Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
18 Jul

Begin Your Summer Self-Challenge Now! (plus a Chance to Win a Free Copy of Primal Cravings)

Challenge YourselfEver since I was a kid in Northern New England, mid-July always had a foreboding kind of association. Sure, the black flies were good and gone by then. We were contentedly settled back into our routines of freedom and mayhem. It felt in some ways like summer had just begun! The calendar, however, said differently. Not only were we beyond the longest days of sunlight already, but we were moving into the waning half of summer itself. In a few short weeks, we’d be back in school, already plotting the following summer’s exploits. Though we can definitely take mid-July from a “half empty” kind of perspective, these days I prefer to see the time as an effective kick in the pants – a salient reminder that “hey, time to get going on all the remaining goals and schemes.” Seize the season, I guess you could say. With six weeks left in summer, who’s up for a self-challenge?

Lately I’ve been writing a fair amount about the psychological – even emotional – side of getting healthy. The fact is, knowing what to do/not do is only a small portion of the battle. From there, we too often get in our own way. In my decades of personal training, I’ve found it’s the inner dialogue that truly makes or breaks it for most people. It’s the inner guilt we stoke, the excuses we make, the laziness we justify, the fear we hide, the anxiety we attempt to contain. When they go unchecked, they usually end up containing us. If we can shine some awareness on the psychological hurdles we create for ourselves or if we can create an effective redirect away from our old habits toward better kick-start practices, we can break out of that containment. We can become the best possible versions of ourselves.

The key is to believe you deserve better. Deep, down-to-the-bones believe that you, yourself, the one sitting in front of this screen, the one you see in the bathroom mirror each morning deserve to know what it feels like to live your physical potential. In this one life you get, will you choose that experience? Will you give yourself the chance to know what you’re capable of? Ask yourself: would you be willing to make that chance happen now – in these next six weeks?

We can start by being honest with ourselves – about our “stuff” and do what we need to do to not let old emotional messages determine our future course. Then it’s time to invest in ourselves – to put ourselves right out there on the line with a hard and fast commitment. No nebulous, fuzzy, indeterminate aspirations need apply. Make it a clear cut vision – an event that you either finish or not, a set of numbers in your workouts you either make or don’t, a class you either take or don’t. There’s a reason for the concrete here. Not only will you feel more impetus to follow through, but you’ll reap the decisive rewards. Research has shown that depressed people tend to make more generalized goals. This vaguer focus, Dr. Joanne Dickson of the University of Liverpool and researcher in this area explains, results in “making it more difficult to achieve [the goals] and therefore creating a downward cycle of negative thoughts.” It’s probably not too much of a stretch to say vague intentions don’t do anyone’s self-esteem or self-efficacy any favors.

Every day we can cross off another day on the calendar. We can tell ourselves it just wasn’t meant to happen this day, this week, this month, this year. As the saying goes, “You said ‘tomorrow’ yesterday.” With the last half of summer, we can take advantage of that nagging sense of urgency. For most people, summer is the easiest time to take on a health goal. Longer daylight, better weather, fewer clothing hassles, more vacation time (for many people) means more opportunity and fewer excuses for getting in a genuine fitness routine – or bumping up what you have going.

This peak of summer is the time – your time. Take the first step toward a better life, a stronger and healthier and happier you. Drop the excuses at the curb. Take on the anxiety. Leave the guilt or undercutting self-concept behind. Get in the game, and make a clear, concrete commitment to yourself. Maybe it’s signing up for a 5K or joining a local sports team. Maybe it’s achieving a PR in OH squats or cleans. Perhaps it’s signing up for a dance class or biking a certain extended trail. Whatever it is, make it focused and measurable.

Primal CravingsSo, who’s up for making a “self-challenge” to finish out the summer? Are you on board? Got a goal that’s just itching to be scratched? List your fitness challenge that you’re committing to for the rest of summer in the comment section for the chance to win a copy of the new Primal Cravings book. (Because a good goal deserves great fuel…) Of course, making any intention truly public is an important aspect of succeeding. It gets you on the path, accountable from the start. Don’t let down your fellow MDA readers! I’ll be checking back come September around the time the 30-Day Challenge begins! Own this challenge – and snowball your success over the next six weeks into even bigger and better things. Isn’t that the way you want to begin your fall?

