Hanging up the running shoes (for a day or two at least!)

Hanging up the running shoes (for a day or two at least!)

If you missed my original challenge throw down post and follow up challenge log then to get you up to speed I have been attempting the Mega Detox Challenge during January. This consisted of the following key elements (along with how I got on):

  • No alcohol consumption for a month – FAIL
  • No caffeine consumption for a month – PASS
  • 50 Press ups per day – PASS
  • 50 Burpees per day – PASS
  • Run as least 1 mile per day – PASS

As you can see I completed the lions share of the challenge, so I’m both pleased but simultaneously disappointed I let the alcohol element of the challenge slip. Here are my brief thoughts about each part of the challenge.


No Alcohol

I made it till day 23, which is not too bad going. The reason for the slip was that we went for work drinks to celebrate a project I have put my heart, soul, and numerous unpaid overtime hours into over the last year and a half. To “cheers” to that project being completed with only a glass of tap water in my hand would have been practically soul destroying! I had three swift pints and made my excuses to leave fairly early. And as I’d broken the challenge already I had a few pints the next night after some golf with my friends. No real harm done I think. In terms of the bigger picture, it has been quite eye opening to see how much better I felt even by going more than 1 week without drinking. When I did drink I genuinely felt like I had a different mindset as well, which I hope continues. It has changed from “Wow there is an occasion where it is remotely socially acceptable to drink at, let’s get smashed” to “hang on a minute, I know I can have a fun time even without a drink in my hand, so let’s just have a few and see how we get on”. Everything in moderation as they say.

I think 2014 could well be an all time low spending year on the booze since I turned 18.


No Caffeine

Perhaps the biggest wildcard in the challenge, seeing as I have had periods of sustained exercise and abstainment from alcohol before. To be honest it’s hard to say what the effects have been. I guess it’s like giving up (or starting) smoking, the every day changes are slow so you don’t realise how much better your body feels one month later (or how feeling worse slowly creeps up on you, in the case of when you start). I am certain if I could flick a switch and feel like I did one month ago, I would feel less alert, more drained, more dehydrated, and less able to get a good nights sleep. Of course you could argue these effects have been mainly down to the alcohol and exercise variables of the challenge. Scientific my method has not been, but I still feel I can take something from this section of the challenge in that drinking 3, 4 or more cups of a caffeinated beverage per day is probably not the best for you, and drinking one after 6pm is a definite no no.

I’m thinking my future tea drinking habit might look something like 1 a day, with breakfast or lunch, but also other days with none at all. On the other hand, there has only been the odd occasion where I’ve thought “Man I am dying for a cuppa!” so maybe I will only have one when that feeling occurs.

Other fringe benefits of the new tea drinking regime:

  • Less boiled water = less CO2 burnt going into the atmosphere.
  • Small amount of money saved on teabags, milk, electricity.


One Mile a day

Here are my average times (or “pace”) for each week:

  • Week 1: 7:32
  • Week 2: 7:10
  • Week 3: 7:06
  • Week 4: 7:04

So as you can see, a rapid increase in performance at the start followed by a much slower one. This is the way many effort vs results curves go (also see: weight loss for example), which is in stark contrast to your standard compound interest curve, where results actually accelerate over time. It’s also worth noting that there are obviously more than 4 weeks in the month, so if you took the final 7 days of the challenge, the average was actually 6:56. On that metric, I beat my original average pace goal of 7:02 comfortably, which is good considering there is an outlier result of 8:00 in there. That “freak” result being the result of my run the day after I played a game of squash; my muscles were stiff as a board!

One other weird effect: these averages are actually in contrast to how I felt going through the weeks. I really felt I had hit the point of diminishing returns somewhere near the start of week 3 and was getting slower again, as my legs were aching more and more each day. I think this is because, if you look the times, I didn’t clock any results down in the 6:30’s where I had done that in previous weeks. I was consciously thinking about not over-doing it in the final two weeks, and jeapardising the whole challenge by missing a day due to over exertion. Overall, you can actually see times became more consistent perhaps because of that mindset. I think with a few days recovery, I could beat the PB of 6:30 – which as you will note from the challenge log, I clocked on the very last run I did this morning, I guess that previous conservative mindset went out the window knowing that I don’t have to run tomorrow!


50 Press Ups/50 Burpees

My arms and legs ache a lot, is the main conclusion from this part of the challenge! I feel I have gotten slightly better at doing these exercises but not monumentally so. As I improved I changed it up from doing shorter bursts and tried to do 25 at a time, and then a short break followed by the remaining 25. I don’t think I could have done that consistently at the start of the challenge, so a small win in that respect. As in the running challenge though, I felt like by the end of week 2 that I’d reached the point of diminishing returns of doing it every day, and my muscles needed a day or two off to recover and replenish. The last few days I could barely do 15 press ups in a row again! We’ll see how I fare in a few days when I try again, maybe I will be able to do all 50 in a row! (Not likely! 🙂 )


A Sustainable Exercise Plan

As stated above, I think your body definitely needs time off to recover from even quick bursts of exercise (well mine certainly does anyway). I guess the people that evangelise serious exercise everyday are either built differently or are just a lot fitter than I am, which is fine. The key thing with any excecise plan is to know your own body and current level of fitness and tailor what you are doing to that. It has to be sustainable, whilst also pushing ever so slightly at your boundaries. This is what increases fitness and makes long term gains possible. So anyway, my new, in no way set in stone regime will be roughly what I have done in January, but will consist of segments of:

  • One day on, one day off
  • Two days on, one day off
  • One day on, two days off
  • Two days on, two days off

This actually allows for an enormous amount flexibility, while still ensuring I will never go two days without some sort of exercise, and likewise do not knacker myself out by doing too much. If I am busy doing other stuff for a couple of days in a row, I will have to find time on the third day. Seeing as I found time every day for a month, this should seem like a piece of cake! It will also allow me to run for longer than a mile when I do exercise, as I think 1 mile is not really enough when you are training for longer runs (but it’s better than nothing of course!)

I am hoping my exploits in this challenge have given you some insight into and inspiration for cutting out the bad stuff and increasing the good stuff in your life!



If you have done anything similar please share your story in the comments section! What did you give up and why? Did it make you feel any better? What are your expert exercise tips?