Some might say that the ’31 day challenge’ was to read every daily blog I wrote throughout January. I would say that’s not a challenge, that would be the ’31 day pleasure’! However, if you don’t have time to read all 31 blogs then here’s what I learned after 31 days of running, cycling and swimming.
- You need luck: Whether it’s avoiding injury, illness or getting pinged to self-isolate because you met someone with COVID, it’s very difficult to do anything for any length of time without a bit of luck that conditions will be favourable. I was lucky because I didn’t get ill until day 32, the day after the challenge was over. I had a couple of days with a heavy cold. I could probably have continued through it, but it wouldn’t have been good for me. Instead, I had 31 clear days.
- You need a plan: Life gets in the way of doing something everyday. Most weeks I knew which days would be difficult: whether through work, travel, family or other commitments. For those days you need a plan in advance and you need to stick to it. You can’t think, like I did, that time will suddenly make itself free. that way leads to exercising at 9:30 at night and trying not to do too much so that you can still sleep at 11.
- You need to think about the start: I didn’t. I started on the first of January but hadn’t thought that I should maybe have rested on the 31st December (or the 30th or 29th…). Tyson Fury doesn’t box for an hour before he enters the ring, he has a happy meal and a milkshake (probably!). So should you.
- You need to make it tough enough to be a challenge: I aimed to run or cycle for at least 30 minutes and to swim for at least 15 minutes. Over the month I averaged one hour a day (though that included some commuting time). That felt enough for me. Just long enough to make it a challenge, not so long it became a chore each day. However, everyone is different, and you should set a time that works best for you.
- You will push yourself in unexpected ways: You will end up running when the weather is crap, cycling indoors when you’d rather watch TV and getting to the swimming pool when you wouldn’t even have got out of bed. The challenge does make you think about how much time you have each day to swim, run and cycle and that it’s possible to fit this in without sacrificing anything else.
- You will get fitter: By the end I improved both my lap times for swimming and my average speed for running. Consistant training does work except…
- You won’t get slimmer: But that may just be the cake! By the end I was the same weight as when I started. Maybe 31 days without a Mars Bar would be a better challenge?
- You will be tired at the end: I was happy to finish!
What the biggest thing I’ve learned from the challenge? Probably that it’s possible to do some form of exercise each day and still get the benefit of a rest day. A swim, an easy cycle or gentle jog can be just as relaxing as doing nothing. I bet no one else in the world knows this so I hereby can confirm that I have invented a new form of exercise! I shall call it ‘Active Recovery’. No one has thought of that before!
Now, how do I claim my Nobel Prize for Science for inventing it?