Couch to Cave Challenge: The Results

So… on June 1, 2015 (today is July 1 2015 in case you’re joining us at some point in the future when I accidentally repost this on Twitter or something) I decided to embark on what I called the Couch to Cave Challenge. I should copyright that or trademark it or whatever.

This was my challenge. I created it because I think 30 Day Challenges are the best thing the internet has to offer. Here’s how it was to have worked (not sounding good, is it?):

The three main components of the challenge were these:

  1. Eat according to the Whole30 nutrition plan.

  2. Walk 10,000 steps a day.

  3. Fit in 20 strength training sessions.

My goals, whether I explicitly laid them out in my original post or not:

  1. Develop two habits:
    1. Walking over 10,000 steps a day
    2. Working out at least 4 times a week
  2. Lose weight: I started the month at 218.5 and my overall goal is to get back to my grad school weight of 185. I didn’t intend to hit 185 this month, but I hoped to kickstart my shedding of my suburban couch potato pounds.

How Did I Do?

My Whole30 Plan

I was not a Whole30 legalist I’m afraid. I stuck well to the plan (no grains, legumes, dairy, sugar outside of what naturally occurs in fruit, etc.) during the week and at least 1/2-2/3 of meals on the weekends.

Where I struggled…

  • Weekends: My first weekend I intended only to have a couple glasses of wine as a cheat. I had pizza when on a little road trip with my family. And a hamburger. The next weekend, I was sick, so I had some dry toast, saltines, and Gatorade. Then there was Father’s Day where I had ice cream. As you can see, I basically cheated on Whole30 on weekends. Not all weekend, every weekend, but at some point each weekend, I had some form of bread, beer or wine, or something sweet. Sorry Whole30. I do love you. You are good to me.
  • Social times: The reason I struggled on weekends was that I wanted to enjoy, sensibly,  my times with friends and family. I don’t necessarily feel bad about this, but it is something I need to be aware if I decide to dive deeper. And I can’t be worried that I’ll come off like an obnoxious CrossFit, paleo, vegan evangelist. I don’t mind any of those three approaches, but I know that to speak too much of ones nutrition or workout plan can border on the obnox.

Where I won…

  • I kept going: There have been times when I might have taken the fact I had pizza as a clue that I should just stop for the rest of the month. I didn’t. I kept eating the Whole30 way each week and most meals on the weekend (although we all know that snack times will get you on the weekends). I bounced back.
  • I found a sustainable approach: While I don’t think I could live Whole30 all the time, I’m pretty sure I can maintain some form of this past month’s approach. I can stick to whole foods and natural proteins, eschewing grains and sweets, for much of each week.
  • I lost 11.5 lbs: I lost a decent chunk of poundage. I’ll take a 11.5 loss in a month anytime. The kicker will be if I can start July at 207, endure the Independence Day cookouts and still get to 200 by end of the month. That’s the goal, by the way.
whole30 and 10000 step plan for one month

All in all, I’m pleased. I could have done better and will take on a more pure Whole30 again some time in the future, but for now, I’ll take the 80/20 approach (80% Whole30, 20% sensibly NOT Whole30).

My 10,000 Steps Plan

I am most excited about my results here. I hit my step goal 24 out of 30 days. Three times were when I was ill. And three times were this past weekend when I didn’t plan my morning walks as well as I should have.

For comparison, here’s how many times I hit 10,000 steps in the previous 3 months:

  • March: 1 time
  • April: 3 times
  • May: 1 time

As you can see, I saw some major improvement.

And this one, outside of injury or sickness, is a non-negotiable. I declare Saturday or Sunday as ‘cheat days’ depending on family obligations, but other than that, this is a lifestyle change I can and will maintain.

The benefits are endless. I’ll post on this idea more in the future. For tips on how you can get 10,000 steps a day, even if you work at an office, check out my post here.

My 20 Workouts

I got 3 in. Womp, womp. Toilet flush sound.

Obviously, this is an area I need improvement. It is one that I will reengage for the upcoming month.

I’ll schedule 10 weight training sessions for the month of July and see how it goes. Starting small is a good approach in this area anyway.

Final Takeaways

I just had an epiphany. The only one of these three items that I could visually keep track of and gamify was the 10,000 step component. I wonder if that is why I had the most success there? I could watch my progress each day on my app and developed a sense of what I needed to do each day to keep on track. Gamification works for me.

I realize that I need to not only take on challenges, but I need to find a healthy, sustainable approach to my nutrition and fitness. I think… I think I found it in my week on, weekend semi-off rhythm. I love a good sandwich. And I love to enjoy food and drink with friends and family without having to sit and look at a plate of carrots while everybody else is eating that ridiculously good non-GMO Chicago Mix Popcorn (YUM!!!).

Community works in my nutritional favor, also.  Instagram is a fun place to post Whole30 meal pictures. I did gamify this: Could I get more than 20 likes for my Whole30 snapshot? Sorry real friends who don’t care to see what I was eating, but all of my Whole30 compadres where a huge encouragement.  You can check out my account here. I might add a Couch to Cave themed account soon so my family and friends don’t have to suffer through snapshots of eggs and spinach.

Also, I was invited to join The Seasonal Diet community for a bit. I’ll write a review of my experience after I dig a bit deeper in there, but the community with it’s Facebook group has been hugely helpful even if the other members don’t realize it. A bunch of people a trying to build good habits are the right people to be around, whether virtually or in real life.

If you’re looking for well-laid out plans to help you eat the best foods your community has to offer in a way that makes sense for the rhythms of each year, check out Sarah and Peter Hagstrom’s approach (it’s plant-based, but they are meat-eater friendly).

I love to write, but I must plan to write. This is the final takeaway. I dropped off after the first couple weeks. Writing, also, must be approached in a sustainable way or as a more committed priority. We’ll see how this goes moving forward. A 2-3 post a week plan is a better idea. Tuesdays and Fridays, with an option for a third day sounds like a solid approach.

I’d love to hear if any of you took up any part of this challenge.

Thanks for reading!



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