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. I think this is a great time to do a challenge, and the timing is perfect for me! I just started Crossfit and have gotten through 4 of my 6 elements classes. What it made me realize is that no matter the progress I’ve made (90 lbs over the past 9 months from a Primal diet and working with a Personal Trainer) I have never been able to do a pull-up. Now in my Crossfit classes I am able to do about 6 in a row but only while using resistance bands to propel me up. BY the end of this summer I would like to be able to do 10 consecutive pull-ups without any assistance. Extra points for doing 15!

    Jason wrote on July 18th, 2013
  2. I began my six week goal this week (on Tuesday to be exact):
    2 weeks of a juice cleanse
    4 weeks of the Whole30 (

    I was deployed for 6 months (where primal food is not easy to come by) followed by a month of eating poor quality food on a mountain trip. I have about 9 months of terrible eating under my belt.

    However, as of this week, I can finally be home for an extended period of time! The next two weeks will clean, detox, and reset my system. The following four weeks will reestablish my good primal eating habits. I can’t even tell you what a difference food makes and how frustrating it is to be limited to poor quality food. The change in my body was noticeable.

    Here’s to feeling like myself again by Labor Day!

    Robin wrote on July 18th, 2013
  3. I have been so busy with my large garden and picking local (wild) fruits, that I have neglected any official daily workout. Although I am active all day long, I need to get back to squats, pull ups, etc.

    Thanks for the encouragement! Onward! :)

    Terrill wrote on July 18th, 2013
  4. My goal is to workout at least three days a week and clean up my lifestyle. I will start slow and will hopefully end up at a point can take on more challenging/demanding fitness routines to tone up and build muscle.
    I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and I’m hoping cleaning up my act will shed the pounds my meds put on and dull down some of the daily plain I have to deal with.

    Laura wrote on July 18th, 2013
  5. I have just this week committed to finally working through my EDL injury and muscle imbalance so I can get back to barefoot running. I have also commited myself to a grok style work out at least 3 times a week. Luckily, my husband is also on board, so we are geared for success!

    Lynette wrote on July 18th, 2013
  6. My goal is to finally achieve the elusive muscle up! I’ve been working different drills that my trainer has given me on and off for 4 months now. I need to bunker down, put some extra time in at the box and make it finally happen. It’s been on the horizon for faaaar too long.

    Erica Franklin wrote on July 18th, 2013
  7. My challenge is to stretch a min of 15 min every day. I feel very tired lately, and while I keep up other commitments this ridiculously simple, but super-important thing slips through the cracks.

    leida wrote on July 18th, 2013
  8. I’d like to do more yoga. I do a class one day a week but I’d like do get in the habit of doing a home practice 2 days a week as well.

    Sara wrote on July 18th, 2013
  9. Love this post! Perfect timing as I have been letting bad habits creep back into my life. My goal is to live and eat the primal way – no excuses, regardless of family summer parties and plans. If I can do it for six weeks I can do it forever!

    jill wrote on July 18th, 2013
  10. Thank you for the encouragement to begin this challenge. I’m a teacher and once summer comes, I’m so ready to begin a non-routine….but unfortunately, ALL routines seem to grind to a halt. I need to get back to starting my day with some kind of movement. I feel so much better when I do that, not to mention my mood improves.

    Gin wrote on July 18th, 2013
  11. I’m committing to finally sticking to a workout plan, despite how busy life may seem outside of it. Losing the final pounds and conquering that whole “smoking” thing.

    Jessica Baker wrote on July 18th, 2013
  12. I am committing to eating 100% Paleo/Primal 5 days/week, and to working out/playing everyday for at least 30 mins. I would like to be able to do a pull-up without assistance by the end of this challenge. I can already do full push-ups.

    Kristi Crosson wrote on July 18th, 2013
  13. My goal is to finish my second part of the Insanity program and no sugars not even a bite! 😀

    adriana wrote on July 18th, 2013
  14. Thank you for the kick in the pants!
    I have already committed to a 60mi bike race in October and I am training for that, but there is a half-marathon one week apart from the bike race and I have been going back and forth on wanting to tackle that as well. So… In the next 6 weeks I will take on the challenge of balancing biking and running training so I can improve on my previous half marathon time! My overall goal is balance- balance between training, my health, my full time job as a research scientist, my two kids and my husband. You CAN do it all and be happy/unstressed while doing it! :o)

    Marie wrote on July 18th, 2013
  15. I am committed to getting a pull-up bar so I can get started on that. I started primal about 2 weeks ago and already feel so much better – more energy, blood pressure lower too.

