On challenges and making lifestyle changes that stick

There’s just something about a challenge. A goal with the end in sight. The lure of accomplishment. The feeling that you are joining the ranks of others who have accepted the challenge. The camaraderie amongst those who have achieved the same goal.

At the beginning of January, I decided that I wanted to dive right into some of those goals that I talked about. So I took on some month-long challenges.

These 30-day challenges are supposed to help us jumpstart something hard. If we can make a change for 30 days, then that change is likely to stick with us beyond one month. 30 days can make an impact, even if we can’t stick with it long-term.

While there are lots of month-long, 30-day challenges out there, I ended up dabbling in three that I felt were priority for me. I decided on an Uber Frugal Month, a month of yoga and a month of 5 daily workout moves. 

My first challenge: Uber Frugal Month

The Uber Frugal Month comes at you from a blog called Frugalwoods. Mr. and Mrs. Frugalwoods have been living a super frugal lifestyle in order to reach their financial goal of quitting their jobs, working from home, and buying a homestead in Vermont. Mrs. FW is fun and cute and practical in her posts, which helps us believe that financial stability and early retirement while enjoying your life are real possibilities.

Usually when I read her posts I feel that I am already a fairly frugal person. So when I signed up for the Uber Frugal Month challenge, I was hoping for more depth on tactics to put into place to really pump up the savings for a month. I wanted some action items that would leave me feeling like I had worked hard at the challenge and ended up with a pot of extra cash at the end of the month.

The daily emails were very inspiring. Some were actionable. But most were just more of what I already knew.

I also felt that I didn’t follow the “uber” part of the Uber Frugal Month very well. I was frugal, but there was room for improvement. But I felt that if I stopped ALL spending, I would be miserably depriving myself.

We ended up cutting back spending significantly in our “eating out” category and our “alcohol” category, but I still bought a couple bottles of wine. I still went out with my friend for her birthday. I still paid for parking when we carpooled with friends downtown. And I still went on a Sam’s Club run to stock up on some of the Instant Savings items that I’m positive we’ll use later.

And even though we saved money from restaurants and alcohol, our water heater broke and we had to shift that money anyways. There’s always something, isn’t there?

So in all, I would say this challenge was a success, but we cheated a little bit. We did end up saving over $2,000 from our take-home pay this month, but we weren’t that much more frugal than we usually are.

 

My second challenge: Yoga Revolution: Yoga With Adriene

This challenge was a major fail for me. I found the Yoga With Adrienne blog in December and I started doing some of her older videos. I really liked her style of yoga, it wasn’t too difficult or too long, I could do it from the comfort of my living room. So I thought that adding a 30-minute yoga session to my day wouldn’t be that hard.

But it was, because of my third challenge, which you’ll see below.

When I did a day of yoga, I felt great. I felt positive and rejuvenated and calm. I felt like I was making progress toward disconnecting from my phone after work. I felt like I was becoming more aware and mindful.

But I also felt like it wasn’t a workout. I felt like I needed more heart-pumping action in my day. I wanted to run and jump around and sling weights and feel the burn. Instead I was just rolling around on the floor.

Rather than make this a 30-day challenge, I decided to try to do yoga on the days that I couldn’t or didn’t want to go to the gym to work out.

That mostly worked. I look forward to continuing some days of yoga from this site/YouTube channel, but I just don’t think that yoga is my preferred form of exercise.

 

Which leads me to my last challenge: Tone it Up

Tone it Up is less of a challenge and more of a lifestyle. My sister told me about it, and at first I was skeptical. At first glance, their approach seems complicated. There’s a lot going on on their website. It’s tough to figure out where to start and there’s way more available than you might even need. Tone it Up is more than just your typical blog-a-day workout site. They have a real business here.

The two women who run this community are pretty inspirational. They have workouts and nutrition plans and recipes and equipment for you to buy. They have beauty tips and lifestyle tips and health tips.

In a nutshell, they are two beautiful women who get to work out and hang out on a beach most of the time and get paid for it. I’m being sarcastic and I’m sure there’s more to it than that, but when they’re telling me it’s “Sunday Run-day” and their Insta shows them all tan in their booty shorts laughing and jogging on the beach while it’s 25 degrees and rainy in Pittsburgh, I kind of want to punch them in the face.

But then they make up for it by sharing the inspiring photos and stories of the people in their community. They are really helping women change their lives and get healthy and fit, and if beautiful women in bikinis don’t make you want to change your lifestyle then you’re shit out of luck.

So instead of officially signing up for the #TIUChallenge, I just told myself I’d commit to the 5 daily moves posted each morning. I told myself that even if I couldn’t get to the gym, I could still get them done at home (and I’d tack them onto my yoga workout – yay!).

I was doing really well for about half the month. And then the daily moves started to turn into me screenshotting the moves and vowing to do double another day. I only tacked on my daily moves to my yoga with Adriene once.

I would like to keep up with this community though. I liked that the daily moves gave me structure to my workout, when otherwise I would have gone on the elliptical for a half hour and called it a day.

 

Why did I fail? 

It was only a month. The end was in sight. I wasn’t committing to a radical change. In fact, these challenges were only supposed to enforce what I already do in my life – save money and work out.

So why did I fail?

First off, I chose too many challenges. I should have picked one focus and stuck with it. I was spread too thin and my time after work was limited.

Second, I think I found that I have other priorities. It’s tough to prioritize one thing when you have so many other enjoyable things going on. Or obligatory duties. My time was and is limited, so some nights I felt that I had to choose between going to the gym or going out with friends. Since going out with friends is important to me and not something that I do every single night, I skipped some workouts.

Also, not only did I choose too many challenges, but I didn’t really go all-in on any one of them. I saved money, but not uber frugally. I did yoga but I wasn’t committed to doing it every day. I did my 5 daily moves, but told myself that if I was too sore or if other activities came up, I could skip it as long as I saved the workout to do another day.

What I’ve found is that real change for me has come out of necessity, not out of willpower. A year ago, if I had tried to set a goal to go on a walk every day, even throughout the cold, snowy winter, I wouldn’t have been able to do it. My challenge would have ended up like yoga. But this winter, I am walking just about 2 miles every single morning without fail. The difference between last winter and this winter is the dog. She needs to go out. So I walk. My lifestyle change was a necessity. I wanted a dog and this is the deal.

When people adopt dogs or have kids or make a big move, there are pieces of life that change, and so other pieces just have to change too to make it work.

It still has to be on you though. You have to want it. You have to decide that it’s important. You have to make the reason to get out and get it done. Attitude, mindset, willpower, necessity – maybe they all just work together, and if it all lines up correctly, you’ll finish the challenge.

 

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