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. My fitness challenge to myself is to QUIT CHRONIC CRADIO! I keep telling myself I won’t do so much cardio but I end up logging endless hours because I can’t seem to get past the engrained CW that I need (no, MUST) do a ton of cardio or else I’ll get sick/fat/floppy. It’s nonsense!

    Coupled with that I’m going to increase my frequency of strength training and get out and play more. I’m tired of being tired from too much cardio (physically and mentally)… it’s honestly like an addiction. Time to have a reality check before I end up doing more damage to by body.

    Lindsay wrote on July 18th, 2013
    • Lindsay –

      Good for you! And remember whatever you do next, you are up against a real physical addiction. Endorphins are drugs, too, and it takes chronic cardio to get you pumped full of them.

      If you can swing it mentally, consider simply resting for a 2-4weeks. No weight training, nothing more than a few squats and a walking and just playing!! :) Then slowly ease back into weight training and add a bit (just a bit) of cardio last.

      I promise that you will not gain 100 pounds in that time. But if you’re worried about body fat, count carb grams. The kind of carb load that’s being sustained now will be totally unnecessary until you start seriously exercise again.

      Again, good luck going forward. Awareness and acceptance is 1/2 the battle. :)

      Amy wrote on July 18th, 2013
  2. Get my family eating more paleo food
    Play with my kids by doing fun exercise/games
    Sort out body imbalances – core, posture

    Marilyn wrote on July 18th, 2013
  3. Last weekend I jumped into a low carb lifestyle. I am not totally primal (I am still eating yogurt, cheese and cream and am still using minimal sweeteners) but I have cut all grains, potatoes, refined sugars and industrial oils from my diet.

    Nonnie wrote on July 18th, 2013
  4. I love goals! I have a goal tracker app that sends daily reminders! I set goals a few months ago but this article is perfect for a reset.

    1) To get exercise with a typical desk job, I am going to do ten reps of an exercise everytime I use the bathroom. Yesterday squats, today pushups, etc. That way if I don’t get to my xfit gym afterworkI still got in some exercise.

    2) Try out a paddle board pilates class.

    3) Take a walk on the beach once a week to reconnect with nature, relax and rejuvenate.

    Katie wrote on July 18th, 2013
  5. I need to get my butt back in the water. For the next six weeks I’m going to hit the pool twice a week and get back into my yoga habit. Immobility from excessive desk sitting is killing me.

    Sara wrote on July 18th, 2013
  6. I am going on a 2 week backpacking trip to Yellowstone Park in 5 weeks, and am not physically prepared yet for it. My goal will be to do full body conditioning, consistently and healthfully until my trip, so that I won’t get left behind!

    Katie wrote on July 18th, 2013
  7. I’m in. My goal for the next 6 weeks is to simplify my life. Eliminate all the distractions and excess I have – including weight. Focus on eating whole foods, reconnecting with my inner self and learning to be the best me I can be. I love the timing of this post.

    Jill wrote on July 18th, 2013
  8. To become an ex-drinker and to complete Tough Mudder in September!

    CMac wrote on July 18th, 2013
  9. I have two goals both related to health and money and fit into the much anticipated track season in Saratoga Springs.
    1st. No dog walker for the next 6 weeks = $300 savings plus an additional hour of walking with my dog every morning before work.
    2nd. Be in bed every work night at exactly 9:30 PM Sunday through Thursday. I will save money that is typically spent grabbing that second drink out with a friend and produce a better sleep schedule.

    Emily wrote on July 18th, 2013
  10. For the next six weeks I plan to be more active on a daily basis with walking and gym attendance for a minimum of 3x/week which includes strength training and HITT classes.
    Also I have been eating really well and avoiding processed foods, grains and dairy with great results so far and I don’t miss it!
    I need to quell my penchant for sweet treats like ice cream and cheesecake. The goal is to only have something sweet once per week.
    Slow and steady wins the race in my case so by gradually reducing/phasing things I know I will achieve long term success.

    I am really grateful I came across this website a month ago because it has helped me to live differently and better!

