Fitness & health: the 21 day challenge


A few days ago I wrote an article to share a review of 2016 and my resolutions for 2017. Well, we’re now a week into the new year and it’s time to get cracking! I’ve decided to start my quest for health and fitness with a 21 day challenge. I don’t usually write about health and fitness (largely because there was not much to write about – shame on me!) but I figured it would be a good way to hold myself accountable and maybe share some tips and learnings along the way. I did vow in my previous article to create and post a lot more content so it seems fitting to document this challenge.

What is the 21 day challenge?

There are all kinds of challenges out there, but I decided that I needed to pick one that seems right and adjust it to my lifestyle, schedule and responsibilities. I got the idea for the 21 day challenge from my favourite travel and lifestyle blogger, Johnny Ward from OneStep4Ward. He recently  shared an article describing a 21 day bootcamp that gets organised by the Aspire fitness club in Bangkok. It’s basically 3 weeks of intense training bootcamp and a dietary challenge:

  • No sugar
  • No carbs
  • No alcohol

Unfortunately, I don’t live in Bangkok and I certainly couldn’t afford a similar bootcamp here in Amsterdam, so I decided to create my own tailor-made 21 day challenge. Here are my rules:

  • No sugar
  • No carbs (potatoes, pasta, rice, bread – beans and nuts are fine)
  • No alcohol
  • Daily morning workout (1 recovery day/week)
  • Wake up every weekday by 7:00 AM
  • Daily meditation, breathing exercises & cold shower (as part of the Wim Hof Method)

It’s going to be a hell of a challenge, especially considering my track record of the past year. That is why I want to share it with as many people as possible, to keep the pressure up and invite others to join me!

Why the 21 day challenge?

“No half measures” – Mike Ehrmantraut (Breaking Bad)

I generally am against fad diets and temporary measures. I think that permanent changes to routine and diet are the only way to really get in shape and sustain it. But sometimes, when you’re on one end of the extreme, you need to go to the other end just to find a balance in between.

I’ve always been someone who does things in the extreme and I’ve always struggled to find a happy medium when it comes to certain things like diet and exercise. In some ways, this is a good thing because it makes me push my limits and grow, but it can also be a bad thing because more often than not, ‘everything or nothing’ can end up being ‘nothing’.

I have spent the last year on one end of the extreme, which means doing hardly any exercise and eating pretty much anything and everything whenever I want (read: tonnes of pasta and cheese all the time). Sugar, carbs and alcohol are basically poison and they can be very addictive. As with any addiction, it can be very hard to slowly and progressively cut down until you quit. Going cold turkey tends to be the most effective way to quit, at least in my experience.

That is why I want to do the 21 day challenge. By going into the extreme for 3 weeks, I hope to get over some of my addictions and cravings and start developing a healthier routine for both diet and exercise. These 3 weeks will force me to try new foods, learn new recipes and come to terms with eating no sugar or carbs . I haven’t drunk much alcohol in the past year, so things shouldn’t be too hard on that front.

As for choosing 21 days….Like I said, I used the Aspire model for inspiration. I also like the idea of having a new routine and approach in place and being on track for my goals after just the first month of the year. The end of 2016 was hectic and packed so I’ve needed a week to figure out my priorities and plans. This way, the challenge will last until the end of the month of January.

What happens in 21 days?

If the challenge is a success, I’ll have hopefully managed to overcome the worst part of my cravings and will be able to create a balanced diet and exercise routine to continue my work. The point of this challenge is not to lose some weight and go right back to my old ways. I generally plan to cut down on sugar and carbs and hopefully after this challenge, it will be easier for me to have a balanced diet and a good exercise routine. I also hope that these 21 days will make me learn new recipes, kill some bad habits and generally change my attitude towards food and exercise. I like to see this as a sort of ‘re-calibration’.

I would love to have others join me on this challenge. Other people make this sort of thing more fun and also adds some accountability and pressure to keep you going. If you feel like joining, drop me message, an email or just a comment below! I’d be happy to share tips, recipes and routines that I discover or come up with. Let’s do this!

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