February—the time of year when many New Year’s resolutions often reach a breaking point, when some people teeter from their resolve. Not coincidentally, there is often a surge of activity from health and fitness centers and in the media to address this tendency.
Case in point: the commercials around the Winter Olympics have me thinking about starting a new cross-training routine!
Committing to Fitness
Olympian fitness aside, you may have noticed gyms and studios trying to sell you membership deals, and check-out aisles in grocery stores boasting magazines with an athletic cover model advertising various regimens to start at home.
Even at home, online wellness resources like this blog, for example, offer various fitness motivators, from signing up for a 7, 21, or 30-day workout challenge, to joining an online exercise group. You are bombarded with messages to take your fitness to the next level.
I teach at yoga studios that offer a version of a New Year’s challenge to help reignite any flagging motivations around winter time. Every year, I’ve seen beginning yoga students, as well as the occasional practitioner, sign on for a challenge in the hope that it jumpstarts their commitment to their fitness.
I’ve witnessed inspirational moments when students transform, inside and out, within weeks after they’ve dedicated themselves to their personal challenge. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the other scenario that can happen, too: when students don’t complete the challenge.
Contending with Your Own Yoga Challenge?
I hesitate to even type the words “don’t complete” here because I don’t want to imply that students who don’t finish a challenge are unsuccessful or failures.
There are infinite reasons why someone may be forced to cut these kinds of endeavors short: whether it’s time constraints, unexpected conflicts, or injuries and physical strain. Many of these obstacles are legitimate, while others might be more complicated. Regardless, it can be a frustrating struggle.
The inspiration for this article actually came from a DoYouYoga reader who revealed she was facing difficulties in a 30-day yoga challenge. She had been dealing with wrist and knee issues that were making it difficult for her to progress without pain.
Her circumstances are not that uncommon actually, as I’ve worked with yoga students who encounter similar obstacles. In that same vein, here are a few tips for anyone considering a yoga challenge, or any fitness challenge for that matter, to help them avoid some common pitfalls.
1. Define Your Reasons for Challenging Yourself
Cultivate a well-thought out, honest intention that will continue to motivate you for the length of the challenge, whether it’s one week, six weeks, or more.
2. Set Yourself Up for Success
Manage realistic expectations for yourself. Keyword: realistic. For example, if you’ve never practiced yoga before, it might not be realistic to expect to start with two classes per day, six days in a row. Baby steps are sometimes more successful than large strides that might be cut off early.
3. Honor Yourself and Your Body
Like our reader with wrist and knee issues, if you are dealing with injuries or physical strain, don’t ignore your body’s wisdom. If you don’t already know of modifications to help alleviate any pain, seek out info and expertise from experienced yoga teachers to better adapt your movements.
Remember to always consult a doctor for more specific issues that yoga teachers may not have the expertise to work with. These are all ways to further tailor the practice for your needs.
4. Enlist Support from Your Loved Ones
Sometimes it does take a village, and it can certainly make a difference when your friends and family also support your effort to cultivate health and wellness in your life.
Whether they are offering to cook healthier meals or volunteer to be your yoga buddy for those early morning classes, all these help you keep going so you can meet your goal.
5. Practice Compassion and Appreciate Yourself for Your Dedication
The challenge should not be about beating yourself into a new shape. Rather it’s a way for you to celebrate your health.
There will likely be bumps on the road, but when you remind yourself of your original intention and that you’re doing the best you can, that goes a long way to ensure you’ll be successful, long-term.
Redefine Success for You
Fitness challenges present you with an opportunity to reveal your best self and to maintain healthy routines for the rest of your life. Don’t think of these challenges as short-term; rather, they are a way to reaffirm your commitment to yourself—and you have a whole lifetime to succeed at that. Good luck!