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. The past two years has been amazing for me.
    the past two years has been horrible for me.

    Over two years ago I became Primal.
    That lasted for just over half a year.

    I joined the Military and found the job I never thought I could have.
    I was no longer primal. I gained 10 lbs. Then 20. Then 15. Then 8.

    If I want to keep to my the life I want… I need to be healthy.
    If i want to feel and be healthy I need to go Primal once more.

    I’ve been trying to become Primal again for a year and a half.
    So many false starts. I berate myself every time.

    Now a days i can not even last two days Primal.
    Because of this… perhaps I can last 42.

    My challenge is to myself. To eat Primal the majority of the next six weeks.
    To not let a single slip turn into an avalanche.

    To not worry about exercise. To do exercise at least 3 times a week.
    Nothing big. Walk instead of drive. Or a few minutes of plants.

    My challenge is to prepare and show myself I can do it.
    That I will be ready for the Primal Challenge in September.

    Mr. Fancypants wrote on July 18th, 2013
  2. To get strong enough to be able to uncock/decock my crossbow.Currently i can only do it a little over half way…So more pull ups,lifting,and core workouts :-) May the force of Grok be with me!!!

    Alexandra wrote on July 18th, 2013
  3. My goal is to add at least 2 evenings of walking to my 5 day/week 6am Crossfit schedule. Some nice evening reflection time while moving!

    Jennifer M Purtlebaugh wrote on July 18th, 2013
  4. I want to be down 10 lbs of fat in 6 weeks! I am also working on strengthening my transverse abdominals, improving core strength and general stability. I’m adding in some more pilates to my routine — let’s say 3x per week for this challenge. There! Done. I wrote in on a public forum. Now I am morally obligated to live up to it.

    Rory wrote on July 18th, 2013
  5. I am committing to train (2xweek) and run in my first 5k in 10 years. I just picked up running again two weeks ago and feel great! Just finished reading Born to Run as well and LOVED it.

    Also, I am going to hold myself accountable for the LHT movements 2xweek (which I tend to forget to do) and I commit to cleaning up my diet. I have not been cheating too much, but 1-2x week plus alcohol has got to change.

    I have recently begun eating more and NOT counting calories since I have not lost any weight in a month probably due to eating too little. But hey, this is a life-long process so I am trying to be mindful of long-term goals and not get hung up on what I look like right now. (I just had a baby, after all)

    writermama wrote on July 18th, 2013
  6. Hi all,

    firstly I have bought quite a few your books now Mark – fabulous stuff.

    I just need to fine tune. I adore a Paleo diet and love your excercise strategies. I have removed lengthy cardio. whoop much better off.

    My challenges are a few, however to start: Get rid of aspartime /diet fizzy drinks and to reduce/get rid of legumes. Oh I love love the legumes, having about a 1/3 cup on my daily huge lunch salad. Whaaaa.

    Love Erin

    Erin from Australia wrote on July 18th, 2013
  7. Tomorrow morning I find out if I have lynch syndrome. It’s a genetic mutation that highly increases the risk of a number of different cancers. My mother passed away at 56 in March due to a lynch related battle with cancer and my brother is just now free of his colon cancer at age 30. Tomorrow is an extremely important day and the end to almost a years worth of anxiety (if I DO have it, time to move on and go on with the proper testing). I promised myself either way, my stress eating habits will improve, I will take better care of myself, and have fun at every moment possible. My next 6 weeks challenge is to nourish my body with real foods and to run, play, hike, and kayak my way to a wonderful life with my son and to stop letting the anxiety of the unknown break me. Time to live in the present and to make the future the best I can!

    Jen Marie wrote on July 18th, 2013
    • Stay strong! My thoughts are with you

      DP wrote on July 18th, 2013
  8. My goal for the last six weeks of summer is to only drink twice a week and limit the consumption to less than three drinks. I think this will give me the extra boost I need in order to achieve my fat loss goal and help me progress physically.

    Brian wrote on July 18th, 2013
  9. My goal is to incorporate all the tips on sleep that I’m not yet doing and focusing on getting solid sleep every night. I believe that will transfer over into other areas of my life – psychological and physical. Thanks for the motivational post!

