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Taking on a Challenge: Is It Worth It?

Over the past 30 days, I've been doing one of these internet meme athletic challenges, in this case the #PlankChallenge.  I'm sure you've seen them.  These are the challenges where someone posts a picture like this:


It's pretty easy to see how this works.  You basically just do the prescribed amount of reps/time for the exercise in question for each day, and then announce your progress on social media using the indicated hashtag.  

I think these are a great idea, but not necessarily for the reason you think they are.

Yes, they help you get in better shape, especially when it's a challenge on a core muscle group like planks above.  That can't be denied.  I will take issue with the amount of rest this particular challenge allows you, however.  Some of these challenges will actually do a hard day, then drop back to an easier day as a rest of sorts... the one I just completed did not do this, as you can see.  That got to be pretty tough in the second half of the challenge, for sure.

The last week especially was brutal, and today's 5-minute challenge was particularly tough.  Basically, you do personal records of planks for four days straight - I can't think of too many trainers who would recommend such a thing.

But I do like the ramp-up period - I have had NO lasting ab soreness because of that factor.  Starting with the small amounts at first and ramping up slowly was a great thing for avoiding that.

Anyway, enough about the structure of the challenge.  That's only part of the point here.

The major benefits are the creation of discipline and the accountability that helps develop it.

Obviously, the discipline comes from the simple doing of the challenge each and every day that it's scheduled.  It's very much a "1% a day" improvement as is promoted by MorningCoach.com, the Spartan Race guys, and a bunch of other places.

The idea of improvement via small increments over time shows up in a lot of places, for sure, and as writers like Darren Hardy tell us, small incremental improvements will make their effects known in a big way down the road.  They're a lot of what people talk about when they say "it takes a lot of work to be an overnight success."  People don't always see those tiny incremental efforts at improvement being done, but they see the results when someone suddenly seems to appear out of nowhere into an arena as a new master.

But it takes discipline to continue regularly with those incremental steps and have them be effective.  And doing a challenge like this improves personal discipline immensely.  By setting up a schedule of efforts (basically giving yourself a plan), you've created an easy beginning to the effort, and taken the guesswork out of how it's all going to play out.  You know exactly what you're going to do each day and all you have to do is get it done.

The next big factor is the accountability factor.  Let's go back to the promoting your efforts via social media and the associated hashtag.  If you don't know, a hashtag is just a word or group of words that indicate a topic in social media posts, and they are preceeded by a hash (also known as a pound sign or number sign - the # character).  Google +, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and most other social media sites are optimized to use them.  They make it easy to search for other people's posts on the same topic, basically.

But the beauty of them is that by using them in your own posts about your efforts, and then searching for other people who are using them for their own efforts, you are aligning yourself with people who can become accountability partners in your efforts to succeed.  You're announcing to the world that you're taking on a challenge, and people who are taking the same challenge will know all about it and help to keep you on track via encouragement and even criticism if you fall away from the challenge (hopefully that criticism will be constructive!).

Letting people know about your goals and the action you're taking to achieve them will only instill more discipline in you! No one wants to look bad in front of friends when you've told them you're going to do something and it doesn't happen.  Accountability is a very valuable tool in achieving goals.

So take on one of these challenges.  Find one that works for you, and is starting at a level that you can handle.  Do an image search for "pushup challenge" or "running challenge" or whatever you want to improve and see what sorts of challenges people have put together.  And use these challenges as a springboard to greater achievement as you develop discipline and accountability on your way to personal evolution!

Have you ever tried a workout challenge?  What techniques helped you to complete it?  What issues did you encounter in their complettion?  

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