If nothing else, growing up with three brothers has influenced me in two ways: number one, my affinity for playing sports; and number two, my competitive nature. If there’s a physical challenge on the table, I’m going to crush it.
Trying out extreme regimens for extended periods of time isn’t new for me. I work at a place called Liquor Lab in New York City, and I gave up alcohol for 30 days. I’ve completed 20 SoulCycle classes in one month. I’ve taken four classes of Flybarre for six weeks straight. I’m a sucker for a good (PG-rated) dare. But, I digress.
In early March, I started a new challenge: 30 days of boot camp in 30 days – with no days off. I enrolled in Barry’s Bootcamp: a high-intensity workout involving 25 minutes of cardio (treadmill) and 25 minutes of strength training (weights, resistance bands, floor exercises). In each class, participants jog, run, and sprint – sometimes on a steep incline – and switch from numbered treads to benches. Each day of the week is dedicated to a different section of the body: Arms & Abs; Butt & Legs; Chest, Back & Abs; Abs, or Full Body. There are six locations in Manhattan; I utilized four of them.
While enduring my adventure, I experienced a lot of new things, starting with how social media played into my workout . . .
Instagram Kept Me Honest – but I Didn’t Disclose Everything
Naturally, like a normal 20-something, I documented my days via my Instagram stories. I posted pictures of the lobby, checking in, my after-class smoothies, and my friends who came with me to sweat. IG allowed me to take note of every session: how I was feeling, what time of day I was exercising, and how many more hours I had left.
But I didn’t post everything. I left out what I learned about my body, my limits, and my friends during my journey.
My Weight Remained the Same
When my challenge began, I had just returned from the Charleston Wine & Food Festival. (Read: I had stuffed my face for four straight days, with delicious southern delicacies.) I’m 5’5″ and I weighed 117 pounds on March 4. Thirty days later, I weighed exactly 117 pounds.
To be fair, I may have lost fat and gained muscle, but I also amped up my calorie intake and never passed on dessert. After crushing at least 2.5 miles on the treadmill and lifting 10- to 15-pound weights every morning, I was a very hungry woman. I ate roughly 2,500-3,000 calories a day (which is far more than my usual 1,500-2,000 – even when I’m going to an average gym class). My healthier meals came from a fitness-focused meal plan called Kettlebell Kitchen, and my not-so-nutritious fare (roughly a pint of ice cream each day . . . nope, I’m not joking) came from my freezer. My goal was not to lose weight – it was to survive – and therefore, I have no regrets.
It Made Me Stronger and Built Up My Endurance
Even though the scale didn’t shift, there was a very big difference in my body: namely, the way I was breathing and maneuvering through exercises.
The first few days were the hardest: I felt sore and had trouble catching my breath, which never happens. Despite typically working out five or six days on my own, I don’t run every day, and I’m certainly not sprinting 10 mph on a 10-point incline.
By week two, my body was accustomed to the increase in exercise. It was amazing how quickly I adapted to the mileage and weights. Sailing through class in the low-to-mid range of speed was no problem – without gasping for air or needing to nap later in the day. With any type of workout, it’s a good idea to increase your weights and/or your speed if you still want a challenge.
By week three, my sweat sessions were purely mental. I anticipated sprints for 30, 45, and even 60 seconds. I knew if the incline increased two points, it would likely go up two to four more before switching rounds. I still looked forward to class, but I wished I had scheduled a day or two to rest my muscles or at least my brain.
During week four, I had a slight injury, but still pressed on (more on that later).
It Helped Me Sleep
Speaking of rest, I slept better at night. Historically, I am a terrible sleeper (translation: five hours for me is a feat). Instead of four to five hours of shut-eye, I was pushing seven hours. I wasn’t tossing and turning, and my overall vibe was calmer. I even slept up until my alarm went off. This sounds silly, but, again, this never happens in real life.
I Knew I Would Make It to the End, but I Worried, Too
Let me rephrase that: I was not the least bit concerned about completing 30 days of workouts. I was, however, definitely nervous I would get injured. Having run cross country in high school, played soccer for a number of years, and remained active through college and postgrad, I’ve endured a number of aches and pains – some more serious than others.
Paired with being a bit stubborn, I was not going to let a sprain stop me from completing this challenge. Within the first two weeks, I had a cold but powered through. By week four, my back was uncomfortably sore for days – perhaps because I pulled something or decided sprinting at 12 mph was a good idea . . . who knows. Instead of dropping out, I simply modified my floor routine, even opting for a day of double floor activity (no treadmill).
People Have a Lot of Opinions and Questions
The biggest takeaway from my 30-day bootcamp challenge was how involved my social circle became. Through texts, Instagram, and even emails, I would receive daily messages from friends, followers, and acquaintances.
Some people were eager to participate with me while others were skeptical. I was called everything from crazy, brave, strong, and inspiring, to annoying (for posting on my IG story every day), and beyond. Everyone had questions: was I sore? Did I lose weight? How was I still doing this? There was a mix of encouragement, confusion, and even admitted (friendly) jealousy.
I Would Do It Again
As my challenge concluded, a new question emerged in the last week: would I continue going to Barry’s Bootcamp beyond my 30 days? (As in: are you sick of this yet?)
Truth be told, I’m going to take (at least) a 48-hour hiatus from the red room – but not because I’m over it. There’s no doubt I’ll be back, and I would absolutely do it again. But like I said, if I’m going to do another challenge like this, it’s going to require a day or two to rest in between.