Written by Zoe Knight

You see them everywhere – 12 week challenges, 8 week challenges, 6 week challenges, 28 day challenges.  But if these aren’t structured or executed right, they can sometimes be more detrimental to your health than beneficial.  Read below to get the best out of your short-term goals!

Challenges.  They’re thrown out there to target the inner competitor in you.  And is that a bad thing?  Absolutely not!  Any incentive to embark on a journey of health and fitness should be considered a good incentive.  However there are facts that must be considered before diving head first into a short-term program and giving it all you’ve got.

Distinguish your MOTIVES and be REALISTIC with your expectations

What prompted you to sign up for a challenge? Are you looking for a jump-start or a quick fix?  Have you been training for a while and hit a plateau that you want to push past, or do you just want to see what you are capable of?  Whatever your motivation, make sure you are consciously aware of what it is – and be honest with yourself.  Knowing your why will help you stick to it when your motivation is low.

Be realistic with what can be achieved in the timeframe of the challenge.  The 12 Week timeframe came about through bodybuilding.  They would spend all year putting on size and sculpting their shape, and 12 to 16 weeks before their show, they would start pulling off body fat to showcase their hard work.  This is, in today’s physique world, known as the Competition Prep Phase, or Comp Prep.  From there, trainers and coaches brought the concept over to general population, failing to however account for the year or two of hard work that hadn’t been done. 

Go into it with a PLAN that surpasses the finish date

Ideally, and for optimal health, you want to use the challenge as a kick-start for a more long-term, sustainable healthy lifestyle.  What keeps a lot of us motivated when we’re on a health and fitness journey, is positive feedback.  It’s one of the most important components of long-term motivation and we usually seek it out via a performance metric that directly relates to our ultimate goal, whether it be fat loss, strength, fitness – all of which are measurable. 

Knowing you are heading in the right direction is vital to you staying on the path you’re on, and a challenge can give you really good feedback in a minimal amount of time.  Use your progress and efforts throughout the pre-determined timeframe as motivation to continue on the path of becoming healthier, fitter, stronger and happier.  Make a plan to continue on with once the challenge has finished.  Set a goal, and work towards it every day.

Say NO to extreme things to get extreme RESULTS

Entering into a challenge may make you feel as though you have a limited amount of time to achieve maximal results.  Often this mentality can lead you down the path of doing extreme things to get the biggest results possible.  This would mainly include over training and under eating. 

Rest and recovery are just as important throughout challenges as they are in every day training.  You must allow your body the time it needs to become fitter, faster and stronger, and you must nourish your body with all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients it needs to function optimally.  Follow a program that has you training smarter, not harder!

Be selective about WHO you work with when SIGNING up for a CHALLENGE

This is a very important point to follow because if following the wrong program and taking advice from the wrong trainer, a lot of metabolic and hormonal damage can be done in 12, 8 or even 6 weeks.  Ensure that the purpose of the challenge is to help you realize your capabilities and potential, and to set you up for further, long term health and training programs.  Make sure that they put your health as their number one concern, and that they stress that you are in competition with no one other than yourself.

Before signing up for a short-term program, just remember that there is no end date to health!