    Stephen wrote on July 18th, 2013
  16. I commit to becoming more aware and taking advantage of the outdoor options I have for exercise. I rely on gym and yoga workouts but I live in a beautiful area surrounded by bike and hike trails, river access, and opportunities to gather with others to do things I really enjoy or want to learn how to do.

    My 8 day effort so far in outdoor exercise and following the Primal Blueprint for eating has resulted in a 5 pound weight loss thus far. I have never felt better and most importantly, in control. I am proud of my commitment. Even more, my family is benefitting from my food selections. Mom grocery shops – everyone else eats. With some adaptations for them, I am working in my new primal mantra – one meal at a time!

    Lynn wrote on July 18th, 2013
  17. On a side note – Primal Cravings is Amazzzzzzzing (i already have it)!!!!!!

    I committed myself last week to Primal Eating. My next goal is to lift more weights! I did it five years ago with the conventional diet and lost 40lbs within five months! I KNOW it will make the loss go much quicker this round for sure!

    Emily wrote on July 18th, 2013
  18. After a few days of indulging in terrible carby foods and feeling tired, rundown, and hungry… I am definitely going to be making my goal one that requires me to be on a much more strict Primal diet, especially during social gatherings. And this includes any alcohol. That’s right, I’m 23 and I will not party for the rest of the summer. And this goal will only help because I will start school in the fall and be feeling incredible when I do. Starting the year off feeling healthy and fit sounds about right to me. Oh, and losing some weight would be nice, too. :-)

    Katie wrote on July 18th, 2013
  19. My summer goal is to spend as much time outside as possible. It sounds pretty easy, but sometimes it’s easier to not go into the heat and enjoy the comfortable AC instead.

    Kevin P wrote on July 18th, 2013
  20. I have three goals which are interrelated:

    – Go primal
    – Drop from 252 to 210 pounds
    – Be able to run the Royal Parks (London) half marathon I have signed up for in October

    This will be the start of a new me !

    Tom wrote on July 18th, 2013
  21. Funny you write this post because yesterday I just got my body fat percentage measured and it was a whopping 16%. My six week goal is to drop it down to at least 12%. Time to get started!

    Matt wrote on July 18th, 2013
  22. Sign up for a marathon!

    zach rusk wrote on July 18th, 2013
  23. Interesting that depressed people make vaguer goals. Here’s to some specifics then…

    1. Quit eating fast food entirely (I’ve still been cheating on occasion – maybe a free copy of Primal Cravings will help?)
    2. Commit to doing 50 press ups, three times a week
    3. Dedicate at least one hour a week to personal time alone by myself
    4. Go for a walk three times a week (I’ve been doing two most weeks, time to up that)
    5. Make sure I’m in bed by 10 every night (even if I don’t go to sleep immediately, I can read more)

    David wrote on July 18th, 2013
  24. My goal is to amp up my training for a Tough Mudder in Sept. I would like to start working in some Yoga & Maui Thai into my training to switch things up a little.
    As part of this, I would like to tighten up a bit on the primal eating and make an attempt to drink a bit less – – cold beers at this time of year are hard to resist!

    Hit a bit of a plateau on the fat loss so hopefully some more focus can help.

    Good luck all!

    Stew wrote on July 18th, 2013
    • Oh yeah, and I need to get into better sleeping habits!

      Stew wrote on July 18th, 2013
  25. My goals for the last 6 weeks of summer:
    -Start my Nutritional Therapy Practitioner business course (finished the NTP cert on June 1 and have done…nothing)
    -Do the 21 day sugar detox
    -Do one blog post per week on my blog

    Amy wrote on July 18th, 2013
  26. I want to get my Deadlift over 320 and my Press up to 120 before I go on vacation at the end of August. Gaining five pounds would be nice, too.

    Erok wrote on July 18th, 2013
  27. My goal for the sumer is to be able to do at least one pull-up by Sept 22nd.

    Ralph Merwin wrote on July 18th, 2013
  28. This couldn’t have come at a better time! My wife and I committed fully to Primal Blueprint living this past January, and we just started doing Crossfit last week as a kind of “kick in the pants”. We both have a long ways to go, but we want to make RX on a WOD before the end of Summer.

