Back in February, when The Vitamin Shoppe social media team first hatched the idea for what would eventually become our 21-Day Work-In Challenge, we had no clue what the world would look like months later. Originally, our goal was simply to create 21 days of workouts to help our customers get into shape before Memorial Day, but the at-home workout plan it turned into by May was about so much more—for our Instagram community and for myself.
I’m definitely someone who works out pretty regularly, but when my gym closed in New York City due to the coronavirus pandemic—and the streets suddenly seemed too scary to run on—my tiny apartment became my workout space. I started following our own Instagram LIVE workouts each morning and even tried some early-2000s workout videos online, but nothing quite stuck—until the challenge.
I loved that almost all of the 21-Day Work-In Challenge workouts were time-based, so I could just set a timer and get to work. I had never really used time as a motivator for my workouts, and doing this drastically improved how much effort I put in. I got a pretty killer workout in every time.
Since my apartment is so tiny and I don’t have any gym equipment, I worried at first that I’d struggle to complete the challenge. However, after moving some couches and my coffee table around, I was able to make enough space for workouts. Instead of a yoga mat, I used a blanket—and instead of dumbbells, I used wine bottles. I didn’t have a resistance band, so I just did my best without it.
If I had known this whole pandemic situation would be happening months earlier, I certainly would have splurged on some quality home equipment. But I managed. Sure, the 21-Day challenge workouts would have probably been more difficult had I used my usual eight-to-10 pound dumbbells, but I still broke a good sweat.
Read More: Should You Do Your Home Workouts Barefoot?
What I Got Out Of It
Throughout the 21 days, I learned a lot about myself and my relationship with exercise. Here are five takeaways that really stuck.
1. Excuses Are Really Excuses
Prior to quarantine, I often made excuses for skipping workouts. It’s raining outside, so I can’t walk to the gym. I overslept a little, so I don’t have time. I was out late last night, so I don’t have the energy. Whatever the excuse was, it was just another reason I made up to give myself permission to skip a workout. The truth was, I needed to prioritize my workouts more.
After sticking to the 21-Day Work-In Challenge, I have to say that I have zero excuses left in me. I made a very tiny space with no equipment actually work for me and my body. Plus, I did my workouts every day in 30 minutes flat. So, when the world (eventually) returns to normal, I truthfully don’t even need a gym membership to keep me going. I know I can do a workout with anything, anywhere.
2. It’s Ok To Take Breaks
On the flip side, I also learned that it is totally okay to take a break when I need one. During the 21 days, a slight injury forced me to skip a few workouts. Though I felt terrible for not moving for three days (especially in quarantine), I made sure I jumped right back in when I was feeling better, and made up the days on the tail end. Sometimes you just have to listen to your body—and remember that pain and sore are two different things.
3. What You Put In Is What You Get Out
The first few weeks of quarantine, I watched loads of Instagram LIVE videos of trainers looking so sweaty and tired during workouts that didn’t do much for me. When I started this challenge, though, I promised myself I’d work hard each and every day—and turns out pushing myself was exactly what I needed. I realized that those trainers had been sweating because they were really working.
Sure, sometimes a workout ended and I was meh about it, but often that was because I just wasn’t in the mood, or I didn’t put in the effort. Almost always, if I dedicated the half hour to really pushing myself and moving, I’d be satisfyingly sweaty post-workout and (the good kind of) sore the next day.
4. Not Every Workout Is The Same
I also found that there are some workouts, or even just certain exercises, that I just don’t jive with.
For me, cardio and HIIT are just way less enjoyable than others (I can do arms all day, any day). What I loved about this challenge was the variety of workouts. I was able to really enjoy a great upper body/core workout, and just push through a cardio workout the next day if I needed to. And if a specific movement just didn’t feel right for me and my body, I’d swap it for something else and carry on.
5. A Workout Buddy Is The Best
I loved that these workouts came from a real person (a person that happens to be a colleague and friend), and I was doing this challenge with other people on social media. It helped keep me accountable, and made me feel more motivated to keep going—a good mental note for the future, when I’m not feeling as motivated.
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