Here’s what I learned from doing cardio every day for a month as part of a charity initiative called RED January. Let’s go…
Have you ever done cardio every day?
Have you ever done cardio every day for a whole month? If you’re shuddering at the thought of that then trust me, I get it. I really do. I usually only do cardio two or three times a week at the most. Doing it every day for a month is a whole different ball game. However, I’ve actually done it twice. Both times were for a charity initiative in the UK called RED January.
You might not have heard of RED January before. It stands for Run Every Day January and it was created by mental health charity Mind to get people moving their bodies when it’s cold, dark and miserable outside during the first month of the year. It’s a fantastic idea, especially as there isn’t any other time in the year when you feel more sluggish, lazy and unmotivated than you do on the first of January. With two weeks of eating, drinking and partying behind you it’s the perfect time to reset and re-energise.
So what are the RED January rules? Well, it might have ‘run’ in the title but you don’t have to just to that, which I’m sure comes with a sigh of relief to many. They encourage you to do any kind of exercise you fancy – even if it’s just a donder around the block. You can mix it up with gym classes with pals, a workout video at home, a brisk walk along the beach with your dog, or of course, going for a run.
For me, taking part means living in a parallel universe for 31 days. Why? Because my whole mindset changed. I became one of those people who worked out every single day. Y’know, the ones that get up an hour earlier to go for a jog in the pitch black or that vacate their al desko lunch to go *shudder* pound on a treadmill for twenty minutes. That was me. While I’m normally someone that works out around three times a week, exercising EVERY day felt like a huge physical and mental challenge.
Here’s what I learned from working out every day:
1) The big one: will doing cardio every day mean you lose weight? The short answer is no, not necessarily. Despite daydreaming about the pounds melting away, I didn’t lose any weight at all over the course of RED January. I’m pretty sure I know why though. I wasn’t running huge distances, for example. I generally only did a 3k or a 5k each time – anymore and I would have got really bored of running. I also wasn’t overly strict with my diet. So the one thing I learned doing cardio every day for a month is that old chestnut: you can’t outrun a bad diet. If I ever wanted to drop a bit of weight then I’d really have to pay more attention to my diet.
2) If you’re going to work out every single day for a month then excellent gym gear is a must. Sometimes the only thing that would get me out of the door was the knowledge I had super cosy gym gear to wrap myself up in. It’s going to be cold, so be prepared. Hats, gloves, cosy running jacket, a couple of tops and pairs of leggings so that you’ve always got a spare when the others are in the wash, etc. You don’t want to give yourself any excuses to flake out on a run.
3) Just offering up my opinion here, but for me, the term fresh hell was invented to describe the treadmill. Never in my life do I want to spend another second pounding on that machine waiting for my 3k quota to be over. Maybe it’s just the fact that the one in my gym happened to face onto a fake brick wall, which couldn’t be less inspiring if it tried, but I really just HATED it. Give me pouring rain and a pitch black morning any day.
4) You might actually miss the gym. The first time I did RED January I kept it strictly to running. I thought it was best just to keep it simple, but I found myself actually missing the squats, the personal trainer screaming at you to push through the burn, the dodgy music that I always thought I’d hated… all of it. And also just the variety! Doing the same workout every day gets boring really quickly, especially if you’re doing the same route all the time. It starts to feel a bit like groundhog day ver quickly, trust me! Doing cardio every day really made me realise that it’s much better for you to mix up your workouts, which is also best for your body. Win win.
5) It’s true what everyone says: exercise is bloody fantastic for your mental health. For me, I find running is a great way to calm the noise inside of my head. When I get back from a run I feel all zen and calm and chilled. You can’t beat that feeling, and running really is the best for it.
6) When you commit to working out every day you become excellent at squeezing exercise where you can. All those times where you’d previously have rolled over and said, “Oh, I don’t have time to exercise” become actual times to exercise. For example, I got up a 6am with a hangover when I was on a work trip to London one time to go for a run – with one of my colleagues who was also doing RED January. That was a surreal experience to say the least. I also went to the gym at lunchtime several times, even on those days when I had so much to do that all I wanted to do was sit at my desk with a sandwich. I also dragged myself outside when it was raining, snowing, and when all I wanted to do was hibernate on the sofa with some junk food. When exercising is non-negotiable you realise you can actually push through and get on with it – and that was a bit of a game changer.
7) And finally, when you do cardio every day for a month you’ll realise that you can do anything you set your mind to. Yes, I’m ending it on a proper cheese on toast point, but fuck it. If I can actually run for 31 days on the trot in bloody January then I reckon I can do pretty much anything I set my mind to. And that’s a pretty powerful thought. Watch out world.