When it came to health goals for 2019 I couldn't get excited about committing to any one health habit. And so I picked 12! Here's how it will work: for each month of 2019 I will challenge myself to do a healthy habit every day, and each month will have a different habit challenge. The habits aren't cumulative so when the month is done I can stop doing pushups, stop tracking my food, whatever. I'll only focus only on the current month's challenge.
In coming up with the 12 different ideas I wanted to pick challenges that were do-able enough that I wouldn't dread it each day (which could be a recipe for failure) but significant enough that keeping it up for a month would feel like an accomplishment. Some of the challenges I'm giving myself are things I already do sometimes but nothing that I do every day. As I was assigning the challenges I tried to think about when we have travel scheduled, when holidays are, etc. The challenge of 10 pushups/day was one of the first challenges I thought of and I knew it would be a little hard so I'm getting it over with in January (and have done them every day so far!). You'll notice that "no added sugar" falls on the shortest month of the year (although also a month with a sugar-coated holiday). I let December take "eat veggies at least twice/day" because that's a month when I could use reminding to eat food groups other than Candy Cane Joe Joe's.
To keep track of my progress I'm using a daily goal tracker from Elise. For each day that I complete the daily habit I fill in the date circle with highlighter. It's surprisingly satisfying and motivating to fill in that tiny circle. As I did when I used the tracker to get into the habit of wearing sunscreen every day, I'm keeping the goal tracker on the back of our medicine cabinet door in our bathroom using magnets. I keep a highlighter in the medicine cabinet too so that it's easy to fill in the circles. I made a slight modification to my goal tracker this year using Photoshop by adding the first letter of each month. This lets me easily see when different months start at a glance. I love the system: it's tucked away but convenient and I love tangibly filling in a circle to track my progress.
Here's what I have planned for the year...
January: 10 pushups/day. The pushups have to be all on my toes (no knees) and done outside of any workout I'm already doing. So for example if doing a set of 10 pushups is part of my morning Orange Theory workout those don't count. The idea of the challenge is to do something extra that I'm not already doing. However what I have been doing is completing a set of 10 pushups right after my Orange Theory class. That way I'm already in workout mode and I'm done with them for the day before I even really get my day started.
February: no added sugar. Foods with naturally occurring sugars, fruits and plain yogurt for example, are okay. I think this one will be hard! Not so much because I'll crave the sugar but because sugar is added to everything. I need to prepare for this one by making a list of foods I usually eat to see what I need to eliminate or modify on this challenge.
March: 9 p.m. bedtime. I think this will be a really challenging one. Sometimes I go to bed by 9 p.m. but often it's closer to 9:30 or 10 p.m. I will have a couple exceptions to the challenge during the month. My Monday night High Fitness classes get out at 9 p.m. so those nights will be later and I'm okay making that exception. Chris and I also have tickets to a concert so we'll be up later that night. But other than planned exceptions it's lights out at 9 p.m.! To do this I need to be in bed reading with teeth brushed and face washed by 8:30 p.m. so that I can read for 30 minutes before trying to fall asleep. That will be hard but hopefully those good nights of sleep will motivate me.
April: track food every day. I'll use My Fitness Pal for this and already do occasionally go on streaks of tracking my food daily. However, I usually stop because of the added work of entering everything I eat. Homemade recipes are especially annoying to enter although creating a new recipe to log in the app isn't that hard. I do notice that when I track my food I eat healthier and smaller portion sizes (and still feel full and satisfied after a meal).
May: don't eat after 7:30 p.m. This challenge will be interesting. Although I'm not much of a post-dinner snacker I can get into a routine where I want something sweet every day after dinner. I've read that food consumed after dinner tends to be higher in sugar and lower in nutritional value (ice cream? brownies? check) so this challenge is about filling up on healthy food at dinner and being done for the night. Something that helps me do this is to floss and brush right after dinner. The minty taste signifies to my stomach and brain that we're done and I loathe the thought of brushing my teeth twice.
June: 10 minute stretch/day. I'm looking forward to this one! I love to stretch and use my foam roller, especially right before bed, although I don't do it often. I'll plan to set my phone with a 10 minute timer and stretch for that duration every day. I think this would be a good one to do with the boys sometimes.
July: no caffeine or alcohol. I'm really curious to see how easy or challenging this is. Already I don't drink much alcohol: I'll have beer if Chris and I go out somewhere and occasionally at home we'll split a beer or I'll have a small glass of wine. But there are also occasions where I pass up having a drink even if other people are drinking. No caffeine will be interesting. Lately I sometimes don't have tea or coffee in the morning so I'm not feeling chained to a morning caffeine intake (but maybe that's optimistic!) but I might have returned to daily tea or coffee by June. I probably should make note of my caffeine intake in mid-May so I can wean myself off if needed by June 1. I do really enjoy having a hot beverage in the morning and am on the hunt for a delicious decaf morning tea. I'd prefer something minty or cinnamony.
August: 20 lunges/day.This one doesn't intimidate me but it could surprise me! What might be hard about this one is being sore from doing lunges every day, especially if we have heavy leg workouts in Orange Theory or High Fitness.
September: 1 minute plank/day.I don't do planks regularly so I'm not exactly sure how challenging a one minute plank will be. If it's easy peasy I'll up it to a minute and a half, and I might give myself the challenge of trying to be at a 2 minute (or more??) plank by the end of the month.
October: daily walk outside. This needs to be at least a 15 minute walk outside. I scheduled this for October because it will still be hot and I start feeling cooped up and grouchy this time of year. I'm hoping that getting outside, probably in the early morning or in the evenings, will help. And by the end of the month the mornings and evenings should start cooling off a bit.
November: 20 sit ups/day. The month of pie and the start of the holidays felt like a good time for sit ups. I'm going to say that this can be any kind of sit up, as long as I do a set of 20. My favorite sit ups are sprinter sit ups so some days I'll do those. Other days might be leg raises, bicycle cruches, or regular sit ups.
December: eat veggies at least twice/day. I think I do an okay job of eating vegetables but some days can go by when I have little to none. I'm hoping this challenge will help me think of easy ways to incorporate more vegetables into my diet. Counting servings felt a little complicated since vegetables vary in what counts as a serving. So instead I just need to make sure that I eat vegetables at least two times per day in a reasonable amount; having one carrot stick doesn't count. Two tactics that will help would be eating salads for lunch (especially convenient would be a portion of a bag salad kit from Trader Joe's) and having frozen veggies on hand. I love the frozen soycutash mix from Trader Joe's that has edamame, corn, and some red pepper. I will happily eat that warmed up with some Earth Balance, salt, and pepper. I've even eaten it for breakfast on occasion!
We're several days into January and I've been doing my pushups every day! Doing 10 pushups isn't dreadful but it is a challenge. Especially on days when I'm sore from a workout. But even when I don't really want to do them I know I can be done in less than a minute and that makes it easier to just get it over with. One of the challenges is just remembering to do it! During dinner suddenly I'll say, "Chris! After dinner remind me I have to do my pushups!"
Having a new challenge to do on February 1 feels fun and I'm interested to see what I learn from each different challenge. I'm also really looking forward to filling in all those circles.
What monthly challenges would you do?