Sunday, February 9, 2014

30 Day Squat Challenge: A Reflection on Suffering

Well, I did it. I finished the squat challenge. I made it all the way up to 250 squats and somehow didn't die.

As I've been doing all this, I searched for different versions of the challenge, the responses people have had, and the positive/negatives that fitness experts and bloggers are bringing up. It was enlightening.

Firstly, know that I would not encourage everyone to take on the 30 Day Squat Challenge. Squats can put a lot of strain on muscles that aren't used to it. They even put tons of strain on muscles that ARE used to it. That can lead to injury, or just pain. Not only that, hopping off the couch to do this challenge won't do all that much for you. It is a lot of work, and if you aren't already doing some kind of fitness regimen, it won't really help you the way the before and after pictures make you think it will. If you don't believe me, trust the Huffington Post.

I started out in good shape, so I had some hope that the squat challenge would do SOMETHING for me. My hope was that it would increase my endurance levels and give me an easier time, should I try running again after Indiana ceases to be a frozen hellscape. If it increased muscle definition or tone, all the better. I think it did all of those things. Believe me, I wish I could tell you it didn't do anything for me. But it really did.

Here is how I did the challenge. (Note that I'm no expert. I know only what works for my body. You'll have to see what works for you if you try this.)

1. I made sure I used good form. No one wants to explode perfectly good knees, and this sort of movement can really hurt you if you screw it up. It really, REALLY hurts if you do it wrong 250 times.

2. I did not do the squats all at once. This is because doing too many squats--or to many reps of any exercise--will make your muscles "burn"--and you don't always want that. Muscles release lactic acid when they get starved for oxygen or overused, and while a little is no big deal, a lot isn't great for you. Lactic acid is your body's way of saying, slow the frack down. For one, you won't be able to sit or stand without help. and moreover, you'll be in agony, and who wants that? I broke the number of squats I did down into manageable chunks I did throughout the day. It kept me from being overwhelmed, and I think it helped keep my muscles happy in the long run.

3. I mixed things up a bit. Here are some alternatives to the standard squat that keep this challenge from being as boring as all get out.

4. I kept working out in other ways. This is because a challenge like this doesn't stand in for exercise, it's designed to be added into a regular routine. I did not, however, do Jillian's Killer Buns and Thighs DVD. I did Six Week Six Pack and Ripped in 30. When Jillian had me do squats, I substituted another exercise or counted those squats toward my daily goal.

5. I obeyed the rest days. No. Really.

I hope that was of some help to someone. This challenge was way cheaper than a membership at the YMCA. It mixed things up and kept my workout from being dull, so I say it's a good thing. My next challenge is the 30 Day Plank Challenge. We'll see how that goes.

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