28 DAY CHALLENGE
MY 28 DAY CHALLENGE JOURNEY AND THE STRENGTH IT BROUGHT ME
Last month I completed the Wilderness Athlete 28 Day Challenge. I am not one for New Year’s Resolutions, so it made me feel better to start Monday, December 31st. I was also just too excited to wait.
I have always been an active person but somehow I have never done a strength program. I’m not sure how this happened. I’ve always just relied on my natural strength I guess (according to 23 and Me I have the muscle fibers of an elite power athlete, whatever that means haha).
When I was pregnant with my second kid, I did CrossFit, but when you are pregnant you are limited on your gains. Despite working hard, I didn’t see any real strength gains, and after I had my kid, I quit. I stopped mostly because I suffered from diastasis recti, which made my abs weak.
Before the challenge, I had been spending some time in the gym, but I only spent about 20 minutes doing some basic strength exercise and failed to be consistent.
My Before and Goals
As I took my before photos, I was super hopeful for what my after would look like. I was hoping to lose a couple of pounds – honestly, all for vanity reasons. I didn’t share my before picture with anyone because I was afraid that I wouldn’t have a great after. Like most 30-something moms, I don’t always feel great about the way I look, ok it’s probably not specific to moms.
I didn’t really know what to expect from the challenge and my main goal was just to complete the program. Thinking back, I maybe should have been a little bit more ambitious, but since I’d never done a strength program that seemed like a good start.
The Wilderness Athlete 28 Day Challenge does a great job of giving you a suggested meal plan, and I love the cookbooks. Most challenges or programs fail to support you after they are done, but with the two included cookbooks the “diet” portion seems very sustainable and everything was yummy.
I already eat pretty well, and my diet is in line with the Challenge, so that wasn’t really a change for me. I can see how this portion could really make a difference for some people.
However, as a person who had never used a blender bottle before, the shakes were a departure from my normal routine. I continued to add the Paleo(ish) Beef Protein to my morning coffees, (I call them WA Protein Mochas), but I also had a Meal replacement shake after my workouts. I was surprised how good they taste, especially the vanilla.
I also loved how fast they are. On days I had time I would make a little smoothie (fun recipes are in the included Wild Kitchen Cookbook), but on days I was in a hurry just the Meal Replacement with water was great. I also believe the extra protein really contributed to my recovery and ultimately my strength gains.
So my before and after pictures are a little underwhelming. I had wanted to lose weight, but I actually gained a pound (probably muscle because my body composition seemed to stay about the same). However, that was not the only thing I gained.
What I gained.
- The most important thing I gained during the 28 Day Challenge, a new love for strength training. Turns out I love working out in the gym and having a plan for the day. Who knew 🙂
- So much strength! Ok, I am kind of a beginner, which makes the gains more dramatic, but seriously check out how much stronger I got in only 4 weeks!
- Total number of pull-ups in 3 sets- increased 63 %
- Front squat- increased 46 %
- Bench press- increased 88%
- Deadlift- increased 34%
- Power Clean- increased 46%
- Increased knowledge of strength training moves. Some of the exercises I had to YouTube, multiple times. I now know that my left leg is significantly weaker (probably due to a chronic injury) and split squats will now be something I do every week.
- Doing different movements taught me more about my body. I didn’t realize that my arm mobility was so poor. At the beginning of the challenge I had trouble holding the bar in a front squat, but by the end, it was no problem. Apparently holding on to the bar for chin-ups also requires some flexibility I don’t possess. Pull-ups are still easier for me, but now at least I know that is something I need to work on.
- Confidence. I used to scutter around the gym like a mouse trying to stay out of people’s way. I think I was self-conscious about not knowing what to do. Something about carrying around the training log made me feel more confident and as the weeks went on, I felt more and more like I belonged there. Side note, only kind of related, I had never listened to music in the gym until the challenge, it turns out music makes working out way more fun (studies have shown music can increase the amount you are able to lift).
So, while I didn’t lose any weight, what I gained was much more important and I am really glad I completed the Wilderness Athlete 28 Day Challenge. I have continued to go to the gym. I pretty much am just repeating old workouts from the challenge, but with more weight. I am so excited to see my strength continue to increase, and I can’t wait to see how the time in the gym affects sheep hunting this year!