Here at The Renegade Nurse, my main mission is to empower you to take control over your health and wellbeing. By control I mean that you make daily decisions that improve your health and fitness. And that you’re able to make these decisions based on science and evidence-based practice rather than what marketing and old science supports. It’s amazing what is still taught by doctors, and nurses, and dieticians. But that’s another blog post (or book).
Today I want to talk about how to create your own health challenge.
So, what is a health challenge?
This is a 30-day commitment to improve something health related in your daily life. It can be ANYTHING that you choose to focus on. You might:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time
- Walk 10,000 steps a day
- Quit sugar
- Eat only whole foods
- Give up bread
- Stop drinking alcoholic beverages
- Turn off electronic devices
- Eat 8 servings of fruits or veggies
- Stop complaining or gossiping or ….
You get the picture. For 30 days you commit to daily lifestyle change.
Why? What’s the Point of a Challenge?
Challenges are just that. They ask you to step up your game a bit. And because it’s for 30 days, it’s a finite amount of time that’s fairly easy to commit to.
A challenge also helps you create awareness. Generally speaking it takes 30-40 days to establish a new habit or routine. With a 30-day challenge, you may not get to the point where your new habit is truly engrained, but if you decided it was worth it, you could continue. For example, if you meditate for 30 days in a row, you may decide that you really gained tremendous benefit and continue including meditation into your day.
I also like 30-day challenges because they are just challenging enough to give you some confidence. When you complete 30 days of anything, you finish the challenge a little tougher, a little wiser, and a bit more confident in yourself. It’s a good thing.
So How Do You Start Your Own 30-Day Challenge?
- Choose Your Focus
Make a list of healthy habits you’d like to embrace or unhealthy habits you’d like to get rid of. Once you have your list, think about how you could make it a challenge. For example, maybe you’d like to stop drinking so much coffee (something I’ve never said!). Does that look like 30 days without any caffeine or 30 days with 1 cup of coffee? If so, what size is the cup? You get the picture. Choose the focus of your challenge and then create your parameters.
- Set Yourself Up for Success
Your challenge is going to be…challenging. After all, you’re getting rid of an old habit or trying to create a new one. That often creates a ripple effect so it’s important that you plan ahead and create systems that support you.
Let’s continue with the coffee thing. If you’re only going to have one cup of coffee, then…
- What are you going to drink instead?
- When are you going to have that cup of coffee?
- How will you manage caffeine headaches?
- How will you manage cravings, like when that co-worker walks by with a steaming latte and leaves it on their desk right next to yours?
You get the picture. Think about the things that might come up and create a plan of action. This way, when they do come up and Joe tells you he’s going to Starbucks, do you want anything, you’ll be able to answer confidently.
- Tracking Success
Consider tracking your success. This doesn’t have to be complicated. You might put a big fat X on your calendar for every day you’re successful. You might use one of those handy countdown or habit tracking applications on your mobile phone. Tracking helps you see how far you’ve come, and it lets you know how many days you have left. It’s tough to quit a challenge when you know you only have a week left.
- Reward Yourself
I like to reward myself for challenges and goals I achieve. For example, I committed to learning how to do a muscle up and while it took a year longer than I thought it would, I bought myself the Aviator Nation sweatshirt I promised myself I’d get when I finally got that muscle up. Truth be told, I didn’t even want that sweatshirt anymore. Hell, it’d been a year and a half since I decided that would be my reward. But I bought that sweatshirt anyway and the joy I feel when I wear it, because of what it represents, is just amazing.
So, decide what type of reward fits the challenge. Rewards can be anything from spa services to clothing to trips to food items. Consider, however, steering clear of rewards that are directly related to your challenge. For example, if you are giving up coffee maybe it’s not a good idea to reward yourself with a new coffee maker when you’re done. Why? Because maybe you’ll be done with coffee after the challenge.
- When It’s Over
You have choices to make when you’re done with the challenge. You can…
Go back to life as it was before the challenge. Something I’ve certainly done on a number of occasions.
Embrace the new habit into your life. Again, I’ve done this as well.
Or find some sort of happy medium. Maybe you go back to drinking coffee, but you keep it to one or two cups a day, rather than the 10 you were drinking before the challenge.
So…. how are you going to challenge yourself?
Here’s what I’m doing.
I’m doing a 30-day mobility challenge. Every day I am spending 10 minutes (they can be cumulative) on performing mobility exercises for my shoulders, upper back, and neck. This is a problem area for me and it’s caused injury in the past. I not only don’t want to get inured again, I also want to be stronger and in better shape and mobility helps that. In the past I’ve pretty much ignored mobility stuff and it’s time to change that, at least for 30 days. I’m curious about how my range of motion and movement patterns will change over the month. For my reward…I hadn’t thought about it until now. Maybe I’ll get a massage. That’s good for mobility, right?
Leave a comment! I’d love to hear how you’re challenging yourself and how its going.