    Dana wrote on July 18th, 2013
  10. i’m committing to going primal for the first time. no grains, beans, or added sugar. less dairy…moderating that dark chocolate habit. i’ve danced around it for a long time now, but never taken the plunge. honestly, i know i’ll always wonder if primal eating will work for me if i don’t try it for myself. i have several digestive issues i’d like to resolve, like constant boating after meals. I’d also like to drop about 10 pounds and put on a little muscle. I’m a former mileage queen, so i’m also committing to catching a weekly yoga class, evening walks, sprinting a few times a week, and 3X weekly body weight training circuits in the park. Here we go….!

    sara wrote on July 18th, 2013
  11. My goal is to lose weight (not only for the sake of losing weight) but to also reverse my symptoms of PCOS: insulin resistance, weight gain, acne, thinning hair. I have felt terrible for way too long now and it is time to make a change =)

    Wendy wrote on July 18th, 2013
  12. I’m going to kickstart the 30 day challenge now

    Dalton K. wrote on July 18th, 2013
  13. My challenge is this: I have 40 days until I see my surgeon, who will let me know at that time if my reconstructed ACL has finished healing and I can A) stop physical therapy and B) finally return to taekwondo (I injured my knee on December 1, 2012, and had surgery on January 2, 2013); until then, I will continue doing my physical therapy (as I have been doing every day since January 3), which includes daily walks and/or stationary biking. Fingers crossed that in 40 days, my surgeon will have great news for me!

    JackieKessler wrote on July 18th, 2013
  14. Just turned 63– and finished my first year of all-standing at my workplace 8-10 hours a day! New challenge is to get 3 days of sprinting, two of bodyweight, and two boxing days for the next 30 days and beyond.

    I feel like I am 19 years old– primarily because I stay fairly primal and active– but I also am getting back on those Primal Fuel shakes that really help me focus on my ultimate goal of being 5-9 and 163 (ten more to go!)

    dave deppisch wrote on July 18th, 2013
  15. My Primal Blueprint 21-Day Challenge is to go Paleo and lose 8 pounds the next 30 days. And then continue to lose weight and become stronger, leaner, healthier

    Colleen Bunner wrote on July 18th, 2013
  16. I am going to go bra-less for the next 6 weeks. Freedom!

    Chrissy K wrote on July 18th, 2013
  17. Thanks Mark!
    I am taking steps to join the paleo lifestyle. I have spent a lot of years making very strong bad habits. I don’t expect to suddenly switch over to new habits right away. I am 48 years old and weighed 313 pounds when I started on June 18th. So far I have lost 15 pounds, I feel better, my clothes fit, a lot of residual body pain has been reduced, and I am able to begin exercising.
    I appreciate the daily support and reinforcement. It’s been a tremendous help!

    Jeff wrote on July 18th, 2013
  18. Four goals with no vagueness:

    1. Increase intake of sauerkraut, keifer and try kombucha.
    2. Join gym in order to attend HIIT spinning class–weekly!
    3. Restart my old physical therapy moves for spinal stenosis in my neck.
    4. Restart abandoned hamstring/calf stretches. (I am really dreading this one. Once, after 7 months of agonizing yoga work, I was able to touch my toes. I haven’t even tried in the last two years. Ugh.:()

    Best to everyone!

    Caliprimal wrote on July 18th, 2013
  19. My goal is to eat mindfully. I know this is vague, and I know that doesn’t mean “be strictly primal for 6 weeks,” but my biggest issue has always been binge eating. I want to use these 6 weeks to not binge, instead having bigger meals of as many whole foods as possible without depriving myself.

    Oh… and to keep lifting! I went abroad for a while and had no gym access, so I was mainly biking and walking with occasional bodyweight things. I need to gain back my strength, because my max bench is laughable right now.

    I hope everyone does well with their self-challenges! :o)

    Abby Jo wrote on July 18th, 2013
  20. You’ve been in Cali WAY too long Mark. Here in new England it was one of the coldest, wettest springs I can remember. I live at the beach and I intend to swim, surf and watch as many sunsets as I can. My goal is to be as brown as a grocery bag and to have silky smooth feet from miles walked in the sand. I spend too much of my life chasing goals and it’s high time I start to relax and enjoy more. See ya in the fall.

    Peter wrote on July 18th, 2013
  21. To be ab1e to do at least 1 chin up by 3 weeks! getting stronger :)

    Erica wrote on July 18th, 2013
  22. I can’t just seem to focus on one goal, but so far my goal is to loose lasting 20 pounds, not freak out everytime I see the numbers on the scale. Challenge? Try out Cross fit and stick to it for a month

    Agne wrote on July 19th, 2013
  23. I have 2 goals for the remainder of this summer. (1) to be able to do 1 pull up (seems a common theme!) and (2) to train for a 10k without going “chronic”.
    I love the primal fitness idea of getting fit without dedicating your whole life to your body. In previous years it would have been four runs a week in the lead up to a race. Now I’m thinking two runs of no more than an hour plus a Grok-style sprint session and body weight workouts should have me ready no bother! Oh, and daily walks, but those are more for pleasure than fitness tbh.

    Shinulya wrote on July 19th, 2013
  24. My goals are to get to bed by 9:00 3 days per week, to lose those last 6 pounds, and to eliminate dairy for 3 weeks to see if it helps my acne. Thanks for the challenge, Mark!

    kelly wrote on July 19th, 2013
  25. My goal, for the next 6 weeks and beyond, is to use the primal lifestyle outside of the house and gym. Instead of hitting the garage gym and calling it a day on activity I’ll enjoy more activities. Finally try Stand Up Paddle Boarding, join the local rugby team, pick up rock climbing again. This is the reason we eat right and workout, so we can enjoy the world while feeling great.

