I’m On a Challenge to Work Out Every Day For 100 Days
The other day, I decided to embark on the One Punch Man challenge with a bunch of my friends. The challenge is based on the workout routine of the protagonist of the anime, One Punch Man, Saitama. As of this writing, I am three days through with my challenge, and my whole body is in pain: it includes 100 days of 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 squats, and running 10 kilometers.
I’m a runner, and I have run every day for the past 46 days. I rely a lot on consistency for rhythm, and it’s better for me to run 4 miles on a given day than run every day. But the One Punch Man challenge is obviously a lot more than just running — the squats on the first day nearly killed my ability to transition from sitting and standing without pain.
I’m 23 years old and have been running for most of my life. I have been graced by mostly good health and privilege in that health, only being sidelined for a couple months during my sophomore year of college from a hip injury. Other than that, I have been durable and rarely get injured.
The One Punch Man challenge started off as a joke. And that’s exactly the way it should be. I and my seven friends are not participating in the One Punch Man challenge under the pretenses that it’s going to give us superhuman fitness and strength. A major premise of the show is that Saitama acquires superhuman strength doing a very pedestrian training regimen, especially when you compare it to the utterly ridiculously difficult training regimens of other anime heroes.
I don’t have any set routine for getting everything done, but one thing I know for certain is that I can’t do it all at once. That means I’ll wake up, have breakfast, and start doing work. I’ll set a timer for five minutes and set a goal for those five minutes — it’s usually somewhere in the range of 40 push-ups and 40 squats. Throughout the day, I’ll set blocks of time to do the rest. Sit-ups are probably the most inconvenient part of the challenge for me since I can’t do sit-ups keeping my feet still — so I always need someone to hold or sit on my feet.
I will note that I feel slightly cheated because I’m the only person of my friends doing the 10 kilometer run every day — and all my friends were runners in college. The past three days, I’ve run 6.2 miles, 9 miles, and 7.5 miles. As an experienced runner, the running is the most time-consuming, but the easiest part of the challenge.
A difficult part for me is that I’m not a numbers-oriented person. I hate checking my watch during my runs. I hate knowing how fast I’m running while I run. I love just focusing on the feel and not being ruled by time, but by effort. I actually ask people not to shout my times to me in the middle of races because I start to get in my own head and become too obsessive.
However, the One Punch Man challenge has ruled that I need to get over my desire to not live by the numbers. I don’t naturally do 100 push-ups a day without that much effort — as of now, it’s requiring me to force myself to get it done. The same goes for 100 squats and 100 sit-ups. I don’t finish each of these sets thinking “wow, I feel so great and accomplished today.” I finish each set thinking “wow, thank God that’s over and I don’t have to do a single push-up until tomorrow.”
The challenge has been fun, and it has been social. Being stuck in an apartment all day long from quarantine makes me feel antsy, and the exercise helps me wind down when I’m overwhelmed by virtual teaching or any other aspect of my life. I am currently holding down my job, my side hustles of writing and editing, and graduate school doing my master’s in special education at Johns Hopkins University. I’m doing the best I can. I won’t say I’m excelling at everything because I’m a solid B student in graduate school (I no longer strive for all A’s — I just want to pass), but trying to balance and manage everything makes me feel like I’m going crazy sometimes.
It’s important to also emphasize the importance of rest. Since I’ve started running more and incorporating all the supplementary exercise, I need to prioritize sleep, hydration, and eating better. I’ve gotten eight hours of sleep a night — and my diet has improved substantially as well — I no longer eat a Whopper from Burger King every day for lunch (that’s what happens when you live walking distance from Burger King).
Here, I will also emphasize how lucky and privileged you have to be if you want to engage in an exercise regimen. It’s not only about willpower and discipline. Eating well costs money. Running shoes cost a lot of money. A comfortable bed costs money. Running up the water bill taking showers costs money. I’m lucky enough to have all the resources I need to complete the challenge, and it’s important to not take that luck for granted.
Not only is social connectedness a huge benefit of the One Punch Man challenge, but I swear I’ve seen massive gains in my fitness in only three days. I’m serious — I didn’t have the same pecs or abs a couple days ago!
Okay, I’m toying a bit here. You have to do these kinds of things for a long, extended amount of time before you see any real benefits in anything, since consistency is a large part of the game.
I will say that I’m growing significantly more disciplined. I make deals with myself often:
Ryan, you can play 30 minutes of the PS4 if you do 100 squats.
Ryan, you can watch an episode of season 1 of True Detective if you do sit-ups the whole time
These deals make it so the One Punch Man challenge isn’t an abrupt and rude interruption into my daily life, but is instead incorporated into my routine. Yes, I wonder what my roommate’s dog thought while I did squats for five minutes while holding a PS4 controller and being completely immersed in a game. But on one occasion, my roommate’s dog thought I wanted to play while I was doing squats, and jumped at me in the process. Now, I try not to exercise while he’s around because he gets too excited.
I will say the challenge is also making me better at counting — which I didn’t realize was such a problem for me before. I will frequently be in the process of doing push-ups or squats, and then realize “oh wait, was that 40 squats or 30 squats?” Since I don’t want to cheat myself or cheat the challenge, I err on the side of conservatism there, so on some days, I might actually be overdoing it.
Regardless, it’s all for fun and laughs. And that’s exactly the way it should be. I don’t anticipate to look like the Hulk or the Wolverine after the challenge, but I’m joking around a lot and doing some serious exercise in the process.
Since my minimum run every day is increased to 10 km, I’ve needed some help. I hate running alone, so having three running partners I work out with has helped substantially. I’ve been running a lot with a friend who’s trying to break 4 minutes in the mile. A week ago, he brought me with him on a workout where he did about 10 kilometers on the track at 4:48 mile pace, and I hung on for as long as I could on reps at that pace. I did three 600 meter intervals at 4:48 mile pace, and felt like I was going to die — but it was a great effort, and he’s been bringing me on a lot of runs where we explore and where he pushes me on hill sprints or on just faster than I’m used to easy runs.
Having those accountability partners push me on runs, but the rest of the challenge has been a game-changer.
I have always been pretty thin and skinny because I run, and my family always pesters me about being too skinny. After the challenge, however, I won’t be completely jacked in the Hugh Jackman Wolverine sense, but I do plan on being more toned. Above all, my mental health is improving, I’m less stressed, and I’m sleeping better — what more can you ask?
A big drawback of the challenge is the resources it requires — the run itself is pretty time-consuming, and it’s pretty energy-consuming too. I give myself time and the space to feel like a zombie after every run, which is about two or three hours where I don’t get anything done and just rest and recover mentally and physically. Sometimes, I just lay on the bed and don’t do anything — it’s important to give myself permission for that.
Regardless, a big takeaway is to keep challenges and fitness goals like fun. I am not a fitness guru in any sense of the word. I’m just a regular guy who teaches during the day and does graduate school, writing, and editing at night. It might not seem like I need more distractions, but keeping a holistic view of my needs instead of being hyper-focused on productivity has been very balancing.
The trivial and humorous nature of the One Punch Man challenge has been a larger lesson to me to stop taking everything so seriously. Even if I don’t complete the challenge, it’s really no big deal. These aren’t high stakes like the more serious things in life, which are relationships and family.
I’m on a challenge to work out every day for 100 days, and it’s important, no matter what, to keep it fun.