UPDATE: Congratulations to Jamie for being the randomly selected winner of this contest, and the lucky recipient of a copy of the new Primal Blueprint Publishing book Primal Cravings.

Share your Summer Self-Challenge, and good luck, everyone! The contest ends and a winner will be chosen at random at 5 PM PST, Thursday, July 18. Thanks for reading today, everybody.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Funny you put this challenge out because I just committed myself to a new routine and a stricter primal lifestyle! And of course I put it out in public with a new blog.

    My goals are to tighten my diet, not drink as frequently, back off my long distance running, ramp up my crossfit type exercises, yoga twice a week for relaxation, and increase my sleep.

    I’m shooting for success!

    Ashley wrote on July 18th, 2013
    • Hi Ashley,

      I also have the same goal. I would like to tighten my diet and shift to crosfit exercises. I’m thinking of doing yoga. I never tried it before. Is it really effective? Some former yoga students told me it’s just a waste of time.

      Lonnie Thaler wrote on July 19th, 2013
      • I think it is just as effective for mental wellness as it is for physical wellness. And in my mind they go hand in hand. Nothing you do in care for your body in a physical way is a waste of time.

        Primal Hippie wrote on July 19th, 2013
  2. My goal for the remaining six weeks of summer is to kick the soda habit. Drinking soda makes it even harder for me to focus on the healthy foods I need in my daily diet. I’ve always struggled with it but your website and a couple others are inspiring me to make big changes. I have a vision of where I want to be and I want my family to come with me. I relaize that it has taken me years to make myself into what I am at this moment and that it will take years to undo it and obtain my vision but it will be worth it. It’s a journey, not a race…

    Jessica wrote on July 18th, 2013
    • Make kombucha. It will replace your soda habit with a positive one. Since I started making enough, I rarely drink anything other than it or water.

      Joshua wrote on July 18th, 2013
      • +1 kombucha!! Love that fizz!!!

        Rhonda the Red wrote on July 18th, 2013
    • Kombucha yes!! Also, a splash of fruit juice in a glass of seltzer water. Very refreshing and a good transition drink!

      Lora wrote on July 18th, 2013
    • It is tough but you can do it! I was addicted to soda (caffeine) for twenty years (not hyperbole sadly) and had tried to quit several times but the killer headaches always did me in. 3 years ago I started weaning myself off the soda, subbing in water. 4th of July weekend was the test: if I could make it through a 3 day holiday weekend I felt I could do it. And I did! What’s more, I have no desire for soda at all. That monkey is dead and buried.

      So pick a day and make it the day you start realizing your vision; good luck!

      Del wrote on July 18th, 2013
      • Thanks Everyone! I”m using peppermint tea and hoping to start making kefir soon to help.

        Jessica wrote on July 18th, 2013
      • Congratulations. I quit soda several years ago and have absolutely no desire to drink it now. I was a Diet Coke fiend. I drink iced black coffee instead during summer. And lots of water.

        Indiscreet wrote on July 19th, 2013
      • Del, that’s great, I had the same experience. I stopped drinking soda all together as of July 3rd, 2011. It can be done I was addicted to it so bad. I actually would not even put the two lire bottle back in the fridge.,it would sit next to me on the floor and I would keep refilling my glass. I now drink water, or coconut water, nothing else. Congrats!

        Dave wrote on July 20th, 2013
  3. I’m committing to taking short walks of at least a mile during the workweek days and a long (8+) walk/hike on the weekend.

    Paulke wrote on July 18th, 2013
  4. I don’t really have any specific fitness goals. I’m trying to straighten out an imbalance in my hips, but it’s slow going since my muscles are used to being positioned incorrectly for many years. I’m cycling to work everyday that it’s not raining, which is a huge improvement for me, but my upper body and core needs some work!

