Challenge #1: Squat Circuit Challenge – 30 Days to 200 Squats

The Idea

I said on my first post that I would be roadtesting tips from various sites and this is my first one.  I like it because it’s a 30 day challenge so I’ll finish it at Easter Weekend (in time to ruin my work with chocolate!).  I am easily bored and by doing different exercise challenges I should hopefully be able to see each one through.  200 though?  Am I mad?  My year 8 students would tell you that’s a yes.

The Benefits:

Apparently the benefits of this circuit challenge mostly revolve around the muscle groups.  Regular stick-your-butt-out-and-look-stupid squats only work one set of muscles, or only work your muscles in one way.  These different squats tackle different problem parts of your lower regions.

challenge 1

Day 1: 6 reps of each.

Okay well it helps if you’re good at basic maths.  Number 2 involves a kick-back so I assumed that I’d have to do 6 on each foot.  Unfortunately that means I’ve done 36 squats rather than 30 but hey – that’s gotta be  a win, right?

So far, so good.  I was impressed because I really could feel the different parts of my thighs working as I varied from narrow, to basic, to basic w kick-back, to basic w/side kick, to the sumo squat.  That was satisfying.  Maybe I should take some before and after photos but then I intend to continue on my exercise bike so any results wouldn’t necessarily be scientific.  I was also impressed with how quickly it was over.  I had imagined it to be torturous.  Maybe that comes in at day 5?  Eeek!

NB: The Sumo Squat is a little dangerous if you go into it too enthusiastically.  The first one saw me almost overbalancing and face-planting the carpet (pardon the expression – I learnt it from my teenage students).  The second was accompanied by a resounding crack of my hips as I sank a little too low.  For a moment I envisaged getting stuck, which could have been comical!  I suggest easing into this one at first to see just how low you can get safely.  Don’t assume that because the lady in the photograph can get her legs into a pleasing rectangular shape that you can!

Body 1: Mind 0

Day 5

Yesterday was a rest day and goodness am I glad it was.

After the initial empowering success of day 1, I was raring to go for day 2: 10 reps of each.  I figured 50 squats was definitely achievable, especially as I’d accidentally done 36 the day before.  I was right; 50 was achievable. But it hurt!  Anyone trying this challenge should hopefully feel, as I did, the motivational thrill of being able to say: “I did 50 squats!” but should also make certain to stretch.  I didn’t stretch properly and I was reminded of those 50 squats every time I nipped upstairs.

Skip ahead to day 5: 5 reps of each x 3 = 75 squats in total.  I felt triumphant.  I was invincible.  I’d done 30, 50, 60 squats.  15 more?  No problem.  3 minutes later I’d completed 75 squats:I had triumphed.  I also hurt.

The moral of the story?  Stretch!

The best stretch for those aching thighs (you really feel it at the front!), is to stand on one leg and bring your other heel up behind you until it touches your bottom.  Hold your foot for support.  Depending on how tight your muscles are, you may be fine just holding it there for a few seconds, or, to get a really satisfying stretch, you may need to just push your knee backwards slightly until you can feel the stretch.  Don’t over do it but do make sure to do a couple on each side and hold the stretch for about 10 seconds if you can.

I’m only a sixth of the way through the 30 day challenge but so far I’d say it’s definitely worth it.  You get a real mental boost from completing goals so quickly, from how quickly the reps add up, and even from the ache that accompanies you for the next few hours.  I don’t know if my thighs are less wobbly, or if my butt is perkier, but the feeling that you can accomplish anything will definitely have a positive impact on any future challenges I decide to undertake.

Body 2: Mind 0

Day 23

Unfortunately, I’ve been forced to stop the challenge for the moment.  It was all going so well (apart from the odd day when I forgot to squat so had to forego a rest day in order to catch up!) until day 21…

I’d forgotten to squat so leaped out of bed just before switching off the light for the night.  I dashed into the spare room (away from the view of my husband) and proceeded to complete day 21 of the challenge: 10 reps of each x 3.  Afterwards I made certain to stretch, by holding my heel to my butt and pushing my knee ever so slightly backwards to really push the stretch.  Same on the other side – job done.  Happy with myself (although rather warmer than I had been just a few moments before), I went back to our room and snuggled down.

3am

Yikes!  I sat bolt-upright in bed, grimacing and clutching my right calf.  I’d stretched out my leg (you know, the fatal in-the-middle-of-the-night-stretch where you push your heel out?) and now had excruciating cramp.  It took an age to relax to the point where I was finally able to lie back down and rest.  When I did, I was aware of a dull, throbbing ache which hurt me throughout the night.

It’s now Sunday (two days later) and my calf feels all knotted and tight.  It hurts to walk and it hurts to climb the stairs or descend them.  I’ve been forced to halt the challenge.

I think that there now needs to be some more advice – it’s not enough to simply stretch out your thighs after squatting – I should have stretched my calves and hamstrings out.  I’m not putting this injury down to the routine, or down to my failure to stretch the lower portions of my legs – it could be due to any number of factors – but it’s definitely worth exercising caution if you want to try this challenge and I would recommend stretching properly.  Don’t take any unnecessary risks.

On the plus side, I’ve managed to make it to 150 squats and it doesn’t hurt nearly as much as I’d expected it to.  The programme definitely seems to support a progression towards that 200 squat goal.  In addition, when squatting on Friday night, I experimentally squeezed the fronts of my thighs and was thrilled to feel the muscle almost immediately underneath my skin – definitely toning up nicely!

Day 30 – I made it!

Okay, so I’m writing this a full week after the 30 day challenge finished but, hey, I’m a busy modern woman! Day 30 fell on the first day of a girl’s holiday to Lincoln and, tucked up in bed at 11.30pm, I really, really didn’t want to get up and do those 200 squats.  It’s so easy to forget, especially when almost anything in the world seems more fun.  But I did it.

I found a spot in my friend’s guest bedroom where the floor-boards didn’t squeak and set to it.  What amazed me is how a) easy it felt for my legs b) out of puff I got by the time I got to 200.  By the end, I was forced to spend 10m fumbling around in the dark for the control for the radiator (which was on full-blast!) to turn it off because I’d become so warm and yes, slightly sweaty.  At the time I just felt triumphant but now, looking back in the cold light of a chilly April morning, I just feel super self-critical of how easily I got out of puff – I’ve still got a long way to go!

On to the next 30 day challenge!

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