Tomorrow starts a new month and two new 30 Day Challenges! The first challenge is a fitness based challenge: 30 Days of Strength Conditioning. The second challenge is more of a new lifestyle challenge: 30 Days of Style Changes.
30 Days of Strength Conditioning
The inspiration for this challenge came as a direct result of my experience from Swimming Around Lido Key last week. After some post-swim reflection, I realized that while I was happy that I accomplished my ultimate goal of completing the swim, I felt a little disappointed with my overall performance.
When it came down to it, I felt pretty physically and mentally defeated by the ocean current. So this month I am looking to focus on a physical fitness challenge that will be spent predominately out of the water in the hopes that I have more physical strength to tackle future endurance swim challenges. For 30 days, I will dedicate myself to strength conditioning of my core, my arms and my back. Specifically, I have downloaded a 30 Day Ab Challenge, a 30 Day Push-Up Challenge and 30 Days of Arm Workouts.
30 Days of Style Changes
This challenge is a pretty big departure for me from a lot of the challenges I have done up to this point as the majority have been focused on new fitness routines, personal growth or diet. That being said, I have been really looking forward to this.
For the next 30 days, I will be changing up my style. I probably spend an average of about 4 minutes deciding what I am going to wear in the morning and it never really deviates much. This month I am mixing up what I wear and how I think about my clothes and overall style. I will be integrating new wardrobe pieces into my normal week of outfits, asking for new weekly ‘stylists’ and playing with new styles and clothing combinations.
To get me started, I have enlisted the help of my first two ‘guest stylists’, granting my mom and younger sister full access to my closet to each pick out a week’s worth of clothes for me. Their combinations of my clothes were unexpected and in many cases not what I would have put together for myself. It feels a little nerve wracking to go outside my clothing comfort zone but it should be a fun few weeks of new style choices and hopefully it sheds some of my self consciousness about what I wear.
Yesterday, was Earth Day. And the March for Science. And for me, it was the chance to finally complete a long-time personal swimming challenge: the Swim Around Lido Key. The swim is a 7 mile swim around the island of Lido Key, located off the coast of Sarasota, FL.
I had heard about the swim a year ago when I was training for my Swim Around Key West. I was all set to check the Swim Around Lido Key off my swimming bucket list last year, but unfortunately the weather was not in my favor and the swim got cancelled.
So this year was my year for redemption.
I began my training in February, focusing on swim practices and some health and fitness related 30-Day Challenges including: Getting Fit and Going Paleo. Going into yesterday’s swim, I felt confident and ready. My actual experience, however, was a battle. By Mile 3, the water had a surface chop that made it difficult to keep a straight line and sight, my motivation started getting tested around Mile 5 and by Mile 6, the final mile, an intense current had developed that was not in my favor, making it the longest and most exhausting (and frustrating) final mile of the whole swim.
In the end, I successfully completed the swim but it was far more mentally and physically demanding than I was expecting. In honor of the 7 mile behemoth swim, here are the 7 lessons I learned from that experience.
- Find Your Motivation– This challenge spanned 3 months of hard work. There were a lot of days that I didn’t want to work out, and during the swim there were plenty of moments where I wanted nothing but to give up and quit. What kept me going was the voice that stirred inside me reminding why I was putting myself through this torture.
- Swim Early and Often– This goes without saying. For a big, physical challenge the training and work leading up to it is critical. In post-race reflection, I could have benefited from starting my training sooner and pushing a little harder in some practices.
- Listen to Your Body– If I can identify the biggest difference between my training for the Swim Around Key West last year and my training for the Swim Around Lido Key this year, it was that I learned to listen to my body. Knowing the difference between muscle soreness from a hard workout versus muscle aches or pains from potential injury is really critical.
- Train Your Brain– I neglected to do as many long swims in my training this year, in the end I think that caused me to lose focus on the actual race day. Having a waning attention span or unfocused brain is difficult to deal with on race day, but it is definitely something that can be trained.
- Diversify– Early in April, I noticed that I was really struggling to stay motivated. I was bored with my workouts and as a result, I started losing interest in practice. First, change up your sets (the style, the pace, the distance), which helps not just with motivation but also by activating different muscle groups. Secondly, change the type of workouts. I probably could have done with more workouts out of the pool, working on strengthening on my core, my arms and my back.
- Be Confident, but Not Too Confident– Having completed my swim around Key West last year, which was a 12.5 mile swim, I went into this training feeling very confident. This swim around Lido Key was 5.5 miles less than Key West so I felt like I could scale back on my training. The lesson here is that shorter distance does not automatically make for an easier challenge. Open water swimming can be unforgiving and unpredictable.
- Just Keep Swimming– No matter how difficult, determination and tenacity can be some of your best allies.
I spent 21 days on the Paleo Diet. It was somehow both easier and more challenging than I had expected it to be. Here is an overview of my experience and some of the key discoveries I made by going Paleo.
- It was not nearly as limiting as I expected! I was pleasantly surprised how diverse my grocery cart and meals were every week.