    Matt wrote on July 19th, 2013
  26. How perfect that you post this now. I just signed up for my very first CrossFit competition in August. I’ve only been doing CrossFit since May, but I’m already addicted and wanted to have something to push myself for this summer. Thanks for the great post Mark. You’re always right on the money.

    Emily wrote on July 19th, 2013
  27. My goal is to do some kind of movement everyday and just enjoy the rest of my summer.

    Ara wrote on July 19th, 2013
  28. Goals for the rest of summer:

    1. Continue to do Insanity every day.
    2. Be binge-free!
    3. Reduce grains, dairy, legumes and added sugar as much as I can in my situation.
    4. Make primal snacks for when we are on the boat (so I don’t fall off wagon).

    Number 1 and 2 are most important and most easily measured so I will focus on those as my “challenge”.

    Hanna wrote on July 19th, 2013
  29. I’m about to start a new career, but am enjoying staying home for the first time in my adult life for the summer. While at home, we (my husband & I) joined a gym and now he’s training me. My goal is to make my body lean & gain strength, which I’ve never had really. I’ve been mostly Primal for almost 2 years now & my second goal is to cook more so my whole family can eat at home & eat healthy.

    Sommer wrote on July 19th, 2013
  30. Recent evidence shows that war is strongly associated with the post-agricultural age, i.e. for paleolithic peoples, hunter-gatherers, war was extremely rare. See link to UK newspaper article:

    Roys wrote on July 19th, 2013
  31. Hi, I’ve just finished reading The Primal Blueprint, so my 6-week goal is to transition to a paleo diet using the 80-20 rule, and add two Lift Heavy Things workouts a week to my usual cycling routine. There’s a cool assault course near where I live and I’d love to be able to do a complete circuit of it one day, so that’s my long-term goal!

    Finn wrote on July 19th, 2013
  32. you’re on dude. i’ll be walking on my hands and weighing 189 by the 31st. let’s go.

    jason angst wrote on July 19th, 2013
  33. I have to keep my goals small still, so I am committing to being off the computer at 10 p.m. every night, no exceptions. (Did that during your last 30-day challenge and it was great (well, except for waking naturally at 7, instead of sleeping in till 9 every morning! {wink})

    I will continue to attend my twice-a-week water aerobics classes, and I will (finally!) start back up with my Doug McGuff/Body by Science weightlifting before (one) class.

    I will also move my ‘blog reading’ from mornings over coffee (which lately extends till noon!) to evenings, when work and dinner are done! (So, “see yah” tomorrow evening, Mark!)

    Elenor wrote on July 19th, 2013
  34. My big challenge to myself this summer is to refocus on my weightlifting (I’m doing the StrongLifts 5×5) and that requires me to be up and out the door by 6:30 AM, which used to be an unthinkable time for me to be up much less on my way to the gym! But so far, I’ve had great success and while I hate getting out of bed, I love the early morning bike ride to the gym. It’s been very rewarding and it makes me feel amazing all day. On top of that, I’m working harder (see: sprinting more, longer) in my soccer and ultimate frisbee leagues so that I can have the strength AND endurance to complete a Spartan Race in October. The race has been on my calender since January, and it’s been a great motivator to have a specific event/challenge to get ready for.

    El Duderino wrote on July 19th, 2013
  35. Too bad I didn’t see this until after the prize deadline, but here goes anyhow – I’ve been under a lot of personal and work stress lately and have gained back a couple of pounds. My goal for the rest of the summer is to deal better with the stress and re-lose those pounds! Instead of 80-20 primal, I’m going to have to start making better choices and up it to something like 90-10. I want to continue my 2x week strength training and up my running mileage a bit, if this heat wave ever breaks!

    Louise wrote on July 19th, 2013
  36. I will walk minimum 1 hour a day, every day for the rest of the summer, so help me Grok!

    Paul wrote on July 19th, 2013
  37. I’m going to quite drinking alcohol. for good.

    Katherine wrote on July 19th, 2013
  38. I just wrote “you deserve to know what it feels like to live to your physical potential” in my notebook so I see it every day. I needed that – thanks Mark!

    Kai wrote on July 19th, 2013
  39. Living in Calgary near the Canadian Rockies we are just entering the prime window for summer activities in the mountains. I have several goals relating to hikes/scrambles to motivate my fitness efforts:
    – Hike/run the 44km Skyline trail (near Jasper) in a day
    – Complete the Castle Mountain scramble (1300m elevation gain, 29 km distance)

    I already have my trip to Jasper planned for the labor day weekend!

    Rencea wrote on July 19th, 2013

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