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Why I Created The Workout Challenge

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed a little while back and hit love on Bill’s photo of his son joining him and his wife for lunch.

Little did I know that it would be the last interaction I would have with a guy that I had worked with for nearly twenty years, one of the friendliest, funniest, and most sincere guys I’ve ever met. That night, Bill started feeling a little off, went out and laid down on the couch, and never got back up. He had suffered a massive heart attack.

Bill and Laurie
Bill and Wife Laurie

It is a story that is stuck on loop play in our society today. I don't know if Bill’s heart attack could have been prevented, but scientists estimate that one in five deaths in the US is related to being overweight. Black women are most at risk, with more than 1 in 4 deaths caused by being overweight, followed closely by white women with slightly over 1 in 5 deaths, so it’s not just a guy problem. More than 60 diseases including virtually all of the top killers such as cancer, stroke, heart disease, mental illnesses, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes have overweight or obese listed as one of their primary risk factors.

While starvation is a well-known killer, scientists now estimate that three times as many people die every year from being overweight as do from hunger. Thousands of people will wake up tomorrow and find that like Bill, their loved ones are no longer with them due to this silent killer. More people will die this year from this deadly foe than have been killed in any war since World War 2. That’s the enemy that I am trying to fight with the workout challenge, the enemy that I hope you will join me in fighting.

I’ve spent the better part of the last decade fighting this in my own life and then helping clients fight this as a weight loss coach. It’s not an easy battle. For me, I woke up in my thirties to the fact that I was forty pounds overweight. At first, it wasn’t about health, it was about not feeling good enough somehow, about not being happy with my body. I was battling depression even to the point of feeling suicidal, not even knowing at the time that being overweight was one of the top risk factors for many mental illnesses including depression.

I’m a guy that tends to take things to the extreme, so I signed up for a Tough Mudder on a dare as inspiration…one of the most physically challenging events on the planet, a half marathon run through a muddy obstacle course designed by British Special Forces. I couldn’t jog more than 50 yards without gasping for air and feeling like I was dying and I didn’t really want to do anything, but I believed I could do it. I joined the local runner’s club and started playing indoor soccer, and enjoyed the camaraderie that comes with that. As my physical health returned, so did my mental health and my depression evaporated, and I started to feel like me again.

I actually did complete the Tough Mudder, and then another two, but it was an unsustainable program. I was working out for an hour and a half every day, then running for another hour or two every day and longer on the weekends to get in that kind of shape. It was affecting my relationships, and with five kids, running a company, and a new wife I just couldn’t keep it up any longer. I hit the wall, burnt out, and almost entirely stopped working out and watching what I was eating.

A year or two later after burning out, I found myself mostly back to where I started. That’s when I realized that I had to come up with a sustainable program and reached out to a local personal trainer, Jeremy Ferry. In our first meeting, I expressed that my desire for training was “to look and feel good.”

I was worried because I knew that my previous routine of working out 3+ hours a day was not going to work, but something had to change. I was starting to get sick a lot more, felt my energy levels and mental state dropping, and just overall didn’t feel good anymore like I did when I was in great shape. Jeremy let me know that we could easily accomplish that goal with a routine of working out three times a week, for forty-five minutes to an hour plus eating a bit healthier. I was a little skeptical as it sounded too good to be true, but I could see the results Jeremy was getting for other clients and signed up that day.

Fast forward a few years, and I’ve found a sustainable program that I have been teaching to people. It’s not a short term diet or any crazy workout routine, it is simple, sustainable habits that you can build into your life.

I started the workout challenge earlier as a friendly challenge at the gym to help people stay accountable to each other, and learned that one of the most motivating factors is being part of a healthy community. When you develop friendships with people who are doing healthy things, you tend to do the same thing. When those around you are not doing healthy things, you tend to do that as well.

When Bill passed away, I wanted to do something to help get this story off of infinite loop. I thought about a weight loss program, but that’s hard to see.

Then it hit me that our little workout challenge could be scaled up to help teach healthy habits to the masses and that those who took the challenge could become motivating forces to help all of those around them become healthy. Just telling people to lose weight doesn’t work, you have to teach them habits they can maintain and show them what to do.

I had all the research at my fingertips from years of working on this issue, and bundled it together with cookbooks, T-Shirts, and the current physical activity guidelines for Americans and started giving it away. Gradually, people have begun joining the challenge, and it has already started gathering momentum which I hope will mean that we will create a healthier future for ourselves and our loved ones.

Maybe you’ll become that motivating force for your community.

I invite you to join me as we do our best to save some lives, one workout at a time. Click here to take the challenge.

-Don Smith, Founder
The Personal Growth Channel

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Don Smith

Don Smith is the founder of The Personal Growth Channel, LLC., and a certified life coach who helps people get results while maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Happily married with five children, he lives in Springfield, Illinois. If you would like to work with Don, please click here to visit his coaching page.