The Self Challenge

The March issue of Self kicks off the magazine's annual "Self Challenge," a three-month total body shape-up. More than 360,000 women have taken the challenge so far, and this year, The Early Show co-anchors Julie Chen, Rene Syler and Hannah Storm are taking part in hopes of achieving their own long-term fitness goals.

The plan is centered on customization and coaching, with bigger challenges each month. Indeed, each of the co-anchors is seeking different results from the program.

Hannah feels she has a weak core (the abdomen and back). She says, "You know from having children, that can take a toll on the strength in this part of your body. I've been working on that a lot -- also on upper body strength, because I'm pretty scrawny up here. I have to pick up my kids and cope with them."

Julie, who has been doing Pilates and yoga regularly, didn't get her heart pumping very often. She says, "The next three months, I want to do more heart-healthy (exercise) and be more aerobic. I don't want to do running." So she has added cycling to her fitness routine, and she is finding it is not so easy to do. "I didn't realize how out of shape I am that way, because I'm always out of breath after six minutes."

With Rene, toning and defining are her goals. She wants more upper-body strength and needs to sculpt her targeted areas, so she has started cross training.

She notes, "Because I have a personal history with breast cancer, I want to keep my weight under control. That's important for me. And as I move into middle age, I want to be strong with my children. I'm working more...on strength training. It's not enough to pose and look how great I am. I want to be able to board an aircraft and put my bag into the overhead bin and not take my shoulder out of commission."

Self editor-in-chief Lucy Danziger says the challenge, now in its eighth year, is popular because, "It's doable, there are days off, and you can determine your strengths and guidelines." There's also a Web site that allows participants to track their progress and motivate each other.

Month 1's four-part plan includes:

  • Three 30-minute cardio workouts per week (walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, etc.)
  • Two 15-minute ab workouts per week (Self suggests four easy moves that target your core)
  • Two 20-minute strength and stretch sessions per week (to sculpt and lengthen muscles)
  • Daily healthy eating guidelines (meal and snack suggestions, recipes and nutrition advice)

    Danziger says, "The truth, for most women who don't have a personal trainer, they want the support and the accountability of the challenge. With the Self Challenge, it allows you to keep a log, find a buddy online and form a team. There are things online so you can have the feeling of having a trainer."

    Over the course of three months, challengers build up to a certain level of exercising, so the first month you're feeling better.

    Danziger notes, "We give you a lot of flexibility. It even builds in credit. If you go dancing or turn off the TV and do something active with your child, you get a credit. Three mean you skip a workout because there are days you don't feel well or have an early flight and it's not practical - a lot of flexibility.

    By the second month, you may have dropped a dress size.

    Danziger points out, "One of the things, there is a nutritional element. You all are in great shape but a lot of them need to lose weight. 100,000 women did it last year and many said they needed to lose weight. You eat fewer calories if you eat every two or three hours. Don't starve yourself and pig out at dinner. That's the trap most women fall into. We do have more great workout ideas and more great nutrition ideas coming out next month."

    So why not join the co-anchors? You can sign up online; you can do it in the magazine; or at any Nike Town store.

    Stay tuned for more.