Where do I even start?
In the few years that I’ve had this blog, I’ve run a couple different challenges for my readers. There was my 31 Day Ab Challenge, April Arms, Fall Into Fitness, and Jingle Well Time. None of these even come close to the experience that hosting the Holiday Hustle Challenge for five weeks this holiday season gave me.
I never know what to expect when launching a challenge on the blog, but this one far exceeded my expectations. All the other challenges I’ve run had a very specific check in item (different abs exercise each day, different arm exercise each day, etc.), but I left this one much more open-ended and up to individual interpretation. Each day of the month had a suggested check in theme, and I tried to make the daily themes span all areas of wellness for a holistic approach that would appeal to everyone. After all, there is no one size fits all approach to wellness.
Here’s a recap of what the daily themes were:
Every Sunday, I sent the group of women who signed up for the challenge a motivational email. Along with the suggested check ins, the email contained whatever inspiration I felt like throwing their way that week. I provided sample 30 minute or less workout suggestions for moving at work, bodyweight, strength, cardio, circuits, ab burners, and stretching. Some of the workouts were on the blog already, while some were new that I created videos for and put on YouTube. I also gave three stress less tips and multiple recipe suggestions for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and something sweet each week.
During the week, participants were encouraged to share their check ins and experiences on the social media channel of their choice using a hashtag specific to this challenge, #ffholidayhustle. If you are interested, check out the feeds from Twitter and Instagram! It’s fun to scroll through and see what types of things people posted.
I won’t lie, I did expect more posts to come in via Instagram and Twitter. I’m also not sure how to gauge how much the participants used the suggested workouts, recipes, and stress less tips other than what a few people told me and my open click rate in my MailChimp stats. However, the most surprising and eye-opening part of the challenge was how active the group was on the private Holiday Hustle Facebook group. It was so incredibly inspiring to see a group of strangers with varying degrees of fitness levels and health connect with each other in this way. People shared their personal take on each day’s word, and whether it was sharing a small daily success or opening up about a personal struggle, EVERYONE was so encouraging to each other. My favorite days were strength (the conversation took a turn toward mental strength), kindness (we learned how much harder it is to be kind to ourselves than it is to be nice to others), hydration (got so many good ideas from everyone!), and weight (shit got deep).
I want to take a minute to share what some participants had to say as the challenge came to an end because what they have to say sums everything up way better than I ever could:
“I have really enjoyed these 5 weeks. Not only having a focus every day to help keep on track thru the holiday season, new meal ideas, workouts, etc. – but the camaraderie has been awesome. I have really enjoyed interacting with all of you.”
“Thank you to everyone for all the inspiration, encouragement, and kindness over the past 5 weeks. This was a great experience in so many ways. One surprising way – I realized the positive power of social media. I so often get depressed by and yet sucked into social media.This experience showed me it can be different. Thank you Athena for bringing us together and continuing to be a source of positivity!”
“Oh my – really I can not believe 5 weeks is up! I must say this has been one of the best challenges I have been a part of! I loved checking in daily seeing everyone’s honest posts! This group is incredible everyone showed so much motivation, inspiration and dedication! It’s great how it connected a variety of people unfamiliar with one another. Everyone opened up and shared strengths, weakness, helpful tips, and much more! It’s been a great 5 weeks! Truly inspired!”
“Thank you Athena for creating our holiday hustle group! It has been wonderful motivation and so inspirational for me, especially during a hectic and stressful season. I am looking forward to carrying these thoughts and new ideas into 2015. I have loved “meeting” all of you.”
“I have to say, I am loving that this challenge has really gotten so many people to open up and share-both struggles and triumphs, as well as ideas and tips! What an amazing group of women! It is eye-opening to see that we all struggle with something, whether it be body-image, getting enough water or miles or sleep, everyone has something to work on and everyone has something to offer. I have enjoyed this month and seeing all the motivation and positivity!”
