90 Day Fitness Challenge – Confessions

Yes, that’s me. At least that’s the box I used to always check on those medical forms you are occasionally required to fill out in medical offices when asked about your activity level.

90 Day Fitness Challenge

Given that, you can imagine my concern when the Iridia management team began talking about implementing a fitness program, and especially when I was tasked with putting together a suitable plan for our staff. When we signed on with Innovative Fitness for a 90 Day Fitness Challenge, I felt compelled to participate as part of the leadership team, but to be honest, it filled me with a sense of dread. I anticipated repeating all my past failures.

90 Day Fitness Challenge

I was a bookworm when I was a kid, and preferred spending time in libraries rather than on the playing field. As I approached junior high and high school, I became focused on academics, and getting good grades was more important to me than physical activity. High school gym class was a nightmare. I was clumsy, unskilled, awkward, and embarassed by my limitations as compared to my classmates. Thus began my “hate affair” with exercise.

After high school I went on with my life, and since physical activity had never been part of it, I had convinced myself I just wasn’t the exercise type. Every couple of years I’d feel guilty about not exercising and would take out a gym membership or sign up for a class, throw myself into it headlong, and then give up a few weeks in. And, I hated everything about it. I hated gearing myself up for getting to the gym, hated the feeling of exertion while I was there, and generally did not feel those wonderful endorphins everyone always talks about when you’re finished, that make you feel like it was all worth it.

Iridia implemented the Innovative Fitness 90 Day Challenge in January of this year. It required participants to commit to three structured physical activities per week. In addition to that, I had previously signed up with a personal trainer at the gym, taking me from 0 days of activity to 5 per week. The first two weeks were torture. I experienced all those familiar feelings and failings of my past efforts. After the second week I felt ready to give up. A physiotherapist friend encouraged me to push through. She told me week 3 was always the hardest, and if I could get through that, I’d feel differently about it. I didn’t believe her, but carried on anyway. During week 4, I found I disliked the experience slightly less than usual. This may not seem like a big deal to those who are regularly physically active, but for me, it was a monumental shift.

Then I came down with the flu. For two days I was in bed and couldn’t exercise. Fair enough. The third day, I talked myself into needing an extra day to get my energy back and cancelled my gym appintment. The fourth day I was convinced I needed some extra sleep to catch up. But I woke up on the 5th day to a strange feeling. My muscles and joints were achy and sore. I had pains in funny places. I laid in bed trying to figure out what was going on, when I realized that I missed moving! I looked outside. No rain. Gone was my last excuse. So I threw on my runners and headed out for my walk, in the dark of the morning.

That day, instead of being obsessed about how much I didn’t want to be walking, I noticed the sun rise. I noticed the birds singing. I noticed that there was a quickness in my step, and that I was struggling with the effort less than I had a week or two ago. I also noticed that I wasn’t hating it. I looked at my stopwatch as I approached my house and saw that I had put in my obligatory walk time. Then I did something completely crazy and entirely new. I kept walking. I pushed myself for another 10 minutes, just because I could. And something else has happened, quite unintentionally.  I am somehow eating less cookies and more almonds, less chips and more fruit.

At the mid-way point, has the 90 Day Challenge changed my life forever? It may be too soon to tell. I don’t like to look too far ahead because that’s when I get myself into trouble. Taking on too much and then quitting, rather than taking it one step at a time and appreciating the incremental achievements, no matter how small. But not hating – and, I daresay, inching towards enjoying – my morning walks is a milestone for me. At the moment, if I were to fill out one of those medical forms, I could honestly check off the box that says “moderately active”, and that feels pretty good. It’s enough for now.

An Innovative Look at Fitness

So, it’s a month past Christmas and if you’re like me you’re still feeling a little sluggish post-eggnog, turkey and chocolate, and perhaps not quite into the habit of those resolutions you made to make fitness a priority in 2012. I’m guessing a lot of people are in the same boat, so this year, Global is inviting its staff into participating in a 90-Day fitness challenge.

innovative fitness

The conversation around implementing some kind of fitness program for our staff came out of an indicator from our staff satisfaction survey that 60% were interested in a fitness initiative of some kind. We spent a lot of time researching the types of things companies are doing to promote fitness in the workplace, and went the gamut on ideas from as simple as offering an annual subsidy to individuals for a fitness initiative (gym membership or equipment, personal trainer, etc.) to signing on to a comprehensive online program that offered biometric screening, customized fitness programs, life-change programs (weight loss, smoking cessation, etc.), online tracking, education, individual health and fitness coaching, etc.

In the end, we decided on a program that was more collaborative and team-oriented than simply offering a lump some of money, and that wouldn’t break the bank with the expensive online programs designed for much larger companies. We found a Vancouver-based company called Innovative Fitness (IF) that has provided the best of both worlds for us.

They will run a 90 Day Challenge in which a beginner and advanced walk/run program are developed for those who want to participate, with the goal being participation in three walk/runs per week, with specified goals in terms of heart rate and length of time, depending on the program level. Staff will submit their daily fitness activities by email to the IF coach, who will track each individual’s progress. Innovative Fitness will also provide weekly education updates and fitness tips and provide individual coaching whenever staff need it to modify their programs (MJ in Fort St. John isn’t likely to do a walk/run at -34). At the beginning of the challenge, the team from IF came to our office to do a biometric assessment of all participants (measuring height/weight, BMI, etc.) to provide a starting point. All activities are tracked according to a points system (so many points for submitting your daily log, plus additional points for every 15 minutes of exercise), and every certain number of points gains an entry to a prize to be drawn at the end of the challenge. In addition, everyone doing the challenge will participate in a fun closing event at the end of the challenge to celebrate the achievement of 90 days of increased physical activity.

innovative fitness

When we first talked about the concept, we had no idea what kind of participation we might expect from our staff. To our surprise, we have 100% participation – even our two staff who work remotely from other locations are participating! We are excited about the impact this initiative will have in each person’s health and life, and are looking forward to swapping war stories along the way.

They say it takes 40 days to develop a new habit – we’re hoping that after more than twice that many days, physical activity will become a part of everyone’s life in a new and exciting way. It’s just another way we are investing in keeping our staff healthy and fit (we also provide fresh fruit and healthy snacks in the office), so they can be at their best at work and in life.