Twenty-one days at home sounds like an eternity. And the government has (finally!) been pretty clear: no walking the dog, no going for a run, no taking the kids to the park. Fast forward a week and popping down to your local Spar to buy tampons will never have felt so exhilarating! So we’ve created a 21-day challenge to help you stay calm, fit and healthy. After all, how do you finish a 60-minute workout? One set at a time.
A New Normal
Being confined to your house means sacrificing your daily routine. And that can lead you to slide into unhealthy habits. Case in point: When there’s no need to wake up early for your regular gym class, it’s way too easy just to skip exercise altogether. If you’re working from home, not having distractions can make you more productive. But if you have a tendency to be a workaholic, you might catch yourself sitting in the same hunched-over position for hours. And if you’re prone to anxiety or depression, feeling trapped could lead to feelings of panic and despair. Consider this 21-day challenge your new routine. Each day, you’ll have an exercise to complete. This will either be a workout to keep you strong and fit, a yoga practice to ease cramped muscles or a mindfulness exercise from our Women’s Health Mindfulness Manual. Ready to get going?
How The WH 21-Day Challenge Works
Taking part in the challenge is simple and you can join any time!
STEP 1: Download or screenshot the challenge card below. You can print it or keep it on your phone.
STEP 2: Each day, starting on Friday 27 March, do the exercise for that day. The daily exercises are listed here under the challenge card.
STEP 3: Tick off the day on your card and share it to your Insta stories, tagging #WH21DayChallenge @womenshealthmagSA. We may be on lockdown, but we’re all in this together!
Your Challenge Card
Save or screenshot and use it to track your progress.
21 Daily Exercises
Here are the workouts, yoga practices and mindfulness exercises you’ll be doing over the next 21 days.
DAY 1: MINDFULNESS EXERCISE
How do you practise self-care?
Write down the practices you can do at home that help you feel calm, at peace and whole. These are things you should do more of over the next 21 days.
DAY 2: Home workout
This no-equipment workout is designed to get your heart rate up. Plus, it will give you a feel-good endorphin boost as you head into your first weekend of lockdown and the challenge.
DAY 3: YOGA PRACTICE
Struggling to find the motivation to get up and do something around the house? Yoga sun salutations are a wonderful way to energise and focus your mind, wake up tired muscles and set an intention or purpose. If you woke up today feeling anxious, the repetitive flow is also good for centering you in the moment and calming a racing mind. Today we’re doing Sun Salutation A only. Flow through these moves slowly and with intention, taking time to breathe deeply and notice how your body feels in each pose.
DAY 4: HOME WORKOUT
Join the WH team for a live streaming workout on YouTube at 8am SA time. Missed it? You can still catch it on our channel.
DAY 5: YOGA PRACTICE
On our previous yoga practice day, we did Sun Salutation A. Today, we’re going to do Sun Salutation B. Once again, be sure to move slowly and with intent, focusing on how your body feels in each pose.
DAY 6: MINDFULNESS EXERCISE
What are you most grateful for?
Gratitude is key to staying positive during this challenge. Write down as many things as you can. Take time to think about what each of them means to you and appreciate the fact that you have them in your life.
Day 7: HOME WORKOUT
DAY 8: YOGA PRACTICE
If you have tight hips from running or cycling, these five hip-opening poses may feel uncomfortable. Allow the body to settle into each posture and focus on your breathing. Stay in each posture for 10 breaths. Remember that in yoga you should never experience any kind of searing pain, but some discomfort occurs when our bodies are tight. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities.
DAY 9: MINDFULNESS EXERCISE
What are some sure-fire ways to boost your mood?
You might be feeling down right now, so write down a list of things that bring you joy – whether that’s cuddling with your pet, chatting to a family member on the phone, looking at old photographs or watching a series. When you feel the lockdown blues setting in, come back to this exercise of the challenge and pick something off the list that will make you smile.