    Tasha wrote on July 18th, 2013
    • Have you tried doing any restorative yoga classes? I also have hip imbalances and I find it helps immensely! It really resets or re-trains your muscles. Pigeon pose is my fav :)

      Joel wrote on July 18th, 2013
    • Kelly Starrett is the man for this. Check out his blog and hundreds of vids on Mobility WOD. This link takes you to the search results for all hip talks by Kelly on his site.

      Sammy Malone wrote on July 18th, 2013
    • In yoga, I learned that if you have an imbalance, you should work both sides equally always. As in, if your right side can’t do as much as your left side, you reduce what you do with the stronger side to match the weaker side. This worked for me with my hamstrings.

      Casey wrote on July 18th, 2013
    • Have you tried stretching your hip flexors? A lot of the time, tight hip flexors can cause hip imballances.

      salixisme wrote on July 23rd, 2013
  5. My goal for the rest of the summer is to make it to bar method 4 times a week (i currently go 2-3 times) and up my cardio- 3 miles twice a week. also, no more diet cokes. i think that will make a big difference in how i feel.

    Charlotte wrote on July 18th, 2013
  6. I’ve committed to doing a short, intense bodyweight workout three times a week.

    JulieVK wrote on July 18th, 2013
    • I suggest looking into simplefit.

      Blake wrote on July 18th, 2013
  7. I get in my 10k steps and lift two or three times per week, I want to be more consistent with the sprints/HIIT component of my fitness plan. I will commit to once a week, but will strive for two.

    I’m also considering eliminating eggs to see if a sensitivity to them may be hindering weight loss.

    Mary Mac wrote on July 18th, 2013
    • That’s 10k steps/day–not a week! LOL.

      Mary Mac wrote on July 18th, 2013
  8. I can be lazy. Very lazy. It is easy for me to spend a summer sitting in the hammock reading. So, before school ended, I set some specific goals for myself this summer.

    Train in my martial arts every day. All of it. Every. Day.
    Go to the gym/work out three days a week.
    1 household chore every day (so I am always cleaning the house).
    1 piece of yard work every day.
    Daily dose of vitamin D (40 minutes in the back yard and/or as I work out).
    Meditate every day (must tend to the mind).
    95/5 Primal (because if I go off the reservation, I am GONE)

    All of this will result in a spotless house, a good looking yard, and, most importantly, a leaner, tanner, HEALTHIER, stronger me. That is my goal.

    Input welcome!

    Nicole wrote on July 18th, 2013
    • Are you working full time as well?

      Certainly, a house needs to be attended to daily as well as a body. However, getting to the gym 3 times a week and training in a martial daily (any weekends off?) begs for too much movement/work. 1 thing daily in the yard/house is also very difficult to decide on a daily basis. Making the bed is not the same amount of work as cleaning the oven. :)

      All in all, this strikes me as too much. If you aren’t in the habit of any of these pick 1 or two and let them become a habit. For instance, about a year ago, I said to heck with it and started using Flylady routines particularly in the morning. It’s now a habit I don’t think about: every morning after breakfast, there’s dishes, house pickup, bathroom cleaning, etc. We focused on just that one habit as a household for a while. It’s really hard to improve all areas of your life all at once.

      Amy wrote on July 18th, 2013
      • I am a high school teacher, so I am work-free until late August. I am also used to walking all over that school, so the daily training keeps me active. Instead of sitting and reading. And reading some more.

        Once school starts, I am determined to keep the daily MA training, and move all my chores back and yard work to Saturday and Sunday.

        Nicole wrote on July 18th, 2013
        • Why? Why MA every week day when at least 50 hours a week are dedicated to modern survival? Your house is important, too, as well as rest as well as your intellectual side. Why not skip MA 2 or 3 times in the evening, get some chores done, and dedicate Sunday as true day of rest and reading?

          And reading is not “lazy”, it’s something that clearly feeds part of you. I don’t know.. if you get into the habit of dedicating time to it each week, it becomes easier to do what you should be doing on most weekdays because it’s there waiting for you on your day (or hours) of rest.

