In the last week of October, I received an email from Virgin Active inviting me to take part in a challenge for that month. There were three to choose from: 24-hour challenge, Go the Distance and Oh Snap Challenge. Reading though the descriptions I chose the 24-hour challenge and immediately signed up.

Initially training for 24 hours in the month of November didn’t seem as bad when I mentally compared that to my training sessions at university when it was a social gathering as well as exercise, but as a hard-working individual working a full time job, writing a cookbook, moving houses, doing renovations at the new house and planning a wedding – achieving 6 times 1 hour workouts per week was where it became a different ball game.


Biting off more than I could chew


So, starting off week number 1; I dove into the deep end – doing all the hectic high intensity classes back to back (Step, Shape, etc) and was super proud of myself when I burnt a lot of calories and left exhausted but then I realised the next day I was so stiff, I could hardly move and besides that I was so tired that I realised I couldn’t keep at that pace for long.

I then had to take a step back and revaluate.

This was where I realised how so many people feel when embarking on a lifestyle change, they dive in head first and after a week or two realise that they can’t uphold the pace, quit and feel like failures.

Lesson 1:

  • Start small, increasing the intensity of your exercise by just a small bit at a time will already yield results (for example; increasing the pace at which you jog, or jogging an extra few metres or adjusting your step at the gym to level 2).
  • Also, regarding nutrition; instead of being so restrictive (which is in the end not sustainable nor healthy) make small changes to your normal routine. For example: changing from normal pasta to whole-wheat or durum wheat pasta, filling up on fruits and vegetables instead of sugar and energy-dense foods and lastly reducing the sugar in your coffee.
  • This way it is much more sustainable and easier to implement, before I was a dietician, I used to drink 4 teaspoons of sugar in my coffee and I gradually reduced it to now drinking none!


Doing the same exercises day in and out


As I mentioned that a bit earlier, I just reverted to what was my default. I just did group class after group class and loved it; there is just something different about being in a group and suffering together.

But my lifestyle and ever-changing schedule wasn’t so accommodating, being stuck in traffic for a bit too long meant I missed the warm up and doing the same thing day after day can get quite boring after a while.

Also, in group classes I tend to aim for really making the workout count and feed off the energy in the room which burned a lot of calories and had me semi-dead after the session. This might seem great but when I looked in the mirror, I saw myself building muscle but not toning.

Lesson 2:

  • Anything is better than nothing. Don’t skip an entire workout because you are 5 minutes late. If the instructor allows you to come in, they will probably still have a few minutes of warm-upish exercises. Or you can just pace yourself and ease into the exercises.
  • Also, do other exercises that just keeps things interesting like walking and stretch exercises that might not burn as many calories and be as high intensity, but it is great for fat loss.
  • The same goes for eating; if you eat boiled chicken and salad everyday you are guaranteed to become bored and fall of the wagon.


Not factoring in other components of my life


As I mentioned in the introduction paragraph, there was a lot of other tasks and duties that needed to be completed that couldn’t just be factored out of the equation. Working a full-time job, writing a cookbook, moving houses, doing renovations at the new house and planning a wedding, also living in Johannesburg where at least an hour daily is spent in the car… it was a bit more difficult to fit in 6 hours training per week than when I was still in small town Potchefstroom, when walking from my residence to the gym was still quicker than driving, gyming was a social activity with friends and my schedule allowed exercise to be fit-in between classes.

But welcome to the real world. There will always be things that need attention. It is about juggling all the activities at hand and incorporate physical activity into your daily life as well. For instance, I wore my heartrate monitor whilst the move was underway because carrying boxes and walking up and down stairs is really hectic exercise as well!

Lesson 3:

  • Your exercise and training regime should fit into your life, not the other way around. Walking back to your car from shopping, taking the stairs instead of the lift and sitting on a ball at work engaging your core can all account for low intensity but fat-burning exercises and shouldn’t be overlooked.
  • And lastly, don’t beat yourself up for not being the person you were 5 years ago. Thank goodness for that! Growth happens in so many areas of your life, all you can do is your best and all you can give is your all. And that is enough.


So, all in all, it was really a CHALLENGE. But I made it, burned 9150 calories in 19 workouts, I’m stronger for it and will I be continuing with 6 hours exercise a week? If you count unpacking our house with my heart rate monitor on, enjoying a stroll at the Parkrun with friends and lastly a group class or two – then yes!

Thanks Virgin Active. Now for the next challenge, 7000 calories in December!