The Four Week Challenge

I am all up for challenging myself. Between paying attention to my body for health and dance reasons, I know it pretty well. I know what it is capable of doing and what it’s not. With that in mind, every month I’ve added a few exercises to my routine that I knew would challenge me. I’ll admit, there have been one or two I had to drop because they were too hard for the level I’m currently at, even if I previously could do them without a problem.

They say that you should give yourself twelve weeks. If you’ve looked up motivational quotes for exercising, I’m sure you’ve seen the one that breaks down weeks 4-12. It takes about 4 weeks for you to notice your body changing, 8 weeks for our friends to notice, and 12 weeks for the rest of the world to notice. Honestly, twelve weeks seems like a long time and while nothing happens overnight (except maybe muscle pain), it’s hard stay motivated especially when the changes you expect to see in the mirror on week 4 don’t show up. When we rely on the mirror to show us the change we’re expecting, we miss the other signs of change our body is giving us.

Like a lot of people, my tummy area is being stubborn about shedding the fat. I’m sure under this layer of squish, there is a six pack being formed. I’m not seeing it, but I’m sure it’s there. I was doing crunches the other day when I realized, I can get my shoulder blades off the floor. Before, I didn’t feel like was getting much “crunch” despite the pain in my abdomen that would show up around the second set. It’s been awhile since I was able to crunch this much. The mirror doesn’t reflect that. It’s still showing that layer of squish as if it was untouched.

With this last pregnancy came a problem I do not remember ever having to deal with: Love handles. Muffin Top. Take your pick. One way to target them is the Superman exercise. Which is great, except I have always sucked at them. Still, I made them a goal to try out and added them to my routine last month. The first few weeks I barely made it through a set of 15, and I had a total of three to get through! I couldn’t even get my chest off the floor. Until one day, I realized that I could. Something that I never thought could happen, being able to exercise my back in such a way, became possible. I continued the superman exercise this month, adding five more each sets, and I’m finally seeing a reduction of the dreaded muffin top in the mirror.

The mirror wasn’t the first sign that my body was changing. Noticing the strength to do more was. If we rely on the mirror or the scale instead of listening to our own bodies, then we’re going to miss the signs of change. If we miss the signs, then it is easy to become disheartened and believe that what we’re doing isn’t really helping us at all.

If you’re participating in an exercise regiment or a diet, however you are trying to help your body be better, I encourage you to get more acquainted with your body than with the image in the mirror. The goal is always to be healthy and strong. Take those first four weeks to pay attention to your body. Take note of where you’re becoming stronger or healthier, away from the mirror or scale. While these are tools that can help, they shouldn’t be the final marker of change.

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