          *shrug* Filling every minute with “something to do”, no matter how good for you, is recipe for burnout, especially with full time work+. I’ve been there several times, ridden every ride at least twice, and have a collection of T-shirts in the closet. 😉 Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

          Amy wrote on July 18th, 2013
        • I think your goals are great! And martial arts CAN be meditative and intellectual. Practicing something you are passionate about everyday is a wonderful thing. I personally feel guilty any day that I don’t practice piano for at least two hours. (Although I am a piano teacher and in the middle of getting my BM in performance. But who knows, you could teach martial arts one day :)

          Kyndal Meister wrote on July 19th, 2013
  9. This is perfect timing for me to read this posting. My husband and I recently committed to completing a Spartan race this coming December so we are in training for it right now. My goal for the next six weeks is to be able to complete my current training regimen without taking unscheduled rests during the workout. My other goal is to eat 100% paleo between now and December.

    Lindsay wrote on July 18th, 2013
  10. OOh great article!

    My specific goals for the rest of the summer that I am committing to now (along with finishing my PhD gargh!):

    1. 30 min walks per day (gets me away from the thesis and clears my head)
    2. Start the Grok pullup method so that I can work my way up from not being able to a pullup at all to (hopefully!) at least 3 pullups!

    Good luck everyone with your specific challenges!

    Laura Spoor wrote on July 18th, 2013
  11. I’m going to learn how to unicycle starting this weekend and start utilizing my Zombies, Run! app after dinner to walk and run to. I’m also going to start juggling again.

    On a more psychological note, I just this morning discovered, while shaving with my straight razor, that I meditate during certain activities and will be taking advantage of those activities more often (straight razor shaving, drawing/sketching, and painting)

    Joe wrote on July 18th, 2013
  12. How timely! My husband and I have challenged our selves to becoming the healthiest, fittest we can in the next 30 days, through healthy food and exercise. I am happy to extend that challenge to six weeks :)

    Jamie wrote on July 18th, 2013
    • Yay, you and hubby! Congratulations on the win!

      Joy Beer wrote on July 21st, 2013
  13. My challenge for the rest of the summer is to Play, Lift and Sprint as you suggest in your book. I like the combination plan. It appeals to me because I tend to get bored.

    I tried the Sprint a while back and I have to say it was really rewarding to push myself for that short period of time rather than just trudge/drudge along like a lumpotron, following the pack. If I were a quadriped who howled at the moon, it’d be great. But I am bipedal last I checked and I want to play when I can, lift when I must and run like hell when I have to.

    Plus I turn 56 this month. What better gift to me than humanity?

    Julie wrote on July 18th, 2013
  14. I am about to turn 36 this weekend and have decided to commit myself to health for the next 36 years. My summer fitness challenge is to go to power yoga 3x a week, and get in to running shape for the two 5Ks and one 10K I signed myself up for on a whim.

    Amy P wrote on July 18th, 2013
  15. The summer months always pose food challenges for me–the ice cream/popsicle/BBQ/summer adult beverages, etc. etc.

    My goal for the next 6 weeks is to clean up my summer eating and get away from the “cheats” in my Paleo lifestyle.

    Michelle wrote on July 18th, 2013
  16. I’m committed to training for a 200 mile bike ride for Wounded Warriors in October. The next six weeks will be critical, as the waning days of summer will be the time to really pour on the training. When the days get shorter and colder in September and October in New England, (we could get snow in October!), my training gets harder. So building a strong base over the next six weeks is important. My husband and I follow a paleo diet, but I haven’t yet found what enhances performance, so I need to focus on my nutrition and how it affects my endurance training. That’s my goal for the next six weeks. To figure out what works, and what doesn’t.

    Tam wrote on July 18th, 2013
  17. Excellent post. I’ve been doing great so far this summer with workouts, but I know I can always improve my diet. I’m committing to eating Paleo truly 80/20, lifting two days a week and fitting in leisurely walks, lap swimming and bike rides on three other days a week.

    Brittany wrote on July 18th, 2013
  18. I just committed to making healthy choices for myself consistenty. No longer excusing rationalizations for poor choices. Also, reminding myself to be grateful for the opportunity to make those choices. Not everyone has that luxury.

    My goals are to enjoy eating the foods that best support my body, while being more consistent in tracking my intake as well as physical activity.

