Holiday Challenge, Weeks 3 & 4

Here’s an update on my Holiday Fitness Challenge. Need an update on what am I doing and why? Start here and then go here.

So yeah, the Holiday Fitness Challenge. Heh, maybe it’s the name that is the problem… maybe if we called it something else… the Fitness Commitment? the Wellness Quest? the Great Expedition Into Your Weakness? Maybe if it didn’t have the word “Challenge” in the name of it, perhaps it would not be so challenging.

Healthy for the Holidays Challenge

This was a 4 week challenge at work where we were logging healthy behaviors. My stated goal for Week 3 was to increase the number of items logged. In week 1 I logged 17 and in Week 2 I logged 19. So what happens in Week 3?

Week 3: 15 items logged. Yes, the lowest number logged of all the weeks yet. Yes, I know why.
Week 4: 18 items logged. In statistics, that’s called regression to the mean. When data points vary, an extreme value tends to be followed by a more normal value. Hooray for statistics!

The challenge concluded on Dec 15, at the end of the 4 weeks. I logged a total of 69 healthy behaviors. When I added it up, my first thought was: Geez, you couldn’t do just one more?  <– Now I think, Geez, hard on yourself much?? 

At the end of this challenge, it was nice to have the accountability. Knowing I was going to turn that form in and someone else was going to see it made a difference. Sometimes all you need is somebody to be accountable to.

Coach Jenny Hadfield’s Holiday Challenge

I kept my goal the same: at least 10 minutes a day of elliptical, 5 days a week, with all the required foam rolling and stretching that it was going to take to keep me on the elliptical that long. Maybe this is a surprise to no one: Week 3 is when it started falling apart.

Week 3: 4 days, 41 minutes, 0.96 elliptical miles

It was the pain. I am used to having the pain while I am working out, but then the pain wanted to hang around longer, like this heavy backpack you can’t seem to wrestle out of. My knees didn’t just hurt when I was walking up the stairs, they hurt when I was standing still. They even started hurting when I was sitting down. They had that kind of sharp angry pain that says “HEY, YOU. PAY ATTENTION TO ME.” And I told the pain: Oh, stop being so dramatic. Have some ibuprofen. Rest a little. Get over it. Because you haven’t even done one whole mile on the elliptical yet, and I’ve got some big plans. So shape up, buddy.

And that’s where we were when we started Week 4. Can you see where this is going?

Week 4: 2 days, 21 minutes, 0.4 elliptical miles

Those were two days of compromise. Here’s how the negotiation with the pain went: I’ll just do ten minutes, then I promise I’ll jump right off. This isn’t a race- in fact, I will go as slowly as you want. This isn’t really a workout, this is a walk in the park. I won’t even change into my workout clothes. It’s okay, stay calm.

It didn’t work.

Instead of pressuring myself to do more and more of the same thing, I decided that it would be okay to re-tool my goal in the middle of the week. Doing something is better than doing nothing. I dug out an old favorite yoga video and the first day I spent an hour on the mat, breathing… and stretching… and forgetting to breathe… and breathing… and moving gently. It helped. And well, quite honestly… moving in other directions besides the sagittal plane probably helped just as much as the breathing.

That darn elliptical is not just a glute and quad and hamstring shredder, it’s a Perpetual Sagittal Plane Machine. Relentless forward motion. You’re not going to do any side bending and twisting on the elliptical. Yoga wants you to move in all three planes.




Transverse plane motions are rotational twists, Frontal plane motions are adduction and abduction, and sagittal plane motions are flexion and extension.


So I’ve had this pain for a while. I wonder what it’s going to take to get past it.

I was reading an article about the difference between the kinds of pain. There’s a kind of pain that is useful- that shows you that you are growing, and there’s a kind of pain that is not useful- it means you are injuring yourself. Sometimes it’s really hard to tell the difference.

Adi Amar, in Good Pain vs. Bad Pain, writes:

It is ego and obsession that get in the way of really distinguishing between something that is useful or not.

Well I am guilty of that. It took me a long time to realize I needed to let go of this Jump On The Elliptical All The Time bandwagon, probably because I have been posting and writing about it.

So if I have this pain, what could it mean? How can I honor the pain and learn the lesson it is trying to teach me?

Carl Jung said that pain does not come from this moment, but it is an accumulation of our past experiences and the anticipation of what is yet to come. Jung often associates this with emotional pain, but since emotional pain lodges in the physical body, the pain we feel today is an accumulation of both our past physical and mental experiences. The practice of yoga, which is a self-reliant healing system, is one of the great tools available to us to reduce not only our current pain, but future pain and suffering as well.

Part of me wants to say, Oh brother, we have to go back here again? And the answer, of course, as always, is Yes.

With this mindfulness, we can then look at the difference between a bad sensation, one that feels compressive in a joint, sharp, stabbing or electric, versus a good sensation, one that feels productive as in a stretch, elongation or tension in the belly of a muscle. Awakening our senses ignites a clarity that allows us to very honestly feel what is going on. This clarity encourages us to know and to feel if the moment is useful or non-useful, harming or non-harming, serving or no longer serving us.

Yippee. +1 to me for eventually recognizing what was no longer serving me.

I am not sure where this leaves the Holiday Challenge, but I guess this little adventure just turned into the Holiday Yoga Challenge.

Show some love to the amazement that is going on over there at Elephant Journal.

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