The nine day challenge that didn’t end

By the end of my last six weeks with no no-drinking rules I felt decidedly disgusting. I was bloated and lethargic and exercise had somehow crept right off my agenda. Sure, I move around at a moderate pace for most of my waking hours, and I train with my clients, but that’s at an intensity that’s right for them, not me. Plus, my last drinking day had been a doozie – Baileys, red wine and white wine all in one day. I needed to snap myself out of my stupor; a physical challenge was in order!

I’ve talked about Mike Chang’s workouts before, they’re fairly high intensity, 20 minute sessions made up of a variety of bodyweight resistance exercises, something that anyone can fit into an already busy schedule and do in the comfort of their own homes. You watch the video and you do what you’re told – easy. The first one is a fitness test where you do a series of six exercises, each for 45 seconds, for a maximum number of reps. Watch this video for the demonstrations. The next eight workouts alternate between working the upper body and lower body, and once you’ve made your way through them all you do the fitness test again.

Unexpected things started happening once I adopted a daily exercise habit. I thought it would be a real drag fitting the workouts in, especially on the three days where I work from 7:00 AM until 3 or 4:00PM, but I found myself diligently getting up at 4:44 AM (because it looked cooler than 4:45) and getting them done early. Within a few days it felt more normal to do them than not to do them – which is all a habit is really. Then I found myself wanting to do more exercise; it is only 20 minutes a day after all. One day I went for a run, another I went to Mum’s yoga class, and then the other morning I found myself casually picking up my kettle bell and giving it 50 swings in between my sun salutes and spinal rolls.

But this is the best part: once I got through all the workouts and did the fitness test for the second time (results are in the table below) it seemed silly to stop, so I just kept going. In the last 15 days I’ve only missed one day – I was tired and in need of a break so I met a friend at the beach instead of being a slave to my workouts.

Exercise 05/02/14 13/02/14 24/02/14
Push ups 22 37 33
Jumping squats 27 33 40
Mountain climbers 75 90 96
Burpees 13 13 16
Butterfly 23 31 31
Prone knee to elbow 20 28 38

I’ll keep going until it’s time to do the fitness test a third time, then I’ll decide if I want to carry on. This is what my back looks like at the moment, the light is in my favour, but the muscles are all mine.

I did the fitness test for the third time this morning – a pretty good result. I would’ve liked to have done more push ups but my triceps were still sore from doing a Muay Thai session with teenage boys a few days ago. At least I improved on the blasted burpees!

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I love AFMs!

People talk about having an alcohol-free day (AFD) – that’s tiddlywinks. Round here I prefer to have an alcohol-free month (AFM). My first AFM was last August, and the first drink I had after a month sans booze was a bit of a let-down; I felt slightly off-balance and uncoordinated but that was about it. Then, after my six week alcohol-free stint through November and December I was even more loathe to break my fast. I knew once that first sip touched my lips I’d be right back to day zero, and I almost didn’t want to go there because I was quite proud of myself and my achievement. I felt a bit ashamed of myself while buying a bottle of wine from the supermarket, like I was some kind of juvenile delinquent who should’ve outgrown their bad habit by now.

I anticipated that by the end of January I’d probably be about ready to take another break from drinking, and so I have. Things are just better when I don’t drink. I feel better about myself and that feeling overflows into other aspects of my life: I exercise more, and when I exercise more I make better food choices, eat smaller portions, and cease to pick mindlessly at food when I’m not hungry. I sleep better too, and I’m far more productive with my time.

I always gain weight when I drink alcohol, it doesn’t matter what else I do or don’t do, it’s a simple fact. I guess it’s because alcohol is high in calories, seven per gram, yet it’s usually additional to the food one eats, not instead of. It also lowers one’s inhibitions, in the realm of food as well as other areas. Do you find all those healthy eating promises you’ve made yourself go flying out the window after you’ve had a few? Or is it the next day, when only a massive fry-up will soothe your hangover?

I’m starting to get the feeling that I might only want to drink once a month. One day, any day, out of each month I’m allowed to drink and that’s it. I need to make rules like this for myself otherwise bad habits start to creep in. Rules are good – I choose them, then I stick with them, and I get a sense of satisfaction for doing what I said I was going to do. Alcohol really doesn’t do anything for me these days anyway. I’m moving on and it feels good.

This AFM is actually five weeks. It started on the 3rd of February and will finish on the 8th of March. From the 3rd to the 8th of March I’m going tramping, like I said I was going to; I am a woman of my word, after all. The last day of the tramp marks my 34th birthday and my guy will come and meet me at the end of the track with Baileys and ice cream. Or maybe I’ll feel so pure after six days of being immersed in nature that I won’t want to pollute my body with alcohol and sugar. Ha, we shall see. I’ll let you know how I get on.