    EllieG wrote on July 18th, 2013
  19. My goal is not to sit at my computer. If I am on the laptop I have to be standing. It is so easy for me to get on this thing and spend hours reading blogs, finding answers, shopping, and catching up on Facebook. Now I even sit and play games on Lumosity. I end up spending way more time than I had planned – every single time. I am a reader. Love books. I can sit all day perfectly content absorbed in a good read. I solved that problem by purchasing books on so that I can be moving and listening to a good book. Now I need kick this sitting in front of the computer habit.

    Carolyn wrote on July 18th, 2013
    • That’s a really good goal.

      Janey wrote on July 18th, 2013
      • Thanks Janey!

        Carolyn wrote on July 18th, 2013
    • Big old school thumbs up to standing at the computer! I try to do it as much as possible at work although I find I have to sit when I’m working on the website because I often put my head down on my desk to bitch and moan.

      Nanc in Ashland wrote on July 18th, 2013
      • You made me laugh! Thanks Nanc!

        Carolyn wrote on July 18th, 2013
  20. Actually started this a couple of weeks ago after a friend’s wedding (no coincidence…) Starting to get back into exercise after recovery from celiac diagnosed a year ago. Aim: functional fitness! I want to be able to climb any bloomin’ tree I like! And set a great example to the kids. Good luck everyone and enjoy :)

    Elizabeth wrote on July 18th, 2013
  21. Mid summer is the hardest time to continue with workout routines. Spent time getting ready for and fun in the sun. Now it seems like I just want to enjoy the sunshine and good times with good friends. Need to get back on track and committed to more productive fitness regime now. Thanks for the inspiration.

    Mark Pelon wrote on July 18th, 2013
  22. I’m going to “stare at a wall” for 15 minutes every day. I’ve got a move coming up and could really use a tool for managing that stress.

    Erin wrote on July 18th, 2013
  23. Mark,

    my goals for the rest of the summer are as follows:

    -To PR at a half-marathon race in September
    -To continue with my primal/paelo lifestyle and keep away from refined sugar & wheat
    -To gain more muscle (daily pushups, pullups, & deadlifts)
    -To continue to be a shining example for my friends
    -To encourage my friends to step out more for physical activity



    Naomi wrote on July 18th, 2013
  24. My goal is to walk or bike every day (after my vacation next week), but really be “present” during that time – smell the flowers/trees, listen to the birds and bugs, kind of a 90% mental health, 10% physical health kind of thing. My eating could always be tightened up a bit, but my physical activity is what is sorely lacking. I’ve battled some plantar fasciitis and then had a minor surgery, so walking/biking is my plan to get myself back into a better exercise routine.

    Joleen wrote on July 18th, 2013
  25. My goal is to completely let go of my endurance workouts, do a few sessions of crossfit per week along with dog hikes. Hopefully this will help me finally overcome some lingering health issues.

    Julie Mc wrote on July 18th, 2013

    Brad Yeckley wrote on July 18th, 2013
  27. Every year, leading towards summer, we all clamp down and begin our own “self-challenge”. It’s mostly for vanity. To look good on the beach. But I doubt most of us challenge ourselves on the latter half of summer. In fact, I (we?) do the opposite.

    Personally, I’ve been letting go on the tail end of summer, knowing I wont be exposing my body as much. So I indulge. A LOT, and pack on some padding around belly. I mean, I’ll be wearing sweaters in the fall!

    I like that you proposed this challenge now. I’m going to challenge myself to stay the course for the remainder of the summer (and then some!) and maybe, finally lose that extra 6-7 lingering pounds.

    Summer ending, and Fall approaching is too convenient of an excuse to abandon health and fitness goals.

    I have no specific strategy. My only strategy is to do whatever I can to stay mentally tough when it comes to food and fitness. How I do it, is irrelevant.

    Daniel N wrote on July 18th, 2013
  28. My goal is to figure out how to best avoid the sedentary that my desk job causes. Everything that I’ve tried hasn’t stuck with me. Time to make a change that sticks!

