something supplemental to my workouts. If you’re interested, feel free to send me a message, I’ll hold you accountable ;]
Have a great day,