by Niall Doherty

Time to set a new physical challenge for myself, now that I’m settled in Kathmandu for a while.

I’ve documented a couple of physical challenges in the past. Despite not being much of a runner, I succeeded in finishing in the top 200 of a 20,000-person road race back in 2010. Later that same year I tried to add 20lbs of muscle, in six weeks, on a vegan diet, doing just one hour of exercise per week.

That experiment didn’t turn out so good.

Despite that failure, I’ve never lost the desire to add significant muscle to my frame, and so I’m going to have another crack at it over the next couple of months. I won’t go into much detail about my plans here because I’d rather not waste your time with speculation. I’ll only know for sure what works and what doesn’t two months from now, and then I’ll happily fill you in.

I will however mention one big difference between my previous muscle-building experiment and this one: I’m no longer vegan, so I’ll be consuming lots of milk and other dairy products on this attempt.

Also, in keeping with my recent post about delaying gratification, I’m promising myself a reward of a trip to Everest Base Camp if I achieve my goal. That’s an experience I really want to have, so it should act as a strong incentive.

Want to join me?

My muscle-building experiment officially starts Wednesday, when I get body fat measurements taken and do my first workout. If you’ve had a physical challenge in mind to take on yourself, why not join me these next couple of months? I’ll be posting the occasional update here on the blog and I’d love to hear about your progress in the comments. Doesn’t matter if you want to add muscle, lose weight, train for a marathon, or complete 100 consecutive push-ups.

Whatever your own challenge might be, try to abide by the SMARTER goals system, as that will give you a much better chance of success. SMARTER is an acronym which stands for…

  • Specific — Your goal should be specific enough that it will be obvious when you achieve it, or not. Good example: The title of this post. Bad example: Look better naked.
  • Measurable — You should be able to measure your progress regularly so you can see if you’re on track and make adjustments if needed. For me, that will mean twice weekly weigh-ins and body fat measurements.
  • Actionable — You should be able to break your goal down into simple action steps. For example, if you want to finish a marathon in under four hours six months from now, one action step could be to go running three times a week, with a minimum distance set for each run.
  • Realistic — Don’t let this one scare you off setting lofty goals. Pretty much any goal is achievable if you’re willing to devote enough time, money and energy to it. Just make sure that you are indeed willing.
  • Time-bound — Give yourself a deadline. Saying you’ll lose weight “someday” won’t work. As Sean Ogle likes to remind us, there are only seven days in the week, and someday isn’t one of them.
  • Ecology — Consider what sacrifices you’ll have to make to reach your goal. If you take on an intense exercise routine, you’ll likely have to cut back on some other activity so you have enough time and energy to devote to it. If you want to quit smoking, it may be a good idea to stop hanging out with your smoking buddies for a while.
  • Reward — What’s your real motivation for setting this goal? Is it intrinsic or extrinsic? Hopefully the former. It’s perfectly fine to want tighter abs or more money, but if you don’t get a kick out of the process itself (e.g. exercising regularly or building a business), you’re unlikely to persist long enough to see success.

I went into a bit more detail on each of the above in the post about my running challenge, so check that if you’re interested.

Now, over to you: If you’re going to join me with a physical challenge of your own over the coming weeks, spill the specifics in the comments.