January Swing Challenge Recap

I’ll be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect when issuing this challenge.  I did it partly for selfish reasons…knowing that I needed a bit of a boost to get myself motivated and in the habit, but I didn’t know how many other people would jump on board.

Oh boy was I pleasantly surprised!  We had a bunch of people participate and many hit and even exceeded 10,000 swings.  I’m going to update this post with everyone’s totals as I get them, so please shoot me an email with your numbers asap!

My experience, what I gained and what I learned:

As I mentioned above and in the original post, this challenge was issued partly to get me in the habit of getting after it and doing what I say I’m going to do every single day and not making excuses.  As far as that goes I am very happy with how things turned out.  I chose to do 500 swings per day 7 days per week, and as such I hit my 10,000 on 1/20/16.

I hit my swings daily and mixed in jiu-jitsu once a week, played basketball a few times throughout the month, and did pushups almost daily (I’m on a little quest for 50 strict pushups as it has been many years since I have done that. What I’ve been playing with very well may make it into a future challenge). In addition to this, I did a TON of manual labor.  Like 20-60 hours/week of manual labor. This will come into play when we discuss my swing total.

Pros:

As mentioned over and over, The habit.  The habit.  The habit.  The habit.  I can’t emphasize this enough. Habits can be the absolute best thing in your life or can ruin your life.  Making sure that you get into GOOD habits is one of the single best things you can do to improve your life.

My posture improved drastically.  I have a long history of back problems and when my posture deteriorates my back is much more likely to become an issue and the inverse is true as well; once I injure my back, my posture immediately goes to hell.  I was coming off of a tweaked back from a few months ago and my posture was something I had to constantly focus on maintaining when the month started…mid way through the challenge I noticed that I didn’t even have to think about it anymore. This is a HUGE benefit!  “Proud chest, shoulders back!”

My grip strength improved drastically.  I’ll be honest, most people have a horrible grip.  Unless you work with your hands or make a concerted effort to work on it, odds are you don’t have great grip strength. A strong grip is a huge asset for me as that plays an immense roll in grappling, especially in jiu-jitsu.  If someone can not break your grip or even has to work really hard to do so, it is a giant advantage.  What causes most people to fail on a max deadlift attempt?  Back strength and grip.  How about pull-ups? What do swings help with?  Hmmm….As an added bonus, I’m pretty happy with how my forearms have filled out from so much time heaving bells around.

Core strength. I am always harping on keeping your abs tight and core braced all the time, and the reasoning is two-fold.  First and foremost is to stabilize and protect the spine to ensure that you reduce your risk of injury.  The second benefit is that the more you flex those muscles, the stronger they get and the less you have to think about actually flexing them as they will start to automatically do it on their own. Super duper awesome!

Baby got back! As with the oft-repeated mantras of “chest up, shoulders back” and “keep your abs tight”, (<<<someone let me know how this comma and quote should be properly ordered) the other fan favorite of “squeeze those glutes” (or your favorite variation thereof) comes into play here.  If you squeeze your buns 10,000 times you are going to get some benefit from it and I noticed a difference.  It ain’t no fun if you don’t got buns, hun!

It was oddly meditative.  I found that the counting, especially in really high rep sets, was somewhat meditative.  I could only focus on the task at hand and no other stimuli could enter my brain if I was to properly complete my set.  It came into play with sets of 100, but I found it to be more pronounced when getting into much higher reps like the 150-250 range.  This was an interesting finding for me.

Time. This one is two-fold. It takes me 2:30 to complete 100 swings, therefore, to get my 500 per day was 12:30 of working time.  It’s hard to make an excuse to find less than 15 minutes per day. Sometimes I would get a bunch of sets in close proximity to each other and bang them out pretty quickly.  Often times I would spread them out throughout the day. Do 100, put something in the oven. Do 100, bring something to the shed.  Do 100, take food out of the oven etc…

The second part of this is that even though the meditative effect was cool, there aren’t too many times in my life that I can allocate 2:30-7:00 to not interacting with and/or thinking about other things.  What I ended up doing for most of the second half of my swings was to set a timer for 2:30 and then when it expired I would just do 6 more swings for good measure to ensure I got at least 100.  This allowed me to multi-task and listen to a podcast, talk to people or contemplate life.  Super easy.

Reduced Bodyweight and improved body composition. I’ll be honest, I had every intention of cleaning up my diet during January and may have done so a bit as compared to the debauchery of December, but it still left much to be desired. That’s what February is for, right?!?!? Even so, I lost 6 pounds and nearly 2% bodyfat.  I certainly gained some muscle in the process, actually more that I had anticipated.  I did take pictures and there is a definitive improvement…but I think I’ll wait until after this next month’s challenge to make those public!

Cons:

For me, it was primarily the fact that my hips got incredibly tight. 2016-02-01 08.10.54They were bothering me before this started, so it wasn’t entirely attributed to the swings, but it was so much so that even as I jacked up my stretching with an emphasis on my hips and hip flexors, I never felt like I could get ahead of the swings.

Many people had an issue with their hands becoming tender, getting more calloused and even a few blisters.  I had absolutely no issue with my hands other than a new little blister right where my ring meets my hand, but it never bothered me one bit.  My not having an issue is partly due to the fact that my hands are somewhat conditioned to working, but I think it is more so the technique that I utilize.  I showed people how to grip more with your fingers and thumb and less with your hand it that seemed to alleviate the issue for most.

Wrap up:

As I mentioned above, I hit my goal of 10,000 on 1/20/16 and had every intention of continuing on until…the basement rehab project hit!  From Thursday the 21st until this past Saturday I probably put 2016-01-26 16.03.2765-70 hours into that little task.  I had a few days of nothing, a few days of a couple hundred and one day that I got my full 500.  I finished the month with 11,025 swings and a new basement!  I met my goal but “failed” to continue on consistently through the end of the month.  I HATE failure, but guess what?  I’m not mad at all.  I feel like I’m in the groove of making time for myself, was moving 12-18 hours/day on the days that I missed and have a new semi-finished basement to boot. That’s a good lesson that sometimes life gets in the way, but it is our responsibility when it does so to get back on the horse and ride that little pony until we get to where we need to go.  This is where I needed to go over those 9 days:2016-02-01 20.34.392016-02-01 20.35.42

I really like this concept and am going to continue to utilize swings, although not as much volume and likely not every single day.  I’ll probably hit 250+ swings a few days per week moving forward as I found a ton of benefits from this experiment.  I view utilizing swings in this manner kind of like I use walking; it’s not going to be relied upon as the primary aspect of my training, but when used consistently it adds tons of value to the big picture with minimal impact on the body.

Speaking of walking, click here for the February challenge and remember to let us know how many swings you ended up with for the month!

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