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Ways to Challenge Yourself (That Don't Involve Running 26.2 Miles)

Challenges come in all shapes and sizes and aren't just for marathon runners.

Yesterday was the Boston Marathon and, although I’m a yoga teacher, I love running as well and have finished the BayState Marathon twice, the last time being in October of 2012. Running a marathon is hard work and the training is brutal. But there are different ways you can challenge yourself and some have nothing to do with physical exercise but can have a positive impact on your health.

Here are some ideas:

More is more: Once you decide on your exercise plan, pick a time frame and do it every day. If it’s yoga, try practicing every day for a week (pick one rest day). If it’s running or gym, do the same thing (avoid increasing your mileage too much too soon).  If you’ve been doing the same thing for a while, increasing the frequency can shift you out of a rut. It can also challenge you to stick to something and be committed to it. However, keep your eye open for any aches or pains and if so, decrease frequency immediately.

You are what you eat: Most of us eat the same few things regularly. As a result, our system can get used to processing the same foods, our taste buds can used to the same thing and our energy level stays the same. If you’re a big meat eater, try to skip meat for a week. If you eat fast food regularly, ban yourself from fast food for a month. If you don’t eat a lot of fruit and vegetables in your diet, set yourself up with an organic delivery service for a month. If you eat a lot of processed, sugary food, try to avoid eating anything from a wrapper for a week.

Sit still: Our bodies feel the affects of the fast-paced, busy world in which we live. We wonder why we don’t sleep well, can’t concentrate and feel anxious all the time. This can be from the affects of overstimulation; too much TV, internet and email. The only way to counter this is silence. Take five minutes, every day for one week, and sit still. If you’ve never meditated before and aren’t sure how, sit in a chair, close your eyes and focus on your breath. Take note of how you feel before and after each session. Go into the next week and increase your sitting time by 5 minutes. Work up to a 15-minute daily session and see how it affects the rest of your life.

Unplug to recharge: We are addicted to our computers and Smart Phones. The only time we’re away from our phones is on the off-chance that they break. Challenge yourself to a daily break from your phone and computer. Think about synching up your break with the time you spend eating with friend or family (have you ever seen how many people at in restaurants and text or use Facebook the whole time they are with someone else in person?) See how the quality of your interactions improve once you start really listening to the other person and drop all the multi-tasking.

Dream big: The older we get, the more attached we get to our identity. The role we have taken on may have developed over time and pretty soon, we might stop and look back and realize we’re given up on our dreams. Take an hour and sit down with a piece of paper and write down your dreams. Challenge yourself to think big and refuse to let the details get in the way. Once you’ve done this, take the next step to pick one and break it down into the action steps necessary to make it happen. Challenge yourself to be as detailed as possible and hold your own feet to the fire to make it happen!

Living a healthy life is a blend of being physically as well as mentally sound. Make time to challenge yourself on both levels and see how good it feels!

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