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. 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.
So, 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?
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.