DAY 10: YOGA PRACTICE
Improving your shoulder mobility will help you so much in every day life. Whether you’re picking up a toddler or moving furniture around for a bit of redecorating, these yoga stretches will help you avoid injury. Allow your body to settle into each posture and focus on your breathing. Stay in each posture for 10 breaths. Remember that in yoga you should never experience any kind of searing pain, but some discomfort occurs when our bodies are tight.
DAY 11: HOME WORKOUT
Can you believe it: we’re already halfway! How are you finding the 21-day challenge so far? Remember to share your progress by tagging #WH21DayChallenge and @womenshealthmagsa on Instagram!
DAY 12: YOGA PRACTICE
These postures will help to ease lower-back pain, especially if you’ve been sitting at a computer for most of your day, working or watching series. Remember to focus on the breath and allow your body to show you its limits.
DAY 13: MINDFULNESS EXERCISE
Are you holding onto something you need to let go of?
Spending time away from your daily routine, distractions and even social demands can be a valuable time for self reflection. Is there any habit or person that you’re actually relieved to be taking a break from during this time? Be honest. Listen to your inner voice and trust your gut. Now is as good a time as any to start making positive changes in your life!
DAY 14: Home Workout
You don’t need any equipment for Xoliswa’s Nkosi’s high-energy workout. If you’re feeling sluggish, this will pep up your system and focus your mind.
DAY 15: MINDFULNESS EXERCISE
What are your most basic values?
When you’re living a fast-paced lifestyle, it’s easy to start living for the world and letting go of yourself, little bit by little bit. Maybe it started when a friend made an inappropriate joke or comment that caused you to feel uncomfortable, but instead of speaking up, you stayed quiet. Perhaps you even pretended to laugh along. Or maybe in the workplace you were required to make a decision that didn’t feel right. And then another and another. And after a while you learnt to ignore that nagging little voice in the back of your head. Now is a good time to take stock of who really are, deep down at your core, and what you really stand for.
DAY 16: HOME WORKOUT
This workout, from our book No Gym Required, is a core workout that you can do anywhere with no equipment and very little space. Click here to buy the e-book for more no-gym workouts!
DAY 17: YOGA PRACTICE
Your hamstrings are the big muscles at the backs of your thighs. When they’re tight, they can make your whole body feel uncomfortable. You may feel pain or discomfort in your back, hips and knees. You may also feel like your movement is restricted when you get up off a chair or walk around. These moves will help you stretch them out.
DAY 18: HOME WORKOUT
All you need for this high-energy workout by Angelique and Jacques van der Linde of JVL Lifestyle is a broom and a 5-litre water bottle.
Short on time? This no-equipment workout takes just 15 minutes, but that’s all you need to get your heart racing and your endorphins flowing!
DAY 19: MINDFULNESS EXERCISE
Do you notice shifts in your own mental health?
The challenge is almost at an end! For some of us, the past 19 days may have been the first time in a long time that we actually had a chance to spend time with our thoughts or contemplate our feelings. When your days are full, it’s way too easy to bottle up your feelings or push them aside because you don’t have time for that now or you don’t want to appear weak. The thing is, they don’t go away and eventually the build-up of stress you’re carrying around can weaken your immune system or lead to an emotional break-down. Acknowledge the feelings you’ve felt during this challenge. Take note of things that triggered anxiety, anger, sadness or fear. Carry that newfound awareness with you as you prepare to re-enter your normal routine.
DAY 20: YOGA PRACTICE
When we feel tense or anxious, our shoulders tend to creep up around our ears. You may not even notice that you’re doing it, but after a while, you’ll start to feel neck and shoulder pain. You may even have headaches. These moves will help you relax the muscles of your upper back and ease the tension.
DAY 21: MINDFULNESS EXERCISE
Do you celebrate the things you do have?
It’s been 21 days of surviving without many of the things you once took for granted: the freedom to go for a walk outside, meet-ups with friends, a meal at a restaurant, human touch. And with lockdown having been extended, it will still be at least another two weeks before we get to experience these simple pleasures. Now that we know what life is like without these things, once we eventually get them back, let’s appreciate them for the precious gifts that they are and how much richer our lives are for these everyday hits of joy.