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Calendar Competition: The Manageable Hack To Long-Term Health And Fitness

Written by Vincent Atallah

Illustration by Matthew Kane on Unsplash and Tyler Doupe from Student Life Network

I’m noticing a peculiar trend on my Instagram feed: people flip-flopping between two states of fitness. One state is motivated/healthy, a.k.a. #LivingMyBestLife. The other state is stagnant/unhealthy, a.k.a. #DontCare.

Look, I get it. It’s easy to find yourself at one end of this extreme for an extended period. And it usually takes one or two significant and deliberate attempts to bounce back to the other end.

If you’re anything like me, you probably find it hard to will yourself towards the “better” end of the spectrum (#LivingMyBestLife); you’re constantly looking at others who have perfected the art of what I call the “social media illusion”—seemingly never venturing over to the dark side. In other words, faking it until we all believe it.

happy gym GIF by HelloGiggles

Fret not, friends. There are some really simple life hacks that I’ve learned from some of my mentors which have significantly increased my ability to stick to reaching a higher level of long-term health and fitness. Or at the very least, hovering at the edge.

The best part? These hacks don’t involve pricey upgrades of your MyFitnessPal app or going on a long celibacy from your relationship with bread.

For today, I’m going to stick to just one of these hacks. Specifically, a hack that boosts my own healthy eating and fitness routines. I’m going to call it the “Calendar Competition”, and you can try it out using 6 steps (okay, 5).

Step 1: Print One Month Of A Calendar

cat kitty GIF

Go into whatever calendar software you use (if you have a Mac, this is iCal; if you’re using Google Apps, this is Google Calendar) and “File>Print” one month with none of your entries on it. This will spit out a blank calendar for whatever month you’ve selected.

This is what mine looks like when I print it:

Step 2: Hang That Sucker Where You Can’t Avoid It

scared zooey deschanel GIF

Tape or push-pin your freshly printed calendar onto a wall where you absolutely cannot avoid it in the course of your daily routine. I hang mine right outside of my bathroom because I know I’ll pass by there at least 3 or 4 times per day (TMI?).

Step 3: Track Your Workouts

mia farrow calendar GIF

Using a thicc (not a typo) sharpie, mark a backward diagonal line (\) over a day on the calendar when you manage to workout that day. I want to stress that this could be as simple as a power walk outside or a full-blown lift—the point is to track any day where you’ve been active. You can also challenge yourself a bit more and only place a mark when you’ve done an intense workout. For me, if I engage in physical activity for longer than 45 consecutive minutes, I put it on the calendar; but this derives from my own physical fitness goals.

Step 4: Track Healthy Eating

hannibal buress healthy eating GIF by The Eric Andre Show

Using your sharpie, mark a forward diagonal line (/) over a day on the calendar when you manage to eat healthy that day. For me, this is basically any day where I don’t impulsively order fried chicken from Porchetta, or eat 2 tubs of hummus with a tablespoon (*cries in Spanish*).

Seriously. Your meals that day don’t have to exclusively include spinach and quinoa—they just have to be generally not awful. Make sure your portion sizes are proportionate to your goals, and if you’re trying to lose weight, you’re gonna want to qualify a healthy eating day as “probably at a caloric deficit”. If you’re trying to build muscle, your “healthy” criteria is going to be protein-focused.

Whatever your goal is, establish what “healthy” means to you, and start marking days on the calendar. Just make sure you’re not lying to yourself and stubbornly marking every day as a healthy day (unless you’re that healthy, in which case: delete my number). It’s okay to have some missing marks, but you want to lean towards the healthier side on average for the entire week.

At the end of the week, you can sum all of the days you worked out and ate healthily and write it beside that week on the calendar to track your averages.

Here’s what my calendar looks like right now:

Step 5: Get Competitive With Yourself

shia labeouf motivation GIF

Attempting to compete with social media illusionists and fitness bloggers is usually a one-way ticket to short-term progress and long-term depression and self-deprecation. Please remember that it is the job of these “Insta stars” (whether paid or not) to maintain a consistent brand image. Unless they’re super honest with their followers, they probably aren’t going to give you a window into their bouts of being unproductive or unhealthy.

Tracking your progress against yourself creates a sense of subconscious pride in the work you’ve already done (even if it’s just one day), and motivates you to not let there be a day on that calendar without some kind of mark.

For me, I started out with 3 marks on the calendar per week on average. Now, just 5 weeks after restarting this habit, I’m averaging 8 marks (usually 5 workouts and 3 healthy eating days). Whether I worked out or ate healthily, I feel a hell of a lot better than if I hadn’t done either.

I recently read a quote that I think is a great way to end this article.

“The day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit”

You are not going to get fit and healthy AF after a few weeks of doing this, but consistency is the magic ingredient here. This hack will absolutely help you maintain and improve your degree of consistency, which will eventually lead to noticeable physical and mental benefits. I promise.

Step 6: Entertain My Shameless Plug:

follow me twitter GIF

I’m starting to post these kinds of hacks on my Instagram feed. If you dig seeing these and want to stay up-to-date on what else I’m trying out (and to see too many pics of my new puppy, Bear), feel free to shoot me a follow.


Just in time for summer!

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.