The 28-Day Challenge: RECAP

Body Builder: Flickr oterOn May 12, 2011, I popped out of bed at 5:15AM.

Our daughter had been sick and out of daycare all week. My wife and I were trading off the morning and afternoon staying home with her. At 5:30AM, I left my house and started the 1/2 mile walk to my local Starbucks. 3 minutes into my walk, it hit me. I needed a challenge – something to motivate me to get in shape, something to force me to focus for a few weeks. I pulled out my iPhone, fired up Dragon Dictation, and began talking.

(That picture to the left is NOT me. It’s from oter.)

By the time I arrived at Starbucks 8 minutes later, I had 80% of The 28-Day Challenge blog post finished. The idea was simple: 100 push-ups every other day & 250 crunches every day for 4 weeks. At the last minute I decided to add the following:

Do you need a challenge too? Are you ready to get in shape? Join me. Please. Let’s do this together. If you are in, please indicate so in the comments below. Feel free to keep it simple: “I’m in!” or “All in!” or “Let’s do this.”

I’ll be updating my progress in the comments below as well as on Facebook and Twitter. If you are active on Twitter, you can follow along/join by using the #28days hashtag.

1,400 push-ups. 7,000 crunches. Who’s with me?

Little did I know that just over a month later, over 70 others would join me in collectively doing 50,874 push-ups and 166,001 crunches. As a group, we averaged over 1,800 crunches and nearly 6,000 crunches every single day for 28 straight days! Personally, I was able to do 2,140 push-ups and 9,700 crunches, a daily average of 76 and 346 respectively. Not bad, huh?

How A “Simple” 28-Day Challenge Turned Into A (Mini) Movement

The blog post went live on the morning of Thursday, May 12. By the end of the day, 12 folks had left comments saying they were joining me. Another 10 emailed me directly. By Friday evening, that number of participants rose from 22 to over 40. By the time the weekend was over, and the challenge was into day 2, over 70 people had joined. 70!*

Per a few suggestions from the participants, I added a few updates to the blog post:

**UPDATE**: Pick the numbers/goals that work best for you. They do not have to be the same as mine.

**UPDATE #2**: Per a suggestion, I’ll be creating a Google Doc so we can track progress, cheer each other on, talk smack, etc. Please send me an email so I can invite you (totally optional).

The 28-Day Challenge was born.

*To be fair, not all of the 70+ who joined chose to continue. Not all made it through the entire 28 days. However, imagine if I had some real influence. Imagine if I had a website and a huge reach. See more below.

Tracking, Accountability, Collaboration, Social Pressure, Cheerleading, & Email Updates

I think that the key to the success of this (mini) movement was the relatively easy way to track progress, a system of accountability, a forum to collaborate, the social pressure to continue, the encouragement (cheerleading), and daily email updates.

Tracking: Using a very basic Google Spreadsheet, we were able to track our daily progress. As you can see from this screenshot of the Google Spreadsheet, I created a row for each day of the challenge and two columns for each participant. As new folks joined, I simply added them to the end of the spreadsheet. Participants added their own numbers daily and even inserted comments here and there (see fields with orange triangle in the right corner). I created a few formulas for totals – per person and as an entire group. Not too hard.

Accountability: What was nice about the using the Google Spreadsheet was the fact that everyone could see everyone else’s numbers. If you missed a day, everyone saw it. There was no hiding. The numbers did not lie.

Collaboration: I also created another Google Doc – a place to ask questions, talk smack, update challenge information, and encourage others. Below is an screenshot of what it looked like after the first few days.

The 28-Day Challenge Google DocClick image to open in a new window/tab.

In the end, this simple Google Doc turned into a 13+ page document – a living, breathing collaborative place for participants to share.

Social Pressure: People are motivated by all sorts of things. Some need a reward or prize while others are self-motivated. Some are competitive and simply need to “beat” those around them. The combination of the Google Doc and Google Spreadsheet created the social pressure needed by some to complete the challenge. Toss in Twitter – we used the #28days hashtag – and the motivation was there.

Cheerleading: One other factor that I believe played a large role in ongoing participation was the encouragement throughout the 28 days. Some of this came in the form of daily emails from me, some from significant others, some from the Google Doc & Spreadsheet. However it happened, cheerleading played a part successfully completing this challenge.

Daily Emails: As mentioned above, I used the “email collaborators” feature in the Google Spreadsheet to send a daily email update to all participants. As an email marketing guy, I wish I had a bit more flexibility to format the email and not have everyone’s email address show up in the “cc” line; however, it worked. In my daily emails, I tried to pack  in all of the above – tracking, accountability, collaboration, etc. Here’s an example of what one of those daily emails looked like:

The 28-Day Challenge (Day 17)I sent a recap email, similar to the one above, every single night for 28 straight days. I realize that not everyone read them (heck, my own wife barely did!), but many told me that they served as reminders, kicks in the tail and/or motivation. One person actually asked to be taken off the list because she decided to not complete the challenge and the daily emails made her feel guilty.

