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Empowerment Through Exercise: My 75 Soft Challenge Reflection (Part 1: The Gym)

I have officially finished my own version of the 75 soft wellness challenge! The last 75 days have pushed me to grow in ways I never would have imagined when I started. I have successfully developed a healthy and rich relationship with myself that has profoundly changed my day-to-day life. I wanted to reflect and document some of the things I’ve learned.

My “Why?”

I started this challenge because I wanted to focus on getting into a rhythm of consistency and dedication to my physical and mental wellness. I used to identify myself as a highly-anxious person. My baseline resting state always felt like I was waiting for a lion to pounce at me. I hit a boiling point, and after experiencing a major mental health crash, I decided I could not continue to live such an anxiety-ridden life. I shifted from absorbing information I had read and talk therapy to feeling called to try holistic and somatic work. I recognized I needed to get my body to a state of internal calm.

Day 1! July 10th 2023

Prior to this year, I had never really enjoyed going to the gym. It has always felt like a toxic environment, bringing out complex feelings I haven’t felt ready to face. Over the last few months, I accepted that the toxic environment was within me and that I had to heal my mindsets and belief systems around many aspects of my life in order to exist more peacefully. I was fed up with living in chaos and knew it was time to make big changes.

I thought why not start by trying to take actions that a healthier version of myself would take, and so I decided to start my journey to make the gym my playground for wellness. I am amazed by how my love for the gym has grown!

You did what?

So the 75 Soft is an adapted version of the 75 Hard challenge, which originally gained popularity through TikTok. The rules of the 75 hard are:

  • If you skip a day, you must start over.

  • Pick a diet to follow, with no alcohol or cheat meals.

  • Drink a gallon of water daily.

  • Complete two 45-minute workouts every day, one of those workouts must be done outside, regardless of the weather.

  • Read 10 pages per day of a non-fiction book.

  • Take a progress photo every day.

I kept seeing people taking this challenge on and admired the intention behind it: to gain discipline, consistency, and wellness. I also liked the 75-day measurement period, as it feels like a great balance of being both a short and long-term goal. However, I knew that the intensity could quickly become unhealthy for me. I had seen others adapt the challenge for themselves, so I decided to do the same.

My rules were:

  • Eat consciously and mindfully

  • Exercise/move body 45 min a day 6 days a week, 1 of those 6 days is a light workout/ active rest (walk swim, or dance)

  • 3L of water a day

  • 10 pages of a book per day

  • 5-10 minutes of meditation every day

  • 20 minutes a day of writing!

The Gym Part

So tbh, the gym felt intimidating in the beginning. I had the “what if people see me flop?”-loop running at full speed in my brain during my first 2 weeks.

I was mainly stressed about:

A: Not knowing how to actually use the machines

B: What the *redacted* to even do in the gym?

C: If my form makes people want to scream

D: Creeps ;/

One day during my daily meditation, I kept thinking about the ways my toxic relationship with myself has held me back. I was thinking about my gym anxiety, and how it's all rooted in a lack of confidence and an unhealthy relationship with myself.

Daily "walking out of Crunch" pic!

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what anyone else is thinking or doing in the gym. I am there for my own personal wellness, and all I need to do is focus on myself. No one else should have an impact on the way I show up for myself, and I realized that this was a recurring theme that crept into various facets of my life. Despite feeling like I was such an independent person, I was caught in codependent tendencies that led me to trust most other people over my own self. I was ready to change and strengthen my relationship with myself.

I started learning about different workout splits, machines, and form tips from Podcasts, TikTok, Pinterest, and Youtube. Some of my favorites were:

I found my ideal split after trying things out over a few weeks and listening to what my body needed.

I’ve landed on the following split, with my rest days sometimes shifting around depending on what my body needs. Over time, I also started including abs on most days:

  • Legs and Glutes

  • Back and Biceps

  • *rest*

  • Quads and Glutes

  • Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps

  • *active rest*

  • Mobility and Core

This makes 4 days of lifting, 1 full rest day, 1 active rest day, and a day for mobility and higher-intensity ab workouts. Then I started using this workout tracker that I made on Canva to keep track of things I was doing as well as my goals.

Initially, my workouts moved at what felt like the pace of a humble snail, as I was trying to figure out what order to do things in and what exercises to do for each day. Sometimes I would get imposter syndrome after straight up 1 rep and slither away from that area… LOL.

Somedays I would feel like I was pacing around the gym aimlessly, especially when it was packed and I had gone in with a firm plan that I needed to change on the fly. Eventually, I found what felt good for me and now switch it up as needed.

This new consistency combined with new mindsets and an insanely epic gym playlist had me feeling way more confident, which actually made me more excited to go. Around day 50, I noticed a major shift from “I have to work out” to “I get to work out and take care of my body”. I started considering it like brushing my teeth: a necessary tool in my daily wellness kit.

I started noticing these physical changes:

  • More toned and sculpted muscles

  • More energy throughout the day

  • Increased strength, flexibility, mobility, and endurance

  • Increased confidence, self-trust, and self-love

  • Major mindset shifts

  • Better sleep

  • Overall better mood and less anxiety

  • Increased nutritional awareness

And the juiciest thing of all? The gym was only one portion of what made me feel so good!

Stay tuned for part 2 of my reflection, where I will be talking about the books I read, my meditation practice, and my writing practice!

If you've made it this far, thank you <3

Wishing you warmth and wellness!



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