The Problems With 30 Day Challenges and the Like

There are so, so many of these out there on every social media channel but Pinterest is probably the biggest offender. You know what I’m talking about here right those images with numbers and times of crunches, squats or burpies prescribed every day for a month. What’s funny about these things is they don’t even usually promise anything in particular. While there is  nothing really wrong with that there is literally nothing right with them either. Given how useless these are and how much space they take up it irritates me that these 30 day challenges crowd out better content. I get why these may seem enticing and that you might be looking at making some changes in the new year. Hopefully I’ll convince you to design your own 30 day challenge that works for you!


These challenges are gimmicks and we all know that right. Their most important quality is that they make a nice image that can be shared on Pinterest and re-pinned about a million times. I don’t even think a single person out there sees them and thinks “yeah that will probably be what makes a major difference in my life overall.” You might be thinking why does that really matter though? To some extent it doesn’t really except that these pretty stupid ideas are cluttering up our feeds and taking up space that better ideas could otherwise inhabit. Posts about how to find time to work out, start running or get through a couch to 5k for the first time would be a better use of that internet real estate

Not well rounded

Women at least have been trained to hate certain parts of their bodies by things like magazines and ‘insta-models.’ From junior high, maybe earlier, girls especially stand in a line and compare bodies, lamenting the parts they hate. If you think about it is such a weird and f=ed up thing to do. Maybe boys and men feel the same, I don’t know. But because of all that these gimmicky challenges exploit these sorts of feelings. So these challenges usually target one specific body part, your flat butt with squats, your tummy with sit-ups or your arms with push ups. Here’s the thing though it’s not going to work. It takes so much longer than that to build a meaningful amount of muscle in one area and to do much more than nothing at all you’ll need to do more than body weight resistance. Add to that you’re only improving one area. We’ve all been told spot reduction is a myth but this just asks us to ignore all that.

Plus even if you were to build a significant amount of muscle that area might even look bigger because you didn’t lose any fat covering that area. Plus the number of whatever it is is usually pretty extreme. The thing is all that work isn’t really increasing your overall level of fitness at all. So you’re not really any healthier for all that work. Instead I’d like to see these 30 day challenges only focus on starting one thing. Like 30 days to learn how to lift or start running because those posts do exisist and they are great! Since they are so specific, you won’t likely see changes and no one likes doing the same thing over and over for weeks they carry little worth.

No rest days

I’m not into lifting at all or even setting foot in a gym if I can avoid it. That’s a confession not a brag by the way, so I certainly don’t know even the basics of lifting but even I know that everyone needs at least one rest day a week. I surmise that lifters target certain body parts on certain days and then rest all the other parts most days of the week. When you’re training whether it is running or squatting some of the work done by your muscles is when you are resting. If you repeat one movement over and over for a month with no days off you’re doing extra work and leaving some of the benefits behind by not resting the way you should. Even if your goal is to get killer abs one movement like situps isn’t going to make you happy you need to incorporate more than one exercise.


These programs are so, so boring which is no fun but not a real problem in and of itself. What is a problem is that all that boredom is likely to lead you to giving up. The one redeeming feature of these plans is that it could be a good way to get into making fitness a daily habit. If you’re so bored though that you abandon it less than two weeks in though even that is lost. Plus no one ever changed their body and their life just doing 100 sit ups a day for life.

Why they exist

People often HATE one part of their body to an unnatural level. They may not be willing to do absolutely anything to deal with it they are more likely to be willing to try something stupid easy. These plans make you think there is something really easy that you can do to to change it but we already know that’s probably not true. It’s just not that easy.

Often they are trying to sell something to you as well. It’s some sort of detox tea or that thing that was supposedly on dragon’s den with all the seeds. If its not selling something directly it’s full of ads because these things are really, really effective click bait. Since they get repined and shared so often they will unfortunately keep popping up.

Finally I think as we’re scrolling through the fitness world thinking ‘I should really do something…’ So we scroll pas the posts on iron mans, half irons, marathons and so on thinking we could never do that. Then something like this pops up like this and you save it for later because finally this seems like something you could do. But I know you’re capable of more!

Try this instead

Instead of laying on the floor and spending 5 minutes doing a god awful amount of push ups you can grab the great habit forming aspects of this plan and build your own. You can create something that works best for you and works to a certain fitness goal over time. Make a schedule with rest days and at least 5 activity sessions each week either targeting one spot or getting you into the fitness habits for the first time. At the end of that month you’ll have tested out a few different activities, carved some time to work out and followed through on your first commitment which is awesome! You can even add some physical activities that take items off your to do list! Be specific when you write it out but more flexible in your carrying it out. Add things to your month like:

  • Walk for 20 minuets (maybe at lunch)
  • Do 10 sun salutations and then add more poses along the way
  • Go to a weekly yoga class
  • Ride your bike to do an errand
  • Organize the shed or stack firewood or …
  • Hit the lanes (during your kids lessons)
  • Do some squats or something (perhaps a circuit of many exercises)
  • Go to a dance or host your own in your pj’s
  • Follow a new workout video on you tube
  • Go for a walk after supper or try your hand at a run
  • Hit the gym for about an hour
  • Give the house a deep clean
  • Paint a room
  • Start a garden
  • Do an active family outing
  • Go for a free intro session at a local gym or dance studio
  • The ideas are endless!

Or you could focus on one thing like starting running or hitting the gym regularly and develop in that sport and the habit for the month. If what you really want is a total lifestyle makeover you can start there by practicing making better diet choices, moving a whole lot more or just tracking what you normally eat. Putting in an effort everyday really is a great way to start but you can totally do better than one of these single exercise challenges.

The main thing with 30 day challenges is that they really just don’t do that much for you. If you really want to try one though I say go for it, just manage your expectations. Have you ever done one? Did it work? Did you stick with it long term?

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