What Exercising For 21 Days Taught Me

Y’all. I worked out for 21 straight days.

21 days with some pretty high-impact stuff. From July 3 to July 23, I got my ass in gear and I got. it. done., sometimes doing two workouts in a day. I committed to a round of 21 Day Fix and I didn’t back out. In fact, today marks the 1/3 mark of my ninety-day workout challenge as well, in which I committed to ninety days of Beachbody workouts. Needless to say, the first week was a sort of syllabus week, as I only worked out twice in seven days, but once that second Monday came around, I was in it. 

Here are five things I’ve learned from working out for 21 consecutive days:

1) Habit is 90% of success. 

But yo. You know how you have a workout planned, and then you get home and Roseanne is on and you’re hungry and tired and cranky, and the absolute last thing you want to do is get yelled at by some broad with already-great abs and sweat in your living room, so you eat Oreos in your underwear on the couch instead?

Yeah. Me neither.

Look, there’s something to be said for taking 21 days to form a habit. Lord know I typically drop off after about three. After making it through the first week, though, it became … well, routine

Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.

2) Progress can be slow.

… and it’s a pain in the ass. I’m one of those gals that works out for two days and wonders why I haven’t lost ten pounds. Granted, my leftover gymnastics metabolism carried me all the way to my thirties, and I could very easily see quick difference. But guys, it just ain’t the same anymore. I have to work much harder to make a dent now.

That’s why habit and routine are so important. You have to keep going, even when you don’t get immediate gratification. I remember reading somewhere that it takes four weeks for you to see a change in your body, eight weeks for your family to see it, and twelve for the rest of the world to see it. You have to keep going.

3) The scale is a lying bitch.

I’ve always heard to go by other measurements — inches/cm, pictures, the way your clothes fit, etc. — but I’ve never believed it more until now. I worked out for 21 days and lost three pounds (see above: I obviously should have lost twenty). I hope muscle really does weigh more than fat and that I’ve been cultivating mass and whatever, because I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t discouraging to see very little movement in those numbers.

Weight is important, don’t get me wrong. But I was a slave to a number for a long, long time, and I’m damn sure not going back down that path. Weight is simply one marker, not the only marker. Take an assessment of how you feel. How does your body feel when you make it stronger and help it work more efficiently? That’s the first step, and it’s one I traded for the quick-fix far too often in my youth. Yes, I lost the weight more quickly by restricting my daily diet to a slice of toast, three sugar-free Red Bulls and a pack of P-Funks, but my body hated me, and I felt it in my mind as well. Do it right, regardless of the number.

4) Abs are 100% made in the kitchen.

You can work out for an hour a day every day and if you eat shit, ain’t nothing gonna happen. Luckily, I like a lot of good-for-you food, but I haven’t always been like this (and let’s be real, I love me some nachos). Becoming a vegetarian has impacted me in so many great ways, but in the beginning, I made the same mistakes that a lot of new vegetarians make, namely swapping meat for pasta and cheese. I’ve now figured out how much I love veggies and whole grains, and that has helped tremendously, but there’s still a lot of reformation to go. 

Even in this period, though, I’ve made good decisions. I’ve brought my lunches with me to work. If I want a small treat, I get a couple of spoonfuls of Halo Top’s Salted caramel, which I am convinced is next to godliness. Sometimes I have peanut butter and jelly, but with sugar-free, natural jelly and freshly round peanut butter on whole wheat bread. I grill vegetables. 

And sometimes I have nachos because I’m not a damn fool about it. I’m only human here.

5) Maintaining that streak was the beginning of a colossal domino effect.

I’m little Heather Healthy now! I’ve found myself looking into ways to further my healthy goals, like gradually cutting dairy from my diet. If you think that the mainstream, commercial meat industry is bad, take a look into the mass-producing commercial dairy industry. Ain’t no reason to be drinking another animal’s milk, but I get it, it’s tasty with cookies. Go local as often as you can, with as much as you can. If Farmer Joe in the next town as a small dairy farm that he sells at a farmer’s market, you can bet those cows are treated much more humanely that those at a Hiland Farm. All of that is for another post, I promise, but this is my point — I’ve explored more deeply what I want to eat and why (or, inversely, why not). 

I’ve also (surprisingly) gotten really excited about planning my workouts, even scheduling walks with my healthy friend. I like riding my bike and taking long walks and listening to podcasts and reading. It’s funny how focusing your attention to one part of your health catapults you into acute awareness of the other pieces of your health. Mental health, emotional health, spiritual health, and beyond, I’m slowly finding what works for me and what makes me feel best. Once you start feeling good from getting active, it’s contagious, and you will want to take every good decision you’ve made for yourself and your health and expand it in ways you might not have before. 

All from working out for 21 days. 

Crazy, huh?

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