“It has always been hard for me to be honest about various struggles and still have people by my side, and it sounds like so many of these women have experienced similar things or are just genuine in that they don’t judge people the way I have been judged in the past. I’m sure you never know what you’re going to get when you start a challenge, but I want you to know that the posts have been inspiring and encouraging for me, and have been a great way for me to seek support throughout a difficult time of year. This group is absolutely amazing, and though we don’t know one another personally, I feel a connection to these beautiful people who have shown me that it’s ok to be honest and “imperfect.” I hope you recognize the impact these posts make in people’s lives, even if just for a few weeks!”
Wow. Just wow.
Hosting this challenge was so incredibly fulfilling to me, and I’ve never felt more inspired to take this blog to a new level than I do now. The holiday hustle pretty much clinched that I need to be doing MORE of this kind of thing, in whatever capacity I can, and LESS of the things that no longer serve me. I’ve realized that inspiring people to be kind to themselves and show themselves self compassion while on their healthy living journey is my CALLING. I won’t lie, there were several times during the challenge that I was brought to tears by some of the stories participants shared, especially when it was someone having an a-ha moment. I am so grateful to have made a difference in people’s lives. I wish I could offer something like this year round, but I don’t have the time or manpower at this point in my life since, well, this isn’t my full-time job, and it’s a lot of work on my end!
My goal with the F&F Holiday Hustle was to inspire women to take care of themselves and thrive throughout the holidays. I wanted everyone to focus on fun, community, small things they could do for themselves and their health, making connections, kindness, and living in the moment. And I think everyone would agree that we’re all starting 2015 not only a little healthier, but with the right mindset because of the positive choices we made for ourselves in December.
My heart is happy. Thank you to everyone who participated!
Before I go, I want to give a special shout out to the companies who sponsored the F&F Holiday Hustle Challenge by donating prizes so I could also incentivize the challenge and select a weekly check in winner:
- Women’s Health Magazine, who provided free year-long subscriptions to five different winners
- HINT Water, who provided gift packs to five different winners. The gift packs contained a mixed case of water, a t-shirt, 2 HINT chapsticks, and a $5 discount to the online store
- drinkMAPLE, who provided three packs of their pure maple water to two different winners
- Words to Sweat By, who provided two different winners with their choice of an inspirational wrap bracelet or a shirt from their Use Your Words collection
- ThePlate Boutique, who provided both a spiral cutter and a $10 gift card to their online store to two different winners
- Larabar, who provided a variety caddy of their bars to one winner
- New Balance, who provided a pair of Fresh Foam 822 trainers to one winner and a pair of Fresh Foam 980 glow running sneakers to another winner
- I also provided a $10 gift card of my own on behalf of City Sports.
Readers, let’s chat! Did you participate in my Holiday Hustle Challenge? If so, what was your favorite part? How did it help you through the holidays? How do you think I could improve the challenge for next year? If you did not participate, do you think it’s something you would want to do next year?
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This is awesome!! Great job with the challenge, it looks like people really enjoyed it. Love the comments that you’ve shared here about weight too — it’s always nice to see how deeply you can reach people by just providing a community! Great prizes too 🙂
Thanks again for putting this challenge together! My favorite part was definitely the community we built and the new blog friends I’ve made.
Such a great challenge, Athena- I liked that I didn’t have to feel “guilty” by not participating for random days throughout and I really liked that some of the challenges complimented ones in mine, too! It was so inspiring to see so many women share things- good and tough- in their lives… I’ve missed seeing their daily check ins! Also, thank you for sharing one of my posts- it’s never easy to talk about that stuff, but opening up and doing it more often does help! And it’s nice to know we aren’t alone with things we struggle with. Keep it up, friend!
Athena, I really enjoyed the challenge. There were so many things that were great, but, aside from the feeling of sharing and friendship, I loved that each day had a focus but it wasn’t workout-centered and it was all open to interpretation. I loved it.