20-minute fitness challenge

The 20-minute fitness challenge started with a conversation.

A few months ago I was chatting with a few of my friends about our favorite books. They mentioned some classic fiction novels. 

  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • Lolita
  • Anna Karenina.

This made me feel out-of-place. Aside from some Hemingway, I don’t get a lot of fiction in my life.

I threw out non-fiction titles like Why Zebras Don’t Get UlcersMeditations, and Mans Search for Meaning. My friends promptly told me that I needed more fiction like Christopher Walken needs more cowbell.

more cowbell

I decided to step up my fiction game. Even bought some Tolstoy to get the party started. I didn’t think reading more fiction would be much of a problem for me. I already read quite a bit.

Each morning starts with a good book. I get up at 4 AM every day, brew a cup of coffee, take out the dogs, and sit quietly and read for 30 minutes or until the coffee’s gone. 

I hadn’t planned on giving up my non-fiction in the morning so I figured I’d just throw some fiction in there during the day no problem. Then it happened – life that is. 

My goal of reading more fiction was in the tank within a week. I was swamped with work, taking a class to improve my coaching skills, started gymnastics so I could learn to do a backflip, and trying to learn French.

I tend to beat myself up when I fail at a goal that I set for myself and this was no exception. I was so frustrated with myself that I could not make doing something as simple as reading more fiction a habit. 

So I did what anyone would do when they want some advice on how to do something. I Googled it.

I literally googled “How to read more” and it led me to a great article by James Clear, “The Simple System I use to Read 30+ Books/Year.”

To sum it up briefly, the goal is to read 20 pages every morning right when you wake up by attaching it to another habit that you already do. For instance, if you drink coffee every morning you could but the book you plan on reading next to your coffee maker and start reading while you’re waiting for a cup to brew. 

For me to do this I would have had to give up reading non-fiction in the morning and that really didn’t jive with me so I decided instead to read 20 pages to end my night. I take a few vitamins about an hour before bed so I started placing them on top of the book so I wouldn’t forget.

I even kept track of how consistent I was with this habit by purchasing this giant calendar and drawing a line through each day that I practiced the 20-page habit. At about the 10-day mark, I missed a day, and seeing a black space on my calendar drove me nuts – I never missed another day after that.

Needless to say, I’m now reading 20 pages of fiction every day.

Now today’s article has nothing to do with how you can read more fiction. But it does have everything to do with how you can use that 20 pages day technique to help yourself build a consistent exercise and healthier eating habits.

20-Minute Fitness Challenge: Are The Excuses Valid or Protection?

If these are things you really want to do are making them a priority? We often say we really want to do something but then follow it up with an excuse.

  • I just don’t have the time
  • I’m not motivated
  • I’m too stressed
  • I deserve a reward for my hard work

I gave myself excuses for not reading more fiction.

  • I can’t give up my non-fiction
  • I’m way to busy with all my other activities
  • I just can’t find a book I like

The excuses we use are sometimes valid but often ways we protect our ego. When we tell ourselves it’s ok that we skipped our workout because we didn’t have the time it makes it ok. When we tell ourselves that we deserve that tub of ice cream because of all the stress we had to deal with and the hard work we did this week – again, it makes it ok.

Most of us really do want to eat healthier and exercise more and when we don’t do the things we say we really want to do it hurts, it makes us feel shitty about ourselves, and it’s frustrating. So instead we rely on those excuses to make it ok.

I’m going to ask you. Are your excuses valid or are we using them as protection?

How To Use The 20-Page Method For The 20-minutes of Fitness Challenge

I’m willing to bet that you think I’m going to ask you to exercise for 20 minutes. Well, yes and no.

The 20 pages worked well for James and for me because it was a small enough goal each day that it did not feel overwhelming. When I first read that article I can remember thinking, “20 pages huh? I can do that.”

And that’s how I want you to feel about trying to exercise more. 

So here’s a challenge for you to try to tackle. I’d like for you to exercise for 20-minutes every single day this week. Now if you just read that and said to yourself, “I don’t know if I can do that.” Then don’t.

Shrink the change and make it manageable for you. Don’t get caught up on the 20 minutes but instead think more about being consistent. If 20 minutes feels like too much go for 18 minutes. If that still feels like too much then go for 15 minutes. Still too much? How about 10 minutes, 5 minutes, 1 minute if you have to.

Get some momentum going first and then build upon that.

20-Minute Fitness Challenge Tips

Party in a Jar
If you know how to workout then that makes this challenge a lot easier. If you’re newer to the fitness game then this may be a bit tougher. You could always try working with a personal trainer for 20 minutes the next 7 days, taking a class, doing a boot camp, P90X, Yoga, going on a walk. Meaningful movement counts as exercise. 

You could even use this opportunity to play 20 minutes of hoops with your kids, take a dance class, or take that bike out of yours that’s been collecting dust.

You can also try these workouts to help get you started. 

You can adjust the reps, sets, and rest to meet your needs.

I recommend doing your workouts first thing in the morning. Your willpower is at its strongest then and you’ll also have the fewest excuses, commitments, and chances of things “popping up” and interfering with your workout.

