218 in 2018 · 219 in 2019 · fitness

How challenges challenge me, and why I’m a convert

I used to scorn and dismiss fitness challenges. I even wrote about it for the blog: The Challenging Challenge of Challenges. But then, I read this post on 366 days of Yoga. Laura, one of our guest bloggers, wrote honestly about her challenges:

My practice still was not easy. My progress was slow. I continued to struggle with both mental and physical yoga demons. And I often despaired that my body was just too old now, too out of shape. I feared I was “over the hill” and would never get back what I had lost. But I kept showing up. I kept rolling out my mat every day, getting on it, and doing the practice.

Reading this opened up for me the possibility that the d.. d… d… disc-i-pline (this is such a hard word to say, much less do) of every day movement practice would become a part of me, a treat, a haven, a reward, a pleasure in itself.

This is the thing that hits me in the gut: the idea of committing to a daily something-or-other that never ENDS. That’s never DONE.

It feels like those really long staircases that you see in various places around the world.

Some people (who are these people?) look at all those stairs and think, “oh fun! I’m going to tackle them and get to the top!” When I look at a lot of stairs, I worry. I get anxious. I proactively feel tired. They don’t motivate me, energize me, mobilize me, inspire me. They just make me feel ashamed that (hypothetically, as I haven’t even taken one step yet) I will be:

  • too slow
  • too sweaty
  • too tired
  • too weak
  • too scared
  • too alone

to enjoy the (too far away to even imagine them) pleasures at the top.

I decided to do the 218 Challenges in 2018 because a bunch of the bloggers were doing it, and I wanted the support and the push to be more self-aware of my physical activity. I wrote about my process and finish (on Dec 30, 2018) here: 218 in 2018: Today’s the day! Sam wrote about her finish that year, too: 218 in 2018: Achievement unlocked with a week to spare! Cate’s post yesterday, Workout #250 for 2019, about her journey through challenges, spurred me on to write about how this year’s challenge is going for me.

This year, doing the 219 in 2019 challenge, I feel like I have the mental space to think about what life is like in the process of climbing all those stairs. Sometimes I do feel weak or scared or tired or slow (and usually sweaty, too). And I am doing it myself, for me alone.

A woman with a pink bag, climbing a long staircase by herself.
A woman with a pink bag, climbing a long staircase by herself.

The challenge, though, offers me another viewpoint on that staircase. Although I’m in charge of getting to the top myself, there are others walking on that same staircase, on their way up and down. I can:

  • keep going up with them
  • stop and take a few breaths
  • talk with others on the way up
  • pick up my pace
  • ask people on their way down how far it is to the top
  • ask for help
  • decide to stop and head back down
People walking up and down a long staircase.
People walking up and down a long staircase.

I like this way of thinking about challenges. I can go at my own pace, and when I need a hand, it’s there for the asking.

A woman going up a long staircase, pulling another person by the hand.
A woman going up a long staircase, pulling another person by the hand.

There’s another challenge I’m a part of– a September is for Yoga challenge, run by our blogger Christine. Like the 219 in 2019 challenge, we get to decide what counts as doing yoga that day, and we can post about it (or not) on our FB page. When we do post, Christine gives us a gold star. For whatever we post– successes, attempts, emoting, whatever– we get one. And who doesn’t love a gold star?

Back to my original fear about challenges: the daily practice, the commitment to doing something every day, engaging in a process that doesn’t end, but rather continues ad infinitum.

Turns out, I need help with follow-through, with maintaining consistency and continuity of process. I need help when life’s vicissitudes are visited on me through injury, overwork, family crisis, anxiety, etc. In those times I need support around adjusting practices, suspending them (to resume in changed ways later on), or persisting in them, being reminded that they are part of the solution, not the problem.

Challenges do that for me. At least these do. They help me do the physical activity I want, all by myself, with them, any day I want, for as long as I want.

Readers, what are you current views about challenges? Do you like them? Avoid them? What made them work for you? What made them not work for you? We’d really love to hear your stories.

6 thoughts on “How challenges challenge me, and why I’m a convert

  1. Great post, Catherine. I love the analogy with stairs. I’m doing the 219 in 2019 and enjoying it. I like challenges. They motivate me. And as an overachiever I often end up doing more (as I will with 219, but unlike some of the group I won’t be hitting 300 and that’s ok). I need to be careful not to feel bad when I don’t hit the challenge goal.

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