Lessons Learned From The 28-Day Challenge

Even though I believe that there’s no such thing as perfection, I’m still a *bit* of a perfectionist. In an ideal world, I would have had hundreds if not thousands of participants. Everyone would have been as PUMPED as I was for the entire 28 days. All participants would have done their workouts every single day. They all would have entered in their numbers on a daily basis. Everyone would have been blogging, tweeting and updating their Facebook walls regularly. Yeah, right. I’m also becoming more and more of a realist.

One lesson I was reminded of during this challenge is that we are all different. We are all motivated by different things. For some, the daily emails were just what they needed. For others, it was all about competition. Still others were self-motivated. At one point, I was chatting with my wife (Kristina) asking her about why she never filled in her numbers. Her answer (paraphrased): “I’m not as social as you are. I don’t need everyone to know what I’m doing every day, all the time. I’m happy knowing that I’m doing that challenge. That works for me.”

I’m aware of several folks who completed The 28-Day Challenge yet did not join the Google Doc. Still others participated, filled in their numbers daily, yet didn’t comment publicly at all. As I told Kristina, my goal with this (and future) challenges is two-fold. First, I want to prove to others that you can do just about anything for 28 straight days. Second, I want to encourage and challenge others to do something that helps them become healthier, helps others, and/or helps the environment. If they are like me, they’ll shout it from the rooftops. If participants are more introverted, that works too.


I asked participants to send me testimonials. One of my favorites was from Dan Brostek, “Husband, father, ultrarunner, washed-up lax player, former Army Officer and social/mobile evangelist at Aetna” according to his Twitter bio. Dan also was unofficially nicknamed “Mr. Consistency” as he did 100 push-ups and 250 crunches every single day for 28 straight days. Dan has some crazy long running streak going – 160+ days in a row. Here’s what he had to say:

I have always been a sucker for impulse challenges and senseless streaks.  Throw in a motivated dude and cheerleader like DJ, a hashtag, and a creative use of Google Docs and I am sold.  100 pushups and 250 situps for #28days was the perfect challenge. Not too easy, but not impossible.  It was just the right amount to make it both physically and mentally challenging on a daily basis.  It was also nice to get a shot of inspiration from DJ via his nightly emails and have access to a community that provided a continues stream of comments, tips and good old fashioned trash talking.  I’m absolutely stronger and more ripped now than I was a month ago thanks to DJ’s wild idea — just take a look at my ‘Before’ and ‘After’ pics below.  Need I say more.

*The before and after pictures were of Al Bundy and some Gladiator, respectively.

Pretty awesome, right?

My buddy – and fellow camp-out-overnight for In ‘N Out Burger dude – Jeremy Hanks sent the following:

While I haven’t been perfect on my 28 day challenge, having motivation, inspiration, competition, and accountability matters! Attached is a picture of the tree outside of my Hampton Inn in Memphis, TN that I used this morning to get my pullups in that I’m tracking for the 28 day challenge. It’s been a fun time! Bring on the next 28 days!

Love it. Still others wrote blog posts – during and after – chronicling their challenges. Natali and Claudia both did “before” and “after” posts.

Note: If you wrote any blog posts during or after the challenge, please send them to me and I’ll include them above.

What’s Next?

About 10 days into The 28-Day Challenge, I purchased the domain Shortly after, I started asking a few of my engineer/developer/creative friends if they thought it was possible to build this into a site that was more user-friendly, easier to update/track/share, etc, and visually easier on the eyes. In other words, I want to make this more professional and legit. I created a PDF with my ideas. It was not pretty, but at least my ideas are down. Thanks to advice from my friend and Blue Sky Factory co-worker Chris Penn, I posted my project as a job on oDesk. I’ve had a few bites, but I’m still skeptical hiring someone I don’t know at all who is charging $8/hour. My friend, and fellow participant Amy Africa, connected me with a great firm that she refers clients to often. They have been great at helping me refine what I’m looking for. The only issue? I don’t have the $7,500+ to make it happen.

So where does that leave me? The way I see it, I have 4 options:

  1. Continuing doing these 28-day challenges using the current format – blog posts, Google Docs, daily emails, etc.
  2. Rob a bank … I mean … bite the bullet and fork over $7,500 that I don’t have.
  3. Get a sponsor. Maybe someone like GOOD, although they seem to have their own spin on challenges.
  4. Start a fundraiser. Amy mentioned IndieGoGo, which I plan on digging into more.

Either way, I feel strongly that I have the start of something pretty powerful her. We’ll see where it goes.

In The Meantime…The NEXT 28-Day Challenge

So while I sort out the next steps with, I’m going to opt for #1 above and continue doing The 28-Day Challenge in it’s current format. My thoughts for the NEXT challenge are going to be around food and healthy eating. I recently wrote a blog post titled, Do You Know What You Are Consuming? In it, I discuss the Michael Pollan book In Defense of Food. I’m leaning towards the next 28-day challenge being something related to what Pollan mentions:

Avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) Unfamiliar, b) Unpronounceable, c) More than five in number, or that include d) high-fructose corn syrup.

If you are interested in joining me, have ideas for how to build out, have $7,500 you’d like to hand over to me, and/or would like to be a sponsor, please comment below. The next 28-day challenge will likely start sometime the week of June 27th. Stay tuned.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading.

DJ Waldow