Here’s what I learned from working out every single day for a month as part of a charity initiative called RED January. January might be a distance memory right now, but the sentiment is the same. So what is it really like working out everyday for a whole month?
You might not have heard of RED January. It stands for Run Every Day January and is a UK charity initiative to get people moving their bodies when it’s cold, dark and miserable outside during the first month of the year. It’s run by mental health charity Mind, and if you want to get the new decade off to a flying start then it’s definitely worth getting your RED January t-shirt and giving it a go.
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 exercising every day:
1) The big one: will exercising every day mean you lose weight? The short answer is no. Despite daydreaming about the pounds melting away, I didn’t lose any weight at all. I wasn’t running huge distances – generally a 3k or a 5k – and I also wasn’t overly strict with my diet. So the one thing I really learned over the 31 days is that old chestnut: you can’t outrun a bad diet. If I ever do want to drop a bit of weight then I might actually have to say goodbye to my old friend, the Chinese takeaway.
2) 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 – get yourself prepared now.
3) 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 faces onto a fake brick wall (not even real bricks but brick wallpaper) but I just can’t deal with 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 and I found myself actually missing the squats, the PT screaming at you to push through the burn, the dodgy music that I thought I hated… all of it. Doing cardio all the time really made me realise that it is actually 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) You will become excellent at squeezing exercise into all those times where you would previously have said, “Oh, I don’t have time to exercise.” I got up a 6am (with a hangover) when I was on a work trip to London, I went to the gym at lunchtime several times, and I dragged myself outside when all I wanted to do was hibernate on the sofa with some junk food. When doing it is non-negotiable you realise you can actually push through and get on with it – that was a bit of a game changer for me.
7) And finally, 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.