August 22, 2016

Health : 21 Day Fix Challenge

Stoney Point, Los Angeles CA. April 2016

If you know me well in real life, you've probably heard me talk multiple times about the workout program p90x (Power 90 Extreme).  I'm pretty sure it gets annoying, because I refer to it the way I talk about college or a trip--a recurring point of reference to a significant period of time that still has effects on me now.  But it really was significant for me, in changing the way I perceive fitness and strength, making it less like something other more capable people did and more something anyone can choose to do.

Back when I was doing it, I read about it online and came across blogs of other women recording their experiences with the program.  It was fun to see how other people integrate exercise into their lives, and how it was significant for others too.

Back then, a few different circumstances coincided to motivate me to start.  One, I had a lot of free time then. I was also anticipating not having a lot of free time in the future.  It was near the end of medical school, and I'd be starting residency in the next year.  It seemed like a good time to build a foundation for when I wouldn't have as much time and resilience.  I had also hurt my hip running (because apparently I have the joints of an eighty year old) and wanted to do something active that wasn't as repetitive.  I also knew that part of why I'd hurt myself was because I'd gone from doing no strength training most of my life to running every day (also after a long break from any physical activity at all), and I had no real muscle. And my friend had the workout videos to lend me.

This summer, a number of things also came together to motivate me to start a different program, the 21 Day Fix, by the same people who made p90x.  I've intermittently gone back to the p90x workouts but I'm too familiar with them now and they're also too long (an hour, plus every other day of 15 minute abs) to incorporate into my work day.  I knew that after I finished the marathon training, I wouldn't want to be running a lot and that I'd miss structured workouts.  And so I went back to the blogs I'd read years before, and found that one I liked a lot back then (FitnessFatale) was still going strong.  And growing--she had started challenge groups for women interested in doing the 21 Day Fix, where they join a facebook group and update each other daily on their workouts and nutrition.  It's a safe, welcoming space to encourage and hold each other accountable.

So I signed up for it, asked a friend if she was interested in joining for some of the workouts, and am now 2 weeks into it.  When it comes to fitness, I really enjoy having structured goals and regimens because you never feel like any effort you put in is going to waste--there's an overarching plan and every minute counts towards that.

My favorite benefit from things like this is just becoming generally more mindful of what you're doing with your body.  Being conscious of what you can push your body to do, how it can respond to your efforts; feeling both the soreness of recovery and the increased strength of building; choosing foods that add to the health you're creating--it's very therapeutic.  So I'm a real believer in starting a program like this, even if you don't have particular circumstances that align to make it the right time, or any specific goal in mind.  Just completing something like this opens up so much for whole person health.

A friend told me that I'm like a walking ad for these exercise programs because I talk about them so much. While I don't think you necessarily have to choose something like this, I do think pushing yourself to do something extreme and structured makes general fitness and health so much easier for the rest of your life.  Once you invest intense energy into a program, whether it's 90 days or 21, you'll find that you really can do more than you think, and you'll build a base that's much easier to re-start from in the future.  So even if you lose the exercise momentum for awhile after you finish, you can come back and it will be easier.  And it opens up so many other opportunities--you'll be able to hike more, bike longer, hold new yoga poses, try new activities you might otherwise be intimidated by.

I wish all the time that my patients had the resources to do things like this.  By resources, I mean all the things that go into feeling like this is possible. We have a long way to go in terms of creating a society where everyone feels empowered to tackle their health in this way. But I think if you're lucky enough to be in any field where you are providing care for others in any shape or form, you are lucky enough to be able to take on something like this.

So whenever I struggle to show up for a workout, I try to remember what a privilege it is to have these avenues for becoming stronger and more mindful.  It's why I talk about it so much, because when you feel grateful to have found something valuable you want to share it. Even if you do absolutely no exercise right now, it's possible and it's a privilege you already own; you just have to choose it.

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