We have all done some sort of ‘challenge’ right, whether it be a ’21 day squat challenge!’ or ’30 day ab workout challenge for a 6 pack!’ or something along those lines. And may I also predict that in the time since you have done that challenge you have not maintained the quota of the challenge in any way in your life?
Challenges are just what they say they are, an activity or restriction that pushes you to your limits for a short period of time for quick results. I’m here to tell you why challenges are a load of bogus based on 2 principles: load overload and reversibility.
When muscles are used to do heavy tasks above what they are used to, there is micro-tears in muscle fibres and they break down in order to regenerate more cross sectional area (or CSA). This increase in CSA improves strength, ready for the next overload – this process takes around 24-48 hours and rest is key for this process to take place. Now imagine massively overloading your muscles day, after day, after day, after day! Not only does this lead to big muscle soreness, but also fatigue and increase in injury risk as the torn fibres don’t get a chance to regenerate! As physios, a common injury presentation is people who have overloaded their bodies, and it’s avoidable!
Reversibility, or ‘Use it or Lose it’
Did you know that within 2 weeks of stopping a short-term strength activity, the gains in strength start to disappear? And by 12 weeks you are right back to where you started? There is a widespread underestimation of the effects of reversibility in society today, and the bottom line is if you don’t use your muscle, you will lose your muscle, no matter whether it was a strength, fitness (running/bike/swim etc), flexibility exercise!
CHALLENGE yourself to make a sustainable lifestyle choice to gradually increase your exercise week by week, and keep it up!