    Meg wrote on July 18th, 2013
    • I am a huge believer in the sit/stand desktop from Ergo Desktop. Right now I am standing between 60-70% of my day thanks to my Wallaby. That means I’m getting more steps in just from being on my feet. At the moment I am totally breaking office protocol by being barefoot. In a minute I’m going to go stand outside on the grass in the sun and renew myself! Up with the sun and better time outside is my goal. Yay! Go goals!

      Rhonda the Red wrote on July 18th, 2013
  29. I’m now 66 and I’ve been talking about running my first 5K for about two years but I haven’t done it, yet. Thanks to your challenge, I will run a 5k this summer!

    Bill Zmijewski wrote on July 18th, 2013
  30. My goals for the next 6 weeks are to stick with my workout routine (6 days a week, mixing up between cardio and strength), and to make one meal from the Primal Blueprint Quick and Easy Meals book a week! My eating habits are pretty good so far but I know I can make them better so this will add in some awesome, healthy dishes!

    Alannah wrote on July 18th, 2013
  31. My goal for the next six weeks is to walk 5 miles a week with squats and pushups included 3x per week as well as to ditch the grains! I have been off the wagon for a long time and I really need to put my health first for the first time in awhile.

    Lindsey Bunting wrote on July 18th, 2013
  32. Love this!
    Summer goals for the next 6 weeks –
    to be more strict with my diet (90/10).
    to walk at least 5 days a week for 25 to 30 minutes.

    Good luck to everyone!!!

    Sharon wrote on July 18th, 2013
  33. My goal is to be able to do a deadhang pull-up, and increase my back squats. I can see myself getting stronger and I know I’m on the right track, this post is just what I needed to read today to stay motivated :) I also am going to cut out alcohol for the next six weeks. Shouldn’t be too difficult as I already drink in moderation, but in the summer moderation is sometimes every other weekend 😉

    Courtney wrote on July 18th, 2013
  34. Three goals for the remainder of the summer: 1) CrossFit 4x/week, 2)In bed and lights out by 10 p.m., 3)no more than 1 cup coffee/day

    Jennifer wrote on July 18th, 2013
  35. What timing! I’m 3 days into such a mid-summer “do-over”. I can name several things that led to this, but it really doesn’t matter now. I am where I am. My eating has been all over the place – not so bad, but not leading to the improvements that I want. So here’s to paying attention to what goes into my mouth, along with a little more slow movement. Thanks for letting me make it public.

    Kathy wrote on July 18th, 2013
  36. I’ve been going to the gym several times a week, but my goal for the rest of the summer is to commit to walking at least 30 minutes first thing in the morning before work and also having at least one sprint session per week.

    TJ wrote on July 18th, 2013
  37. This may seem like a modest goal, but it’s a big one for me: do unassisted pull-ups (or chin ups) by mid-August. I’m about a third of the way there… the bottom of my chin will see the top of that bar soon!

    BonzoGal wrote on July 18th, 2013
  38. My goal is to start incorporating weight lifiting at least twice a week into my fitness routine.

    Joe wrote on July 18th, 2013
  39. Perfect timing! I’ve been falling off the wagon a bit, lately, and have committed to getting my…stuff…together on this.

    Goals for the remainder of Summer:

    1. Make my best food choices every day.
    2. Walk my 5k circuit at least three times a week.
    3. Try one new Paleo recipe a week for the next six weeks.
    4. Prep & freeze appropriate meals so when school starts the day after Labor day, I have no reason to backslide.

    GO TEAM!!

    Turi wrote on July 18th, 2013
  40. My goal is to lose another 10 lbs. Since May 1st I have lost 20lbs, and while my goal is to lose 15-25lbs more total, to get down to the 190lbs-200lbs range, losing 10lbs in 6 weeks seems like a realistic goal, yet one challenging enough to require work and dedication.

    I am going to accomplish this by getting my diet back in order (it has slipped a bit the past couple weeks, but I am still making progress), and continue my exercise routine, hopefully increasing the weights used for my exercises further (I have seen gains in this department as well).

    I want to push myself to be the best I can physically be.

    Anthony wrote on July 18th, 2013

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