From Couch to Cave: A 30 Day Challenge

I’m a sucker for a good 30 day challenge.

I’m not sure if 30 day challenges were as much of a thing prior to the world of blogging (and the associated attempts by bloggers to build email lists).

Regardless, I’m a sucker for them because they happen to work for my personality type. They especially work if I commit to talking about progress on a regular basis.

Some folks have natural, built-in self-discipline in areas like eating well, exercise programs, writing consistently, making prospecting calls (if you’re a salesperson), and so forth.

While I’m improving with age, I still need accountability on some level, especially in eating and exercise. Accountability can be as drastic as hiring a one-on-one personal trainer or nutrition coach or as informal as accepting a 30 day challenge to ramp up some area of fitness.

For the next 30 days, I’m opting for taking on a challenge and writing about it. Actually, writing consistently is another bit of improvement I want to make, so I’m knocking off two birds with one stone.

The Couch to Cave Challenge

I started out calling this my 30/10K/20 Challenge. It has three parts, and it’s purpose is to jump-start better eating and fitness habits.

But in addition to being a sucker for a 30 day challenge, I’m also a sucker for cute challenge names. Therefore, I’m going to call my next 30 days ‘Couch to Cave.’

According to health and fitness blogger Mark Sisson’s book The Primal Blueprint, the ‘primal’ lifestyle is characterized by a paleo-based diet and moving frequently, lifting heavy things, and the occasional sprint (a gross over-simplification, but these elements are important).

The three elements of my Couch to Cave Challenge take the diet, movement, and heavy lifting into consideration. I might figure out a sprint component later, but… baby steps.

The point is that I’m focused on moving from more of a couch-based, packaged food, low-movement lifestyle to a more whole food, higher activity lifestyle that all the paleo or primal proponents tout, hence ‘cave’.  I don’t wish to go back to trying to defend my cro-magnon family’s life from hungry animals, but I get their point. Folks had to move, lift stuff, and eat plant and animal based foods that had no fake stuff in them.

The Whole30

The Whole30 requires 30 days of eating whole foods minus all dairy, sugar, fake sugar (no diet drinks), legumes, rice, gluten, alcohol, or sulfites. Click here to see the general plan.

In essence, it’s a paleo/primal style diet with added pressure of not allowing paleo baking or the like (what the creators of the Whole30 call ‘sex with pants on’).

I’ve done this one other time and found huge benefit: 15 pounds, gone. Heartburn, gone. Sleep, improved. Other stuff that you don’t want to hear about, improved.

Full disclosure here, I’m building in 3 cheats:

  1. I will probably have a couple glasses of wine when I visit the mountains with my family. We’ll stick to wine just for this visit. A porch, overlooking a lake requires grace for a glass or two.
  2. I will allow a spot of cream in my coffee, transitioning to some kind of coconut oil as my supply runs out (I hate to waste high quality half and half).
  3. I might – MIGHT – allow some 75% or higher dark chocolate – 1 to 2 squares in the evening.

I’m less tempted by #3, but I’d rather build it in now than feel like I’m a sham later. Nobody wants to feel like a sham.

10K Steps

10,000 is about steps. Yes. I’m at that point in my life where I just want to get 10,000 steps in during a day. I’m not going to train for a marathon or even a 10K road race.

I just want to move more, and that will be challenging enough. I’ve been monitoring my steps over the past couple months and very, very seldom get close to 10,000. During a typical workday, I log roughly 4,300 steps. Ironically, on super-productive days, I log only 2,500-3,000 steps.

Such low levels of activity are killing me. This trend of inactivity must be reversed, so this month will be about finding ways to move more, to get out of my chair and walk around the building or walk the neighborhood first thing in the morning or after putting the kids to bed at night.

My fitness levels were a top priority when this year started. I’ve maintained and improved a little bit, but the summer is a perfect time to kick it up a notch.

20 Days of Weight Training

From my past experience, I know that when I lift weights consistently, I feel much better.

Lifting weights is a keystone habit for me. When I train, my eating, sleeping, and even cardio habits improve.

Since 20 days of ultra-intense weight training is not healthy or practical (given my lack of training recently), I’ll focus on low weights and body weight exercises. Hitting 20 days of pushups, body weight squats and other wife-suggested movements (she’s been training 3-4 days a week all year and is full of tips).

The main thing, again, is to build sustainable habits, not to quadruple my max bench press. I’d love to get CrossFit strong, but mostly I want to discover a sustainable approach to my weight training.

Final Thoughts

I’m not tossing down the gauntlet for you to join me in this, although you’re welcome to. Just make sure that a physician would clear such a program for you.

If this thing works well for me, I’ll package it up and reissue the challenge on a grander scale.

The only metric I can give you is that I’m starting today, June 1, 2015 at 218.5 lbs. Since I started noting my steps in March, I’ve improved from 44,433 in February to 157,201 in March, 165,181 in April, and 167,750 in May. It appears that I’ll have to nearly double these numbers in order to achieve my goal this month. I just now started getting nervous.

For social media purposes, I’ll use #couch2cave.

Thanks and wish me luck (and let me know if you’ll, on a whim, join me for all or part of this journey).

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