I will be the first to admit that I have run these challenges in the past and will continue to in the future I am sure. Let me explain though why the short, intense and often over the top challenges are for the most part, a complete waste of time.
The challenges start with a lot of fan fare and often unrealistic expectations of “MASSIVE BODY TRANSFORMATIONS”. Let’s be clear… one cannot get a massive body transformation in 5, 8 or even 12 weeks. In saying that, I guess it all depends on your interpretation of the word “massive”. You can definitely form some great habits in this time and make significant changes, but lets not get carried away with hyperbole. The longer I have been involved in personal training, change programs and coaching in general, the more I believe that it is best to make only changes that you can honestly see yourself doing for the rest of your life.
As unsexy as that can seem, it is really all about long term lifestyle. I mean what is the point of hitting yourself super hard for a short period of time only to fall back into old health damaging habits after the razzamattaz has ended? We have all seen people make significant changes and get all excited, but unless it is something that ‘sticks’ then it was clearly not the answer. A recent post by Precision Nutrition hits the nail on the head. They refer to a recent study that looked at the effectiveness of two different diets for adherence only (not weight loss). The hands down winner was the simplest one. No surprise I guess… We have all heard of the wisdom in KISS – keep it simple stupid if you weren’t sure!
I will admit that we have been guilty in the past with prescribing in depth and quite frankly non sustainable eating plans to the wrong people. These eating plans were more suitable for the episodic body building or bikini model competitor. However for the average person, which is the majority of our members or clients, the simplest approach is usually the best. Eating smaller portions is a simple rule to live by and eating as close to nature as possible is another. Notice I said ‘simple’ – not always easy. Your average body builder knows there is an ongoing cycle between very low and more normal body fat levels as a function of the almost obsessive nature of the training. They also know the eating required to have ‘the look’ for these type of competitions. It goes with the territory. It is also worth remembering that the amazing bodies you see on the cover of magazines are fleeting (and yes often photo shopped images) and very short lived. I guarantee the owners of these bodies often marvel at how good they looked for that particular….day.
But back to the ‘challenges’. Look, if it makes you get up and get moving for the first time in a lot of years, awesome. Just keep in mind that it is the long game that counts. Get fired up, yes! And do sensible exercises, implement a consistent routine and progressive overload! But keep the fire burning long term with a more measured and lifestyle based approach. 6 days a week of some heavy work may be good for the short term, but if you get 20 years down the track and you are cycling between 3 to 5 formal exercise sessions with a moderate to the occasionally intense effort level, you will have done better than 99% of the population. You will also be wearing the good looking and great feeling effects with you on a daily basis bringing joy to yourself and I can tell you, those around you. The exercise gig has countless and profound benefits both on the individual and collective levels.
And that is why 8 week challenges are a waste of time!