I have always hated working out at the gym. The machines are confusing and I get bored quickly. I much prefer the pool or hiking, for example—something active that provides a full-body workout in one go. Exercise is important to me, but it’s got to be on my terms.
One day, at the pool, I was talking to a friend who mentioned her legs were a bit tired during our swim. “I’ve been doing 100-200 squats a day for a month,” she said proudly. “It’s sort of a challenge for myself.”
My interest was piqued. As a swimmer and someone who cycles under water, my legs are pretty strong, but I liked the idea of a new challenge. Could I do 100 squats every day, too? I didn’t see why not! People do squat challenges all the time, and I would prove that I could also be a squat master, a pro squatter, a squat queen.
Let the Squatting Commence!
Squats are great for you: They work some of the biggest muscles in your body (your glutes, quads, hamstrings, abs, and back). I read up on how to do a squat perfectly so that I could maximize my results and then I got right to it—100 squats a day for an entire month.
I’ll be honest—it’s hard to squat perfectly. There’s a lot to keep in mind: firmly planting your feet, not rounding your back, being aware of your core and hips, sitting back far enough to get a real squat in.
As I got into the swing of things my muscle memory sort of kicked in. It would take about 10 reps before I could kick my body into “proper form” gear, but I eventually got it. Pro-tip: Do your squats with a chair behind you so that you lower yourself into it (without actually touching it). I squeezed my glutes on the way up, too.
Finding the time to do 100 squats isn’t as hard as you might think, but finding the gusto to do 100 in a row is a challenge, I learned. Part of what pumped me up was the pride I felt for embarking on a physical challenge. I’m already pretty into working out, but because I took that extra step, pushing myself to do something every single day without stopping, I felt even more empowered.
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By this point, I had my form on point. It felt natural to do a deep and hearty squat, and I could even go without the chair behind me. I mostly tried to hit 100 squats in one fell swoop—which took about 10 minutes max.
I noticed something interesting into the second week: It was less about the actual workout and more about the mind-body connection. I felt good about doing what I’d set out to do, and I liked how strong and capable it made me feel. I wasn’t really thinking about results all that much; I was focused on the empowering aspect of having a goal and sticking to it.
By week three I started feeling the squats in my knees (thanks, arthritis), but I could push through it—especially if I split up the sets into two sets of 50. By this time, I was adding a few extra moves into my squats, like squat pulses (which involve pulsing a few times in squat position) or holding small (two-three pound) weights in my hands.
My squat workout also became integrated into my ordinary living situation. Instead of making specific time for the squats and ritualizing it with music, I just decided to do them while watching TV or in the middle of cleaning or folding laundry. I’d pop a few in here or there, so there were probably a few days when I actually exceeded 100 squats.
True story: My boyfriend, who’d been watching me take on this challenge each and every day, said that my butt looked perkier and my legs looked very firm. I was ecstatic. It was working! I also physically felt stronger whenever I’d go up and down the stairs. During my swim class, my legs felt more controlled, steadier. I even think it had an effect on my hip strength.
By week four I could actually see results, although they’re hard to capture on camera. You feel them more than you see them.
My butt did seem firmer and definitely more lifted, and my quads and inner thighs saw results. My legs looked super-strong and a little thicker.
What I learned throughout is that sticking to a workout regimen does good things for both your body AND your mind. If you’ve had a bad day, squat. A good day? Squat. It’s a constant. A reliable way to focus on yourself. I’ve got a new spring in my step, literally.
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