The fitness industry is growing at a rapid rate and over the past few years fitness or transformation challenges have become increasingly popular around the world!

From 28 day to 8 and 16-week challenges, these are just some of the many timelines that are used to create a set focused period for its participants. I was first introduced to challenges back when I started in a commercial gym 5 years ago, since then have assisted with running many of them along with creating our very own Challenges which has been highly successful for both myself and clients.

For a lot of people, they only see the transformation or before/after pictures once the challenge has finished. Though what most people don’t see is the consistency, dedication, sacrifice and hard work that occurs behind the scenes. Unfortunately, not all notable transformations are achieved in a healthy or maintainable way or have a happy ending for the participant.

Crazy calorie restriction, overtraining, not enough recovery and creation of additional stress on the body are examples of the bi-product that unfortunately happen with a poorly designed challenge. From a transformation stand point, this incorrect intensity leads to adverse long term affects on the body which ultimately gives the client the wrong tools, knowledge and forms unsustainable habits for them to continue after this period of time.

Your results in the gym should look something like the above image. Although the image speaks for itself, I decided to sit down with one of our long-term members Sarah Stewart, who has successfully completed 3 of our challenges, to give you a real insight about the positive impact the challenges have made on her long term results and also how it hasn’t always been a linear line going from 106Kg to 88Kg in just under 2 years.

Ashley: Let’s rewind the clock to September 2017, what was your initial motivation to getting started with us and joining one of our 28 Day Challenges in the early days?

Sarah: I guess I was really bored with just going to the gym by myself and needed an initial timeline to shake things up and get me on the right track. I knew getting coaching would help me get more serious about things and change my priorities and life style.

Thinking back, let’s say you were standing in front of a mirror looking at your reflection, where do you think you would have rated yourself on a scale of 1 to 10, in regards to how you felt about your body?

Sarah: I probably was not looking in the mirror very much to be honest, because I was frustrated with myself, I could not find anything to wear and I did not like how I looked.

Ashley: How long did you take to decide to start taking action?

Sarah: I was thinking about it for maybe a couple months

Ashley: What was the hardest thing or obstacle initially when you got started?

Sarah: I liked training but the hardest part was having accountability on what I ate and by doing my first challenge it really helped to create change and helped me realise I needed to record what I was eating.

Ashley: What was the thing that made you flick the switch or change your mind to make long term changes to your nutrition past that initial Challenge?

Sarah:  Maybe because I realized it was not as hard I thought it would be and when I started to make small changes and saw results. When I did the InBody Scan at the end of the first challenge and had lost 3.5kg, that really put things in perspective of achieving long term results by just continuing with everything I had been doing.

Ashley: After you finished your first challenge, did you think or had misconceptions or had times where you felt a rebound or negative effect?

Sarah: I liked the challenge because it definitely made me accountable and more thoughtful on my approach but I definitely think that it helped by not going crazy and giving up everything, like drinking and enjoying myself on the weekend. That can be deterring. I was noticing my clothes were getting bigger and then was looking in the mirror more. I felt good, and the numbers didn’t matter as much when you wake up and feel better every single day. But in saying that after 3 ½ moths of starting at your Centre I had lost 10kg

Ashley: What have you found to keep you on track over a crazy period say Christmas?

Sarah: Oh yeah I remember I was in weird mindset going in to Christmas because everything was super stressful at work and even though I ended up putting on a kilo or two I was not upset about it because I was said to myself I am going to start tracking my food and activity levels like I did during the Challenge and it began to make me more mindful which put me back on track again.

Ashley: Fast forward to August last year, you had just completed our very first 8 week challenge, it was probably first time you had hit a plateau and there wasn’t as much change as you would’ve liked.  What you do think kept you in a good head space?

Sarah: I remember being so upset and disappointed on the last day of the challenge. But when I took a minute to think about how much I actually achieved, I was way fitter, lifting more than ever in training and had actually lost 14kg in less than 12 months and kept it off…so that really put it in perspective and I knew I had just hit a small bump in the road or journey.

Ashley: Did you find a negative or bad perception from the challenge by not getting the results?

Sarah:  No, I didn’t feel like I wanted to blow out or had exhausted myself to achieve a drastic result. Yes, I was tracking calories and if I was under the number I was happy but I felt after the challenge I could just keep going because I hadn’t gone to extreme levels that sometimes can be easily done.

Ashley: But then in our first 8 Week Challenge of 2019 you finally were able to push past that plateau. What do think was the game changer or the shift in focus that saw you really crank up your results?

Sarah: Again, I put less focus on the scales and more on the things I could control, like how much I was lifting and moving more in general, sleep and being more consistent with hitting the right numbers with my nutrition. By tracking my nutrition again through the challenge, I realised that I was not eating nowhere near enough protein for where my body & training was now at, so took the focus away from the number of calories/intake and shifted it towards eating for recovery and muscle mass. This was the real game changer and that’s when I pushed past the plateau where I hit my short term (challenge) goal of losing 3kg of body fat and then my long-term goal of being under 90kg, which I have maintained well after the challenge.

Ashley: What advice would you give you to anyone who are thinking of doing our next project/challenge? And also, what would you say has been a good exit plan after the challenge?

Sarah: I think like there are a couple of things, one, you definitely need to have an end/long term goal in place, if you are just going in for the 8-week challenge by itself you are probably not thinking in the right way. Having goals to achieve post challenge is key! The second one is, don’t go crazy and don’t give up everything you love because you want to lose a crazy bunch of kilos in a short number of weeks because you can have a rebound. Things like I am not going to drink for 8 weeks, when you know in yourself that you just can’t stick to that. So instead, when I was going out with my friends 1 or 2 times a week I would say to myself I am going to have a couple of beers rather than having nothing and then binging when you eventually have it again….that makes more sense for me. The last one is having support at home, this really to keep you on track not only short term but also long term.

Ashley: You have done amazing Sarah, should be very proud and thanks for taking some time out today and chatting with me!

Sarah: Thanks Ash, my pleasure! Definitely could not have done it without your support and everything we do here at the Centre!

I hope you have found this blog of value and has helped to give you an understanding of how true long-term results can be achieved through the accountability and structure that challenges/projects give you. If you are interested in joining one of our challenges, we have one start on October 17th. Be sure to keep your eye on our Facebook or Instagram for more information.

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