    KD wrote on July 18th, 2013
  11. Thank you so much for the giveaway Mark!

    My Summer Self Challenge is to continue with my primal eating habits but to also start focusing more on food quality. It’s not enough for me to just avoid grains, sugar and seed oils, I want to make sure my produce is local and organic. I want my meat to be grass fed and I want to incorporate more wild caught fish and organ meats in my diet. I want only raw butter and to finally purchase that grass fed ghee that’s been in my Amazon shopping cart for weeks.

    My second goal, and the one I find more important, is to manage my stress properly. I’m trying to lower cortisol and fix my adrenals and my constant stressing is only going to make those things worse. So if I eat a grain fed chicken, I’ll be okay. I won’t freak out.

    I’m excited about the next six weeks! I’m excited about food and exercise and life and fun. Before I started to live a more primal lifestyle, I dreaded everything. But now, I’m psyched about this world!

    megan wrote on July 18th, 2013
  12. I have been really sick with some nasty virus for four weeks! My family is employed as caretakers at a camp deep in a national forest in Oregon. Last night I did my first workout with some primal friends who are volunteering for a few weeks. I hurt deep down today, I LOVE it! My summer goal, now that I feel so much better, is to run, jump, swing, plank and work against my body weight to be able to do push-ups and burpies with joy! I am a 39 year old mother of 5 and I want to be able to keep up with my crazy brood out here in the woods. So far Primal blueprint has radically changed our whole family but I am still pretty squishy after having a baby last year and I never physically challenge myself past long hiking trips. My version of carrying heavy things equals packing a 16 month old around……

    Queenbolete wrote on July 18th, 2013
  13. Several goals: (most of the time I set goals that are unattainable in the time I commit to. This time, I’m drastically cutting back to put them within reach)

    To not focus on weight (something I always do),
    Lose five inches off of my gut,
    Get my body fat down to 20% (currently 26% according to my scale).
    To do sprint intervals once a week (have never done this),
    To lift heavy things two days a week, without overtraining.
    NO chronic cardio (this is what I attributed to most of my weight loss, but fat% always remained high)
    In the down time, dedicate more play time to my kids.
    8 hours of sleep
    95% Paleo compliant (cook all of my meals)

    Berneck wrote on July 18th, 2013
  14. Three goals for the next 90 days:

    1) No artificially sweetened drinks! This has been the toughest battle for me. Diet soda and B-vitamin drinks with sucralose, AceK, or aspartame have been a sweet crutch – I’ve only managed a few weeks without ome. This is not helping my skin or healing my gut.

    2) Exercise three times per week consistently.

    3) No Alcohol until Labor Day. Extra, preferentially burned calories that loosen resolve and stimulate appetite? Not right now.

    I would like to see what kind of body composition change I can have with these three commitments.

    Ellen M wrote on July 18th, 2013
  15. I know it isn’t necessarily “primal,” but I love endurance sports. My goal is to train 4x per week for an Olympic Distance triathlon while eating as clean as possible.

    I love setting goals and meeting them. Since I’m on a 6 week vacation in the US, eating clean should be pretty easy compared to Korea.

    Alix wrote on July 18th, 2013
  16. Absolutely LOVE this article!

    I’m 4-days deep into an 8 week strict paleo kick (I also did one through all of April and May. I had never felt better! But.. 80/20 can sometimes get lost in the fray of birthdays, outings, etc. and June and July have just not been the same.). So my nutritional goal is to become more conscious about what I eat.

    My main fitness goal is to increase my lower back strength so that I can be more comfortable with heavy squatting (overhead, front, back.. all of it!). I also want to snag a 200 lb deadlift by the end of the summer, which would be a huge win for me :)

    Kahli wrote on July 18th, 2013
  17. My main goal is to lose 10lbs over the next 6 weeks. I’m am looking to accomplish this by:
    1. Getting my dessert cheats under control.
    2. Increasing my amount of play.( limiting my time on electronic devices)
    3. Continue primal eating.

    Paul wrote on July 18th, 2013
  18. 6 weeks sounds like the perfect timeframe for a 10,000 kettlebell swing challenge.

