Post-Challenge Blues

8 to 12-week challenges are common in New Zealand gyms and fitness centres. If pitched correctly, they can be the perfect way to kick-start a new health regime. Many people lose a lot of weight and cm’s from their waist. Some develop life-long friendships and learn more about the best type of eating and exercise for their body type. Some even win a large cash prize – whoop whoop! The vibe in the testing room, once people have had their post-challenge Fit3d Body Scan, is one of the favourite parts of my job.

Unfortunately, if not managed correctly challenges can have a negative effect on your long-term health and body composition. In fact, experience tells us that 70% of people who complete a challenge/boot camp put all the lost weight/body fat back on within 3 months post-challenge.


Most people doing a challenge do not have a POST-CHALLENGE PLAN. As the old saying goes “failing to plan is planning to fail”.

So, here are some tips from someone who has performed more body composition challenge tests than 99% of New Zealanders.

1.      Celebrate 

2.      Don't get too cocky

3.      Create a POST-CHALLENGE PLAN

4.      What now?

5.      Obstacles and Grit

6.      Get help/support

7.      Re-test and re-evaluate


1.      Celebrate

Whether it’s work, family or exercise-related, always celebrate success. Maybe go out for a meal with your challenge group, have a couple of drinks and share some stories from the challenge.  A sports psychologist once told me to put all my successes in my “positive basket”. I literally write them down, put them in a basket and pull them out every now and then when I’m down. Maybe you could print out your Fit3d Scan report and put this in that basket.


2.       Don’t get too cocky

Many people make the mistake of going on a week-long bender post challenge. If you go out and order all your old favourite foods and drinks in one week/weekend you will

(a) feel sick because you’ve overindulged,

(b) get sick because your body had adapted to a new healthy regime, and

(c) risk going back into bad habits again.

My advice is go out and treat yourself, however don’t add everything back in at once.


3.      Create a POST-CHALLENGE PLAN

Within 1-week post challenge write some new short-term goals. As a starting point, what 3-4 healthy habits/structures have you learnt during the challenge that can now become your "new normal". Can you make them non-negotiable?

When setting some new goals ask yourself questions like:

“WHY do I want to exercise and eat better?”. Think about this question because “why power drives the will power”

“How will I feel if I go back to my old ways”,

“What do I want to look like in 5 years’ time”,

“What are my long-term health goals and what can I do next to take a step in the right direction”

Make sure you are setting SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound). If your goals are related to body composition, why not ask your Fit3d Testing Technician (or your trainer) for some free advice on body composition goal setting. For example, if you are trying to improve your body composition this may involve improving your Body Shape Rating, decreasing your Waist Measurement or decreasing your Body Fat %.


4.      What now?

Just setting a goal and crossing your fingers never works. If your aim is to lose 5 kg in the next 3 months what do you need to do to achieve this? You may need to break it down further into smaller goals, e.g. I will exercise 4 x week for more than 30 minutes, I will drink 2 litres of water/day, I will eat 5 or more pieces of fruit/vegetables per day on 6 days/week, I will walk more than 60,000 steps/week etc.


5.      Obstacles and grit

I see many people who have had some short-term success in the past however, they always put the body fat/weight back on again (and more!). Have a think about why you have failed in the past. Common barriers include not having enough time to exercise, getting sick and falling out of routine, having a job where you must travel and eat out a lot, not having enough time to cook and getting injured.

Next, write down solutions on how you can counter these barriers. For example, put exercise in your daily schedule and instruct your work colleagues not to change it (put yourself first!). Prepare meals on a day you have more time, e.g. Sunday afternoon may be an appropriate time to prep lunches and meals for the week. Make healthier choices at cafes/restaurants (e.g. choose a summer salad instead of a triple cheeseburger). If you have injured your lower limb there are about 20,000 exercises you can still do for your upper body and vice versa for an upper limb injury.


6.      Get help/support

Tell your friends and family about your better health plan. Those who have support are 80% more likely to achieve their goals. In many cases, healthy people can be infectious, e.g. their healthy goals and attitude can rub off on others. If you need more specific support, why not invest in a qualified personal trainer and/or a dietitian. These professionals will be able to help you maximise your eating and exercise time.


7.      Retest and reevaluate

The ‘T’ in the acronym SMART stands for time-bound. If you have set body composition goals or fitness goals, make sure you have set a date to re-test. Write it down in your diary or book in your Fit3d Body Scan well in advance. Knowing when your next test is will increase your likelihood of success. A similar scenario is someone studying for an exam. If they know when the exam date is they will work hard to prepare for this date. If there is no exam, the chances of them preparing well and achieving a high mark are a lot less.


Written by

Peter Halstead

MPhty, PGDipSportMed, BSpEx


Health and Fitness Testing NZ