Most workout studios now offer some sort of intensive fitness challenge, asking you to commit to a short-term goal like doing yoga or CrossFit every day for a month.
There’s still some debate about the value of these super-sweaty stints, so I wanted to know: How would it impact me—someone pretty active, generally motivated, and always up for a challenge.
Spoiler alert: No, I didn’t decide to totally revamp my lifestyle or end up looking like a completely different person. I did, however, discover three things about myself that I’d never realized during all the leggings-clad hours I’d previously spent in studios and gyms.
These are the surprising—but powerful—self-revelations I had adding some friendly competition to my fitness routine.
1. I might actually fit in a fitness community
For my challenge, I decided to task myself to a month of spinning at Swerve Fitness by participating in its first-ever January Swerve League, a team-based take on a standard competition. Eleven instructors each became the captain of a six-person squad. The goal? Be the spinning crew that attends the most classes and racks up the highest overall Swerve Score (a combined number you get after every class that shows how hard you collectively worked based on speed and resistance).
I’d heard of CrossFit-inspired marriages and running groups that double as a happy hour crew, but I was blown away by the size and strength of the community at Swerve. While part of the league, it was rare for me to leave the studio without chatting up someone. Normally I avoid post-workout socializing because I’m busy and want to get in and out of classes quickly. After all, I find it hard enough to keep up with friends I’ve known for ages—so the hook from “No New Friends” is typically running through my mind while I’m racing out of a studio.
But after being part of this group for a full month, the value of feeling connected to the places and people you sweat with day after day started to feel very apparent. It turns out, I may be less of a lunging loner than I thought I was.
2. The thought of letting other people down is a major motivating factor
The fact that being part of a team gave me a big surge of #fitspo only further made me reevaluate my antisocial exercise tendencies. I already knew competition motivated me—some studies have shown rivalry can be even more influential than encouragement—but my willingness to pedal faster and push harder wasn’t just about “winning” I discovered.
What really motivated me was being part of the group—or more specifically, the thought of letting my team down. It didn’t even matter that they wouldn’t be able to tell if I was the weak link (since only group scores are shared to make it less intimidating) or that I hadn’t even met some of them. I’m a people-pleaser, and the thought of them even suspecting I was causing the team to lag behind made me get my ass to class.
That made me think that, in the future, I should really consider working out with a friend or crew that depended on me to show up. (And also, that I should probably try giving less of AF about what strangers think of how fast I can pedal on a stationary bike…or anything else I do. You know, life goals.)
3. If I did one thing more consistently, I’d get faster results
Cross-training is an incredibly important part of a sustainable, long-term workout routine that will keep you fit as you age. But so is sticking to a routine for stretches and gradually increasing your output—if you want to get stronger, anyway.
With a challenge like this, you might notice a change in your body simply because you’ve increased the frequency of doing one specific thing. I saw my average Swerve Score gradually increase over the course of the month (except when I rode with a hangover…whoops), and my legs definitely got stronger in a noticeable way.
That doesn’t mean I’m planning on only spinning from now on (not even close), but every now and then, it just feels good to notice clear results of work you put in. And sometimes it’s the small things, like lessons you learn about yourself, that are really the biggest takeaways from your workout.
Protein: Definitely a fit girl’s best friend. These are the best ways to incorporate more of the muscle-building macronutrient into your diet. And if a pair of leggings are what might actually motivate you, these are the 9 tried-and-true options.