    Geoff wrote on July 18th, 2013
  19. My goal for the rest of the summer is to do some type of workout (at least a walk) every day. No skipping days no matter how busy they are.
    Also, I want to improve my sleep habits, and get in bed earlier consistantly.

    Toni Denison wrote on July 18th, 2013
  20. Over the next 6 weeks I am committing myself to an 85% primal diet and to finding a healthier, more active hobby (couponing is my current hobby, and it is the biggest contributor to my poison-filled diet. You’d be amazed at how easy it is to get free breakfast cereal, free candy, and super cheap hot pockets). I did just move into a new house, and the yard is a mess, so I guess that could be my new hobby for now…

    Arley wrote on July 18th, 2013
  21. 1. Finally get to <10% body fat
    2. Have a noticeable six pack (I only have a 2 1/2 pack right now)
    3. Let go of my past transgressions
    4. Read more books

    Brian wrote on July 18th, 2013
  22. I just started on 30 days of the auto-immune paleo protocol…feeling a little woe-is-me…oh man, what a kick-in-the-pants this post is!

    My summer challenge is to stick to 30 days of AIP and reintroduce foods slowly for the next 2 to 4 weeks. And to do 2 days of body weight exercise and train Krav Maga with my husband 2 additional days each week.

    But most importantly is spending more time with my kids just relaxing in the pool and enjoying the rest of summer :).

    Jenna wrote on July 18th, 2013
  23. I have somehow justified ice cream as okay to eat because it’s summertime. As crazy as it seems, my goal is to not buy any ice cream (or chocolate covered anything) at the store. It can’t be in the house!
    My focus will be to drink more water.

    kris wrote on July 18th, 2013
  24. What perfect timing! This morning I broke out my 21 Day Total Body Transformation book, with the intent of refocusing on my fitness and doing a day by day journal. :)

    My goals are:
    -To continue my success with my diet, but going one step further by cutting out more dairy.
    -To make sure I get 30 minutes of low intensity movement in each day.
    -Sprint workouts to improve my run time…I have a PT test coming up, and and I would LOVE to get a 90% or better.

    Good luck everyone!

    Sarah wrote on July 18th, 2013
  25. My goals:
    1) to attempt new things in life no matter how ‘stupid’ I might appear (or feel) doing them. In other words, to try and not let other people’s opinion of me damper or hinder my desire to get out and live my life to the fullest
    2) Not use the excuse of my scoliosis for having poor posture……. I will work on having the best posture I can despite scoliosis

    Laura wrote on July 18th, 2013
  26. My goal for the next six weeks will be to be able to do seven pull-ups. Right now, I’m at four. I think seven sounds reasonable.

    Alysia wrote on July 18th, 2013
  27. My fiance have commuted to 100% paleo for the next 30. Personally my goals are to exercise out doors every day. Weather it’s a walk around the complex or mucking stalls up at the barn.

    holly wrote on July 18th, 2013
  28. After this weekend, I plan to go to my CrossFit gym 4-5 days a week so I can actually benefit from their programming.

    Diana wrote on July 18th, 2013
    • Having done Crossfit at close that schedule, you might find that it wears you out/down rather than builds you up.

      This a totally YMMV moment, but I’ve settled into doing Crossfit about twice a week so I’ve got energy for other things.

      Amy wrote on July 18th, 2013
  29. “Ever 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.”

    Mark, I don’t know if you’ll see this, but I grew up Northern Vermont and lived there until I was 35. I hated black fly season — and firefly season was always too short. :)

    And the weird thing is, I literally was just on a walk thinking, “dang – it’s mid July. The summer is half over” and I was getting all melancholy about it. There’s something so fresh about spring and the beginning of summer. I don’t know what it is about high summer. :)

    Anyway, if I’m going to enter this contest I’ll mention the goal I’m working on right now. I’m trying to finish cleaning up my diet — less dairy, less dark chocolate (it’s not a modest one square a day), and less seed oils. I’ve been replacing salad dressing with vinegar/olive oil and replacing heavy cream with coconut milk.