Use a calendar like the one I did or print out your own and place it where you can see it. Put a big red line through each day that you exercise for 20 minutes (or whatever length of time that you decide on).

Can I Get Fit In 20-Minutes?

A better question might be is 20-minutes better than zero minutes? 

The most important step is always getting started. The second most important step is staying consistent. If all you can dedicate is 20-minutes then it is enough. If 15-minutes, 10-minutes, 5-minutes is all you can dedicate to moving your body more. Then it is enough.

20-minutes of fitness may actually be enough. In a study conducted by Schimidt, Biwer, and Kalscheuer, overweight female college students were split up into four groups. Group A completed 3, 10-minute bouts of exercise spaced throughout the day. Group B completed 2, 15-minute bouts of exercise spaced throughout the day. Group C completed 1, 30-minute bout of exercise. Group D was a non-exercise control group.

Each student was asked to follow a self-monitored calorie-restricted diet for 12-weeks. And exercised at 75% of their resting heart rate, 3 to 5 days per week. After 12-weeks VO2 max increased significantly, while body mass index and skinfold measurements decreased.

There are always variables like age, training experience, and gender. But overall, consistent training with moderate intensity and a solid diet can be enough.

Finding 20-Minutes For Fitness: Take a Quick Inventory Of How You Spend Your Time. 

You’ve said that you want to start exercising more. Well, here is your opportunity. How are you spending the first 20-minutes of your day? Are you checking email, Facebooking, or just doodling around the house?

In a recent study from the Bureau of labor statistics on an average workday, 25-54-year-olds with children typically spend their hours like this.

  • 8.7 hours of work-related (how much of that time is actually spent “working.”)
  • 7.7 hours are spent sleeping
  • 2.5 hours is spent on leisure or sports
  • 1.3 hours caring for others
  • 1.1 hours doing household activities
  • 1-hour eating and drinking
  • 1.7 hours doing “other.” Whatever the heck that means

And if you’re a full-time student.

  • 8.6 hours sleeping 
  • 4.0 hours on leisure and sports
  • 3.3 hours on education activities (how much of that is real study 🙂 )
  • 2.5 hours working or on work-related activities
  • 1.4 hours traveling
  • 1.0-hour eating and drinking (probably mostly drinking)
  • .8 hours grooming
  • 2.4 hours on “other”

I’d like for you to take the next 2 days and create a time log for yourself. Grab a piece of paper, notebook, pen or pencil, and a watch (stopwatch, timer, or smartphone). Or feel free to use some of the awesome time tracker apps that technology has provided us. TogglHours KeeperSlim Timer.

Step 1: Time tracking domination

Record your day in 15 to 30-minute increments. Pain in the ass, yes! But you’ll thank me for the awareness later.

An example morning:

  • 5:30 AM – Wake up
  • 5:45 AM – Make coffee and get dressed while drinking it
  • 6:00 AM – Breakfast 
  • 6:15 AM – Leave for work
  • 6:30AM to 8:00AM – Commute
  • 8:15 AM – At my desk at work
  • 8:30 AM to 9:15 AM – Checking and responding to emails
  • 9:15 AM to 9:30 AM – 15-minute break (walking around in the office, bathroom, drinking fountain)
  • 9:30AM to 11:00AM – Work

You would keep this up for the entire day up until you get to bed.

Step 2: Time tracking domination

Wait until you’ve finished tracking both days until analyzing them. Once you’ve finished tracking both days add up the times you spend doing all the activities you listed.

Two days total may look like this:

  • 18 hours: Work
  • 10 hours: At work actually working
  • 3.5 hours: Break (lunch, personal breaks)
  • 3 hours: Checking email at work
  • 3 hours: Commuting
  • 1.5 hours: Surfing the internet (be specific. Facebook, YouTube videos, Twitter, etc…)
  • 1 hour: Watching TV
  • 1 hour: Social media (Facebook, etc…)
  • 1 hour: House chores (laundry, dishes, etc…)
  • 1 hour: Preparing meals
  • 45 minutes: Workout at home

Your list may get pretty long but I promise you it will be pretty darn amazing how much awareness this creates.

Step 3: Time tracking domination

Take a look at how you’re spending your time and ask yourself where you can make some changes so that you’re more productive, effective, and efficient.

When doing this ask yourself if you’re making your health a priority? Do you feel like you’re creating enough time for it? 

If not, what priorities are you valuing more than your own personal health? Are you spending an hour watching TV when you could be working out or preparing meals? 

What are some things that you notice about how you’re spending your time? Where are you wasting time or what is sucking time from you? What are a few small changes you can make so that your health becomes a bigger priority?

Are You Up For The Challenge?

For this week only I want you to be selfish and invest in yourself. 20 minutes of “Me” time. Tell the kids they’ll have to wait for 20-minutes. Let your boyfriend or girlfriend know that you’ll be there in 20-minutes. Take a 20-minute break at work to get some push-ups and squats done.

Step into the 20-minutes of fitness challenge. You got this.


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