I did it! I completed the Oxygen Challenge 2!
Before you read any further, make sure you are caught up on my previous posts about the challenge:
Cue the confetti and balloons, I made it to the grand finale! Except… well, it doesn’t really feel over.
Is it really over?
Reason #1 it does not feel over is, I feel like I can make more progress. Lose more body fat and get even leaner. Although 90 days sounded like a long time when I started, 90 days was not enough time to totally change my body. Don’t get me wrong, I am very happy with my after pictures. But I don’t think they are good enough to win the Cover Girl contest for Oxygen Magazine. (If you are impatient, scroll down to see my before and after pictures).
Which brings me to Reason #2. Eating healthy and going to the gym is now part of my routine. Every morning I eat a nutritious breakfast, then pack a healthy lunch and snacks for work. Lunchtime is when I go to the gym (no excuses) and I actually look forward to my workouts.
Just because the challenge is over does not mean I go back to my old ways. That was the point of the Oxygen Challenge, to create healthy habits that I can maintain to live a healthy life.
Oxygen Challenge 2 Final Recap
What did I learn from the challenge? Mainly, that I had to adapt the program to work for ME and MY lifestyle. I have a job, kids, a husband, pets, and a house to maintain. Spending hours in the gym every day and preparing all of my own food so I could eat perfect 100% of the time was not going to happen.
I estimate I put 75% effort into the Oxygen Challenge. Yes, I could have done more but it would have taken away from other important areas of my life. Like date days with my husband, vacations, and Sunday dinners with my family. I was not willing to give those things up, just to have 6-pack abs.
Month 3 – Exercise
It actually took me 14 weeks to complete the 90 day Oxygen Challenge. Work was partly to blame but so was travel. Two trips interrupted my schedule; West Virginia in July and my girls weekend at the beach in August. Missing workouts and getting off track made it very tempting to quit (which I have done in the past). This time, I picked up my workouts where I left off or added extra workouts on days I had more time.
Month 3 is when I noticed I am definitely stronger than when I started the challenge. Medicine ball walkouts used to kill me but now I can do three sets of 5 without difficulty. In the past, I made excuses to skip leg day in the gym thinking I got enough of a leg workout from running. However legs became one of my favorite workout days and I never missed leg day. Except for jump squats. Jump squats were created by the devil, they made me incredibly sore and unable to walk for three days!
As a runner, I am surprised to say that cardio is what I struggled with the most during the challenge. I preferred lifting weights and was reluctant to spend my time at the gym on the treadmill or elliptical machine. Since it was August, running outside was not an option. Instead, I got in cardio doing 20 minute HIIT workouts or bodyweight/kettlebell conditioning. However, I need to increase my cardio if I want to lose body fat and see the muscles I have been working hard to develop over the summer.
My fun workouts this month included a Hip Hop class at GRIT Fitness, Yoga in the reflecting pool at the AT&T Performing Arts center and a dance class at JamBox Fitness with the Dallas Fitness Ambassadors.
Month 3 – Nutrition
In month 1, I looked forward to my one “cheat” meal a week. In fact, I would plan each weekend around what I was going to eat or drink for that one cheat meal. By the third month, my cravings pretty much disappeared. Planning a big cheat meal was not a priority. However, I learned it is best to plan indulgent meals later in the day. If I eat unhealthy in the morning or for lunch, I am less likely to make good choices the rest of the day.
Sugar was an addiction when I started the challenge. When I have sugar, it makes me crave it for days afterwards. I can also tell my body does not react well to sugar, I feel sluggish and irritable when I eat it. So cutting out sugar was a priority. Filling up on healthy food during the day and drinking plenty of water makes it easier to say no to sugar. In fact, now I rarely want dessert.
Drinking 80 ounces of water a day is my new normal. Anything less than 80 ounces and I feel dehydrated. The other benefit of drinking large amounts of water is my skin looks clearer and brighter. That may also be a result of limiting alcoholic drinks to once a week.
Favorite foods in Month 3 included; oatmeal mixed with protein powder topped with sliced bananas and cinnamon, fried egg on whole wheat toast topped with sliced avocado, oven baked chicken parmesan with zucchini noodles, apples and peanut butter, baby carrots with jalapeno hummus, and hard boiled eggs.
Month 3 – Before and After Pictures
I hope this is obvious but in case it isn’t, the before pictures are on the left and the after pictures are on the right. Before was taken on June 4, 2016 and After was taken on September 10, 2016. My husband is probably glad this challenge is over, so I will stop waking him up at 9 AM on Saturday mornings and asking him to take pictures of me in a bikini.
My starting weight in June was 132 pounds and 26.5% body fat. At the end of the challenge, my weight was 123.5 pounds and 23% body fat. I lost a total of 8.5 pounds, 3% body fat and 6 inches (from my chest, waist, hips and thighs).
I can see a change in my body from my pictures but I can also tell a difference in how my clothes fit. My skirts and pants are no longer tight in the waist. For the first time in years, I can feel my hip bones. Yes, I am thrilled with the results so far. But I want to know what I can look like in 3, 6, or 12 months from now.
I am currently studying for a professional engineering exam, which is scheduled for the end of October. So I am going to set aside a few of my lunch breaks for study sessions instead of sweat sessions. Last week I also texted my neighbors to let them know I will not be runing any races the next few months, since I will be spending my Saturday mornings studying.
My healthy eating habits will continue but I am probably going to cut back to 3- 4 days in the gym until my test is over. Then I am going to start Erin Stern’s program that I did not complete last year during the Oxygen Challenge. Erin is a former runner and I look forward to her exercise program. In the spring, I plan to train for another half marathon.
Having the accountability from my readers was a big push to stick with the challenge. So was knowing that I had to post pictures of myself in a bikini for the world to see! Since I am going to continue my journey, I will also continue to share updates on the blog. Probably once every three months instead of monthly. Thanks for following along on my Oxygen Challenge 2 journey!