    Scott P wrote on July 18th, 2013
  29. My ultimate goal is to lose 2 inches of unhealthy weight off my middle. This will be done by:
    -Crossfit 3x week
    -Playing/fun movement on other days of weeks
    -Increase from 80% to 90% Paleo
    -Setting a specific bedtime
    -Reduce stress with yoga

    C.P. wrote on July 18th, 2013
  30. I would like to drop 20 more lbs- add to the 20 already gone. I also want to start walking at least 3 times a week.

    Renee wrote on July 18th, 2013
  31. I am 41 and have never completed a pull up/chin up in my life. Started last Monday with a goal to get my head above that damn bar five times by the end of August.

    Tom J wrote on July 18th, 2013
  32. My goal is to refocus my paleo diet, more completely eliminate preocessed foods and wheat products, and eat more organically – all with the intent of LBN – Looking Better Naked

    Jeff Kelly wrote on July 18th, 2013
  33. I am committing to playing more.When I go to a salad bar,I see how many colors I can put in my salad.Today’s “game” is walking up and down the five floors to the laundry room.Will you look at that! I just knocked off today’s “lift heavy things” at the same time!!

    DP wrote on July 18th, 2013
  34. Hello! This is my first comment.

    Goals for the next 6 weeks

    1. Make an appointment to remove my amalgam fillings with a properly trained dentist
    2. Only drink when thirsty.
    3. Make most of my water consumption mineral water or remineralized filtered water.
    4. Use a food journal to check if I’m getting all the vitamins and minerals I need and adjust supplements and food as needed
    5. Enjoy what’s left of summer!

    Christine H. wrote on July 18th, 2013
  35. By the end of six weeks I will be able to:
    -complete one pullup
    -stand on the slackline indefinitely without falling off, and take one complete step on it
    -complete five full pushups

    I will walk or swim laps for 30 minutes daily in the fashion of “moving frequently at a slow pace”.

    I will lift heavy things twice a week, and I will incorporate strength training into my daily activities, e.g. squats while brushing teeth, planks while waiting for my tea to steep, etc.

    I will sprint weekly.

    My diet will also be strictly primal, which for me also means no dairy. I have diagnosed gluten, dairy, and soy sensitivities. The 80/20 rule doesn’t work for me. Even small indulgences for me have a cumulative effect. I am not seeing results because of the sabotage I am allowing to take place in the periphery, and I want to eliminate potential threats to my short-term and long-term health. My father has Charcot-Marie-Toothe disease and my mother has Alzheimer’s Disease and I do not want to follow in their footsteps!

    lobro wrote on July 18th, 2013
  36. I have just set a goal for myself . It is to spend 30min. minimum out side with NO shoes on. I am also going to find a few minutes a day to lay out flat on the earth too.
    We have also been doing yoga a few times a week.
    The diet needs to also stay in 90-95% primal range.
    I need theses things in my life so when I turn 50 at the end of summer I will not look or feel like it.

    Debi wrote on July 18th, 2013
  37. I’m just finishing a 21 day challenge, just to see what it would be like, having never eaten Primally before. And I never want to go back! No more flour or sugar for me. Hopefully ever. (Ok, dark chocolate please). I can’t exactly pinpoint how I feel better, since I was not sick or overweight, but it just feels RIGHT.

    My summer fitness challenge is to completely dig out the enormous pile of asphalt, concrete and rock chunks covered in dirt and construction debris left from the previous owners of my house. It will be a ton of ‘lifting heavy things’ and will make me so happy when its done. And I’ll finally have a permanent place for my compost piles. Thanks for challenging me, Mark!

    Andrea PB wrote on July 18th, 2013
  38. Contrary to primal wisdom, I entered the lottery for the NYC marathon, and got in. 7/15 marks 16 weeks til the big day. Time to go for a run, then repeat

    Jon wrote on July 18th, 2013
  39. I needed this, thank you. This week I’d just been sinking into the midsummer doldrums, feeling bad about myself because the summer was halfway over and I hadn’t made progress on my goals.

    So here goes. I want to get back into climbing shape, which means starting off by getting myself to the gym twice a week and planning a climbing trip to shake the real dust off within a month. Totally do-able. Not sure why I’ve been avoiding it all summer so far.

    Hannah wrote on July 18th, 2013
  40. My goal is to finish things. I have started so many projects and rarely complete anything. I will finish my nutrition coach certification and my fitness certification, start my Master Gardening certification and continue to minimize my household. Oh, and to remain on a clean eating path. Are these all lofty goals? Sure…but I am making them public and will do them all. She said…..:)

    Kate Berger wrote on July 18th, 2013

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