    Still a work in progress, but I definitely am putting the “polish” on my health.

    Amy wrote on July 18th, 2013
  30. I have been doing well with my diet, but I feel like that is not taking me where I want to go. I have already been working on getting better sleep and reducing my stress all summer, with some success

    My goal is to get back to a more balanced fitness routine. All spring I was training for a 6 day bicyle tour, which I just completed a few weeks ago. BIking took over my life for a few months. Now I need to focus on more strength training and sprinting. No more 50 mile bike rides for a while!

    I will:
    Sprint once per week (SO hard for me to stick to!)
    Strenth training twice per week
    BIke ride a few times a week, but shorter, easier rides, just for fun.

    Rebecca wrote on July 18th, 2013
  31. My goals are simple:

    to live a better (primal) life and reap the benfits from it

    Dabo wrote on July 18th, 2013
  32. Great post – I am loving the idea of a peak-of-summer challenge!
    My goals:

    1. Tighten my diet and be more consistent with it (aiming for 95:5),

    2. Complete a real pull-up. This is difficult both physically and mentally for me as I have dislocated both of my shoulders, the right one for the first time in January. I have been working on building the muscles in both shoulders, and I feel like 6 weeks is a great time line to get over the fear associated with the injuries, as well as the physical hinderance it has brought to me, of course, without pushing it too far and risking further injury/set-backs.

    Good luck everyone!

    Brittany wrote on July 18th, 2013
  33. Baby steps first, I will be visiting my (Italian) family for 9 days and I plan to commit to eat clean with no alcohol (my brother owns a bar with the best pizza). I already have my grocery list. Exercise will be no problem, with a great beach and park on Lake Erie 1 block from my house my running shoes and ipod are ready to go. If I can get through this then the final 5 weeks should be a piece of cake.

    Amgino wrote on July 18th, 2013
  34. Mark – thank you for the reminder that we are who we choose to be and that we are the only ones responsible for our choices.

    Susan wrote on July 18th, 2013
  35. I lift heavy. I sprint once a week. I eat well. My weight loss is stalled! My goal is to tack on some road bike work, one hour twice each week. Planning for a leaner autumn!

    Beth wrote on July 18th, 2013
  36. I want to commit to the balance of fitness and nutrition I’ve been struggling to achieve for the entire first half of summer. I want to stop going from cleanse to cleanse and fad to fad. I know that my body feels best when I eliminate sugar and simple carbs and eat a ton of plants and clean proteins and let myself be hungry from time to time. And when I move every day for at least 40 min, go from strength training to pilates to swimming to interval training, I am unstoppable. In order to do this I need to abstain from drinking and be ok with and leaving the party early. Everything else, the eating, the movement, and the daily mediation becomes routine and essential. That’s my commitment.

    Bobby wrote on July 18th, 2013
  37. I’ve been putting it off for a while but I’m really going to try and get a sub 5:30 mile for the first time in my life. Hopefully in a month or two I should be able to get it.

    Other than that I’m still working on the Mark 6 pack, so I guess cutting out the alcohol and watching my diet a little more are just more lofty goals.

    Nick wrote on July 18th, 2013
  38. My fitness goal is to be a positive role model for my family and coworkers and to get them on-board with the primal way of eating and living. I feel great day in and day out, and when I see all of the modern disease (sleep problems, food allergies, diabetes, addictions to medications, etc.) I just get a sense of compassion for everyone who just needs to change up their diet and get out and move once and a while. :) Have a great day everyone!

    Mike wrote on July 18th, 2013
  39. I just started working the Primal lifestyle into my life a couple of weeks ago, starting with cutting out the grains. It seems to be going well so far (minus one day of really bad low-carb flu). My next goals are:
    1. Cut out dairy and see what happens, including reintroducing it in small amounts and noting the effects.
    2. Be able to do 2 pullups! After completing the PB fitness assessment, my upper body strength is seriously lacking.

    Amanda wrote on July 18th, 2013
  40. Within the next six weeks, my goals are to drop another 10 pounds and completely eliminate diet soda.

    Marci wrote on July 18th, 2013

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