How a 10-Day Exercise Challenge Changed my Brain – and 6 Tips to Jump Start your Workouts

Project Healthy Ali 

In mid-January, my go-getter attitude put me up to a 10-Day Exercise Challenge. At that time, I was deep in my annual “self-employed boss lady January administrative doldrums.” January is always a tough time of year thanks to deadlines for 1099s, W2s, tax planning, bank reconciliations, employee reviews, budgeting, blah blah blah. Coincidentally, this was also the gap between finishing my Project Healthy Body 101 course and starting my Connections course. I was missing and needing community more than ever.

ali 3So one day while riding my Peloton bike, I wrote an Instagram post encouraging friends and fellow PHB clients to do an Exercise Challenge. Within minutes, I learned that about fifteen women from my Instagram network were onboard. That’s what started my 10-Day Challenge where I asked each person to take a photo of ANY type of exercise they were doing – even if it was just a quick plank or a pic of their shoe laces – and then tag me in an Instagram post.

Voila! After 24 hours I could already feel the feels and loved the camaraderie from participating friends from all over the world. Literally…Luxembourg, Sweden, Mississippi, Idaho, Washington, New York, New Jersey and close to home in California. My mom even did it!

What began as a 10-Day Any Type of Exercise Challenge with my Insta friends has since turned into a daily fix. I have essentially taken decision making in workouts out of the equation. I’m into the coach Jennifer Joffe and Nike territory of “Just Do It,” not hem and haw over whether to do it. I just do it! It’s so simple now. If only eating could be this simple for me.

Since this is PHB and we’re all about being honest with ourselves (and Instagram) now is a good opportunity for me to address what’s challenging for me. Spoiler Alert: it’s not exercising for days and hours on end. It’s prioritizing my food choices. And that’s one of my main reasons for continuing on in the Connections class. I’m exploring and learning how to make good choices, how to fuel myself effectively and how to make a “proper” plate and just sit down and eat calmly for goodness sake. I’m always on the run whether at home with kiddos or at work running my company. I’m loving the challenge and embracing the learning curve. I am sharing this because I want to be honest with my journey and help other women.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, “In a study of Division 1 NCAA athletes, over one-third of female athletes reported attitudes and symptoms placing them at risk for anorexia nervosa.” I’d imagine for elite and Olympic level athletes this is more like 60-70% of all female athletes, particularly if they are in a weight bearing sport like rowing. While I have never suffered from anorexia I can safely say my relationship with food has been far from healthy. I’ve typically always “out-trained” or “outrun” a poor diet. This doesn’t mean I’ve ever eaten Doritos all day, it actually just means bites here and there of average quality food, while hoping that it provided the fuel I needed to succeed. Transitioning from competitive high school athlete to college rower to elite athlete training anywhere from 5-8 hours per day requires different and better nutrition and I never educated myself. I don’t blame my coaches or the system because I actually don’t think they had the answers either.

PHB has helped me become aware of this now 25 year pattern. I love the work I’m putting into this personal awakening and look forward to continuing to be a healthier person inside and out.

Now, back to the tips!

If you are struggling to kickstart your fitness routine or hit your 10,000 steps, here are a Six Tips that can help…

Tip #1: Do not allow yourself to debate a workout.

Just make a plan and do it. No excuses; just move. Even if moving means running in place in your kitchen (while wearing your Fitbit, of course).

Tip #2: Make your workouts convenient.

I have moved my Peloton bike into the center of  my living room – and consequently moved our dining table out. I have no plans to host a 12 person sit down dinner anyway…I’m way too busy accomplishing life goals. By moving my bike and dumbbells to the central hub of our house, I am smack in the middle of the family action. I can literally parent while riding my bike. With small kids, a hunky farmer husband who works very early and very late hours, and the two businesses I am running, it is not a realistic goal for me to get to the gym more than the twice-weekly 5:00am sessions that I commit to with my trainer.

Tip #3: Guilt-free screen time.

The trade off for my at-home workout routine is that my kids get screen time. Kiddopia and YouTube Kids are my friends and I unapologetically love it. The rest of the day, I am an overachieving parent and limit screen time – but when it comes to fitting in my workouts, I’m all for it!

Tip #4: Don’t expect every workout to be glorious.

Even though I am an Olympic athlete, I am typically not trying to set personal records. And frankly, I don’t get a lot of  uninterrupted exercise time. So the moral of the story here is that any minutes are better than no minutes. If I can train two active boys (3 years and 18 months) to hold tight while I ride, anybody can.  For the moms with small kiddos out there, another pro tip is that I make the kids breakfast, strap them in their seats, dole out the iPad, games, toys, and then jump on the bike immediately.

Tip #5: Invest in your partner.

My success partner/accountability partner, Amanda, and I support eachother on our fitness quests. For example, we will send each other a picture or quick video whenever we do a plank. Flat stomach summer of 2019 here we come! I love the accountability with Amanda and I would never let her down, which helps keep me engaged in my fitness. She’s my people and her success is my success and vice versa – we’re both invested and gently help to keep eachother on track. Lean into your relationships and ask for help when you need it!

Tip #6: Lastly, social media.

Sometimes I hate social media but when it comes to fitness, it can be a great tool. Coach Jennifer challenged me to be more vulnerable, , so I took her advice and ran with it. And thank goodness I did. The public accountability on social media has been a great help and something I now rely on. However, an even bigger driver for me has been the DM’s and texts from friends thanking me for helping to get their tooshes off the couch. The fact that I am helping people get healthier while getting healthier myself is #winning! And don’t even get me started about the number of women who are really diving deep and signing up for PHB because of my vulnerability on social media.

*Please note…First, I am not a spokesperson for Peloton, although I should be. Secondly, yes they should be paying me for the constant promotion. Thirdly, the Peloton branded XL pants are just now fitting – oh heyyyy now!!!

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About Ali: 
Ali Cox is a Project Healthy Body client and advocate. She is currently leaning into her health journey which includes goals to keep up with her two boys as a fit mom, make time for herself daily, run her marketing agency with positive energy and to be healthier than ever before. Which is saying something because she competed in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens where she helped her boat win an Olympic Silver Medal. Follow @alicoxverissimo for shameless fitness posts!



  1. Great post – you should write more often 😉. Keep piling up those little wins – I see the changes inside and out!

  2. You look amazing Ali and I LOVE your IG posts and encouragement to all of us busy moms. Thank you for such an insightful write!!!

  3. Dearest Ali, You have always been such an inspiration to me as well as my go younger “sister” who can have fun like no one else. Thank you for sharing this and for your encouragement to commit 100% to Project Healthy Eating! Love you, Al

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