August 1, 2018.
Hello there. It’s been a while.
I haven’t taken on a challenge in a long time, but I’m back with a 30-day hot yoga challenge.
Why hot yoga? And why now? A few reasons:
- For better flexibility, mobility, and strength.
- To sweat. I did a cold shower challenge a few years back (I still take cold showers, by the way), and heat, just like the cold, offers a number of health benefits. I don’t know much about the science of sweat — yet, but “hyperthermic conditioning”, as it’s called, is said to improve circulation, increase blood flow throughout the body, reduce stress, improve brain function, and detoxify the body. And it feels good to sweat.
- To follow through on a commitment.
I’ve had a hard time with this word this past year. As a (now full time) working wife and mom, I’ve struggled to adjust to the neverending clamor for my attention and energy. People constantly ask me for things. Opinions. Advice. A decision. A snack. A form to sign or birthday present to buy. I’ve become great at keeping the promises I make for others… and forgetting about the promises I make to myself. That’s why this month, I’m committing to one hot, sweaty, and unapologetic hour to myself every single day.
I always call week 2 of a 30-day challenge “the doldrums”. After a few days, the excitement fades, the motivation wanes, and the struggle begins. It happens every single time.
Right now, I hate yoga and I hate myself for taking on this challenge.
August 12 (why am I sweating so much now?)
I rarely sweat when I work out – even in a 95-degree room. But this month, I’m starting to turn into a sweat machine. The more I go to hot yoga, the more I sweat.
I wondered if more sweat meant that I was getting fitter. According to Google, yes.
Sweat is a cooling mechanism for the body. When the body overheats, our pores secrete sweat (mainly water, some salt, and minerals), which evaporates into the air and thus cools down the body.
Now I’m no expert, and many factors play into fitness and how our bodies sweat, but I suspect that two things are happening with my yoga practice:
- It’s training me to sweat more efficiently. When I begin moving, my body knows it’s about to heat up, and it gets a jump start on the cooling process, i.e. I start sweating sooner.
- I’m working harder. Because I’m squatting lower, lifting my arms legs higher, and engaging muscles more deeply, my body is generating more heat. And more heat = more sweat.
I crushed it at the gym today. I do interval training on top of hot yoga because I love my workouts and refuse to give it up for 30 days.
There are certainly days when the two-a-days wear me out and I question the sanity of what I’m doing. And then there are days, like today, where I feel strong and awesome.
I think I strained my left lattisimus dorsi muscle – the muscle in my back directly under the armpit. It hurts, and not in a good way.
No strain, just very sore back muscles and a tired body. Thank goodness. I trudged to yoga and counted the minutes until it ended… and chuckled at the fact that just a few days ago, I was feeling damn near invincible.
I went to yoga every day for 30 days. Even on days when I didn’t want to go – and there were many. When my husband was out of town, I hired a babysitter. I went at 7:30 am when the day’s schedule filled up. I went after a tough workout at the gym when my arms felt like jelly. Day after day, I got in the car and showed up to class. Here’s what happened.
Part 1 – the not so good:
- No weight loss. I wasn’t trying to lose weight, but I’d hoped that adding hot yoga into the mix would shed a few pounds and that didn’t happen.
- No habit formed. The fact that my yoga studio offered classes throughout the day allowed me to succeed because I was never limited by my schedule…which means that I attended class at a different time each day. By not practicing at the same time each day, I failed to establish a routine.
- I didn’t fall in love with yoga. I expected to become a pseudo-fanatic – that the better I got, the more into it I would become. But I struggled with the repetitive nature of yoga and halfway through the month, concluded that yoga seven days a week was not for me. Going to class often felt like a chore and I found myself checking my watch with increasing frequency. But once I got flowing, things picked up, and save a few bad classes, I always left feeling happy that I practiced.
Part 2 – the good:
- Better flexibility in the hamstrings, back, shoulders, and hips.
- Improved form. Daily repetition forced me to pay closer attention to technique on a micro level.
- Strength – both at yoga and at the gym. I can squat lower, twist farther, balance longer, and hold poses that didn’t seem possible 30 days ago.
- I’m drinking A LOT more water throughout the day.
- I’m writing again!
- I stopped making excuses. There was no “Should I work out today?” or “I’m too X to go to yoga today.” I just went.
- Pride and accomplishment. It feels SO GOOD to take on a difficult challenge and see it through to completion.
A few nights ago, my husband was complaining about never having time to work out. I looked at him and said, “If there’s anything I’ve learned from this challenge it’s this: if you decide that you are going to work out every day, you will find a way to do it.”
And that’s why I love these challenges. Because it’s a reminder that we’re stronger and more capable than we give ourselves credit for.