- My culinary creativity expanded! I made things I never would think to make in my pre-Paleo diet. It was exciting to try new things- from snacks like clementines dipped in dark chocolate and almond slices, to vegetables like roasted cabbage and main dishes like sauteed shrimp and pork chops.
- I felt substantially healthier.
- My wallet shrunk more than my waistline. Eating fresh fruits, vegetables and lean proteins was not cheap! I found myself spending a lot more money than what I expected.
- Eating out was not easy. While eating at home was pretty manageable, eating out anywhere felt like a multi-phased balancing act. I tried to plan ahead when I knew I would be eating out but reading through menus was a frustrating reminder of all the delicious breads, pastas and other foods I was avoiding.
Overall Challenge Enjoyment: 7/10. I enjoyed the food I ate but it felt limiting to stay perfectly within the paleo guidelines.
Success in Completing Challenge: B. I had a few slips: croutons in my salad, a piece of bread, a sandwich but overall I felt pleased with my commitment.
Likelihood in Continuing Challenge: Moderate (but with some allowances)
I recently completed my 30 Day Minimalism Challenge. The challenge primarily followed the recommendations from Marie Kondo specifically highlighted in her book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up but also took inspiration from some of the other leaders in the minimalism movement.
In particular, I recommend:
After 30 Days I will confess that I have NOT become a ‘Minimalist.’ My house still is in varying states of clutter. I have not learned the art of packing all of my possessions into a single carry-on bag or taking beautiful Instagram photos of a single flower on an otherwise empty white counter. But, I have experienced a true change in how I view my possessions, and more importantly what and where I place value. I recommend this experience to anyone willing to go outside their comfort zone and truly examine their stuff.
Here are the 6 lessons I learned from my 30 days of going minimal:
- Don’t Fight the Process. I tend to approach a lot of ‘movements’ sarcastically and am inherently skeptical to practices that are deemed ‘life changing.’ In my first cursory scan of ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ it was easy to question the process and I rolled my eyes at the notion of holding each of my personal items and asking if they ‘spark joy’…BUT once I really committed to the process, my mindset changed. When I stopped fighting the process, it no longer felt cumbersome, and it actually became exciting to see how easy it was to shed the ‘stuff’.
- Focus on Now. As I combed through my closets, drawers, kitchen, office, bookshelf, and every knickknack in my house I found myself at times talking myself out of getting rid of certain items for various reasons. Sometimes these items were kept for sentimental reasons, but other times they were saved from the donation pile because they were things ‘I might use sometime in the future’. But when I did a mental inventory of some of the items in question, I realized that the bulky sweater that I haven’t worn once but have moved 6 times in the last 10 years because ‘I might need it when it is cold out’ or the salad Tupperware that spills whenever I put it in my lunch box didn’t have a future in my life. It is easy to hold on to things for future use, and sometimes there is a necessity to hold on to certain items. But by focusing on what fits now, your style now, what you need now it prioritizes what you have.
- Be Respectful to Other People’s Possessions. I set this rule for myself before I began my minimalism journey. Living with my boyfriend, means living with his stuff…And he has a lot of stuff. As I started creating piles of my stuff to get rid of, it became VERY tempting to just add some of his stuff to the ‘donate/throw away’ piles. But this was not his journey and I knew it wasn’t fair for me to take ownership of his stuff because of my new found motivation. Our compromise became an agreement that anything I found that I deemed ‘questionable’ or ‘undesirable’ would get placed in a pile on the kitchen table. He was encouraged to sift through the pile and reclaim anything he was not ready to get rid of. This felt like a comfortable arrangement for us. It let me declutter without throwing him into stress. Not everyone is going to be on a minimalism journey. Not everyone wants to get rid of their stuff.
- Save the Memories, Not the Stuff. I am a pack rat, holding on to mementos, trinkets, knickknacks, photos. One of the things I was most nervous about going through the sentimental stuff I have kept over the years. How do you get rid of the blurry photos from your junior high field trip or your old college notebooks with illegible scribbles or training manuals from old jobs? Well, it turns out it is pretty easy. Memories aren’t intrinsically tied to these items.
- Make it Personal. On the other hand, (and for the same reason I did not make decisions about my boyfriend’s stuff) only you can know whether something truly holds a value to you. Sometimes this isn’t based on logic but love. Sometimes you hold onto things because they just are an intangible part of you. There are some things I will never give away. They have no monetary value but I love them… my torn and faded ‘Second City Improv’ shirt from Chicago… my old sketchbooks... my t-shirt quilt.
- Love People, Use Stuff… Because the other way around doesn’t work. This is a simple lesson that sometimes we just need to remember. Stuff shouldn’t trump people.
Overall Challenge Enjoyment: 10/10! This really was a life changing experience. It was enjoyable and eye opening.
Success in Completing Challenge: A-, I may not be a ‘Minimalist’ but I fully embrace the practice minimalists follow.
Likelihood of Continuing Challenge (beyond 30 days): EXTREMELY! It’s calming to go through my house and declutter. Like Lin Manuel-Miranda says a la Hamilton “this is not a moment, it’s a movement’.