Whether you’re a new runner or have a few miles under your belt, chances are you’ve had moments where you struggled to stay on track with your goals or had the occasional day where you Literally. Just. Can’t. Feeling blah about exercise all of the time, however, is a different story. If that sounds familiar, you’ve come to the right place.
We’ve got an antidote to your fitness slump, and it’s surprisingly basic: A 30-day challenge. There’s a lot to love about a simple four-week challenge and many benefits, no matter your age, experience, or ability level.
Just ask Idalis Velazquez, NASM-CPT, former elite track-and-field athlete, and Beachbody Super Trainer. As the creator of Beachbody’s 30 Day Breakaway challenge, Velazquez has helped athletes of all stripes unlock their goals with her effective, realistic approach. The key to 30 Day Breakaway is that it pairs running and resistance training, a winning combo that helps you get fit and fast. The program is for anyone who needs help in building a running foundation, someone who wants to tackle their first 5K, or experienced runners who want to get the most out of their runs.
Here, Velazquez shares why, exactly, a 30-day challenge is an ideal motivator to smash any fitness objective, plus goal-setting tips to get you started.
One of the best ways to get lasting fitness results is to follow a principle of “progressive overload,” says Velazquez. Progressive overload essentially means you constantly increase the difficulty of your workouts so that you continue to improve (instead of plateauing). The structure of a 30-day challenge lends itself well to this principle: You can ramp up the intensity of your workouts week-by-week so that by the end of the month, you’re a better, faster athlete.
Keep in mind: Though a 30-day challenge can be incredibly effective, results won’t come overnight. Be patient, allow yourself to be a beginner, and don’t fight the initial discomfort. Velazquez assures that over time, you will get stronger—both physically and mentally.
When it comes to goal setting, think SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound, says Velazquez. An effective goal encapsulates all of these elements, and a 30-day challenge ensures your goal ticks the box on time-bound. Why is it important that your goal includes a timeframe? Well, that detail makes the goal tangible—you can circle a date on your calendar and know your aim is to accomplish your objective by that exact time. From there, you can work backward and figure out the best plan to get you to that benchmark.
A 30-day challenge is tangible in a motivating way (see above point), but also broad enough that it can be adjusted to fit all types of athletes. One easy way to make a workout fit for you is to base it off your perceived exertion—basically, how hard you feel you’re exercising—and not your pace. This approach allows you to be in tune with your body and make micro-adjustments based on your current energy level and capabilities. Ultimately, this will help you have the most productive sweat session, says Velazquez, since it accounts for all the external factors that can influence your abilities on a given day, including sleep, diet, and stress levels.
Psychology 101: You’re much more likely to do something if it seems easy. And a 30-day challenge fits that bill. After all, exercising for four weeks is a lot more mentally doable than other common (often intimidating) fitness goals, like training for a full-on marathon or logging a certain number of miles in a year. With a 30-day challenge, Velazquez explains, “you’re not setting yourself up for failure.” Instead, you’re building your strength and confidence day-by-day and establishing habits that you’ll hopefully continue when the month is up. “It's more than 30 days,” says Velazquez. “Thirty days is just to get you started.”
If you need some encouragement along the way, focus on the things you’re doing well, Velazquez suggests. For example, take pride in the fact that you’ve upped your running stamina from 10 minutes to 15 minutes instead of dwelling on the fact that you’re not yet ready for a full 5K. Celebrating these little wins will give you the motivation boost you need to keep pursuing your bigger objective.
Ready to try a 30-day challenge? Learn more about Beachbody’s 30 Day Breakaway and sign up here.
Jenny is a Boulder, Colorado-based health and fitness journalist. She’s been freelancing for Runner’s World since 2015 and especially loves to write human interest profiles, in-depth service pieces and stories that explore the intersection of exercise and mental health. Her work has also been published by SELF, Men’s Journal, and Condé Nast Traveler, among other outlets. When she’s not running or writing, Jenny enjoys coaching youth swimming, rereading Harry Potter, and buying too many houseplants.