Doing a 30-day challenge is like taking a language-immersion course, learning a year’s worth of, say, Latin, in a six-week, six-hours-a-day blitz. I did that once. It was so hard I would relax by harvesting raspberries in their prickly July thickets. Actually, the 30-day challenge is as tough as both Latin and raspberry picking.
At first, I suffered commitmentitis. The very thought of so protracted an effort make me feel dizzy and weak. On the first days, I napped–not my usual habit. On day eight, I napped five hours in two separate chunks.
I quickly learned that food is fuel, something known, I guess, by most any marathon runner adept at carbohydrate loading. Graduates of the Bikram teacher-training course, where they practice twice a day five days a week, advocate eating what you crave, be it hamburgers or fruit. For me, it was intense proteins–tuna melts or tofu–alongside heavy-duty starches–Idaho potatoes whipped with garlic and boiled milk, twelve-bean soup, kasha with buttered noodles. My staple was a chili of pintos, bacon, ground sirloin, and a heaping heap of minced jalepenos.
Investing thus in food and sleep, I made progress on my toe-stand, which was the goal I gave myself to persevere on this crazy journey. Every day, I tried to push my spine straighter, grip it tighter, try to balance longer. When I finally got my hands into prayer for an instant before keeling over, I was elated. That one second made me absurdly happy.
Of course, the commitment helped, but more pragmatically, it was also simply muscle memory–as any athlete worth her salt would know. I have never been athletic. So learning to ask the most of my body was learning to ask the most of me, and getting the most out of my body by treating it well was about getting the most out of me by treating myself well. This was the challenge within the challenge. It was as foreign to me as Latin.