the lure of the 30 day challenge

Since returning from racing/vacationing/eating/sipping my way through Northern California two weeks ago, I’ve been looking for a reason to live. That sounds dramatic, I know, but with the athletic achievement part of my life currently on pause, I need something to fill the space.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been obsessing about an August 30-day challenge. Why? What’s wrong with just living life? Why do I have to dice it up into a nice and neat, named thing?

The popularity of these challenges has obviously hit on something culturally. Despite having only really done one (unless you count unnamed ones like training almost every single day for the past five months), I’m a sucker for them. Something about them seems so organized and productive. (Probably that very same something that explains why I liked The Happiness Project and dislike napping.) As Matt Cutts calls it on his TED Talk on the subject, “the next 30 days are going to pass whether you like it or not.” His point? Why not use them to try something new or usher in a new habit?

Three friends and strawberry-rhubarb Julian Pie Co. pie

Four reasons to ride: Three friends and strawberry-rhubarb pie.

On Saturday I jumped in on a 6-hour ride with two friends in the middle of training for Ironman Wisconsin and Challenge Penticton. (My “training” since Vineman has consisted solely of yoga and swimming, so as soon as the 100+ mile ride in 90-degree heat stopped being fun and social, I called Mark for a rescue. We hit up our favorite Escondido bottle shop on the way home so it wasn’t a wasted trip to the boonies.) But one piece of advice stuck with me from the ride, from the mouth of friend more well-versed in the triathlon lifestyle than I am: “If you strip away the bike and the running shoes and the goggles, there better be something left.”

In August, I want to explore what’s left. The hippie instead of the triathlete, so to speak.

I have two days left to make a decision, and the options are plentiful: There’s the admirable digital detox I read about in Fast Company. There are abundant physical and health-oriented challenges swirling around on social media: Better abs in 30 days! 30 days of green smoothies! No processed sugar for a month! For some reason, none of these standard challenges draw me. I want a different focus than fitness, and I’m enjoying my loose approach to food and exercise—even if it means my clothes aren’t fitting that way. The Lululemon bags preach the usual clichés, like “do something every day that scares you.” But I want enriching, not exhausting. Organic, not forced. Wide, not narrow. Not a tall order at all.

September will bring new goals and challenges, and a quicker pace of life. I want to be ready. If you have ideas, shoot them my way.

2 thoughts on “the lure of the 30 day challenge

  1. July 31, 2013 at 10:31 pm

    Hi Jen – Love this idea of a non-fitness/food related challenge, thanks for the inspiration. I’m thinking I’d like to do something around being a nicer person / self confidence / anxiety. Maybe talking to a stranger per day or taping an inspirational quote to the mirror each day. I’m sure you’ve seen this list: http://www.highexistence.com/30-challenges-for-30-days/. I was in the office cafe today and a stranger was there washing fruit, and he started a conversation and was so nice, friendly, and happy, that it really made my day that much better; I couldn’t help but think, what if I had that same mood and gave a positive impact to others? (I often don’t as I’m very introverted and shy) Anyway, not to write a book here, but I look forward to seeing what 30 day challenge you choose!

    1. Jen
      August 1, 2013 at 5:41 am

      Thanks for leaving a note, Katie! Tomorrow’s the first, ack!