I have just BIG FAT FAILED my first ever Future Foundations 30 Day Challenge, and do you know what…I feel fine about it! Does this make me a giant defeatist? Am I in a state of post 30.D.C. denial? Honestly, I’d love you to read on and let me know!

The ‘30 Day Challenge’ is a personal goal that you set to improve your leadership of yourself and others. Here at Future Foundations examples of challenges alumni and staff have taken before are starting a new hobby, committing to a new habit which helps you become fitter and eating more healthily.  This time last month, along with a merry bunch of brand new FF recruits I made a pledge to attend a Bikram Yoga class 4 times per week for the next 4 weeks. For those of you blissfully unaware of Bikram, it is an intense 90 minute session of yoga consisting of 26 Hatha yoga postures, practiced in a room kept at a toasty 40 degrees centigrade. For the number crunchers among you my 30 Days would therefore consist of 16 X 90 minutes of sweat-drenched-stretching, almost 1,500 minutes (or 24 solid hours) of literally, bending over backwards. The odds were stacked…but I was ready!

Armed with my highly absorbent gym towel and a slight sense of foreboding I set off for my first class at the Bikram centre in Fleet, a 25 minute drive from home. The moment I walked into the studio I was hit by a wave of static hot air, heavy with the smell of other people’s feet. Thankfully, after a couple of minutes in the room the stench became less noticable – no doubt as my own body odours mingled with the rest. We were taken step by step through every pose and as we moved from the ‘half moon’ through to the ‘full locust’ and aptly named ‘awkward pose’. That first class was revelatory. Apart from a momentary panic that I recognised the serious looking man standing on one leg in his pants at the front from a meeting the previous week (now confirmed as a mistaken sighting!), nausea and general shock about how much the human body is capable of sweating without serious medical consequences, I loved it. The rush of achievement I felt from merely making it through that first 90 minutes intact(ish) was incredible…I was a Bikram SURVIVOR. Now, one month on I can proudly (yes, proudly) state that I have managed a full 7 sessions of Bikram yoga over the past month, not even half my stated goal but an achievement I feel really proud of.

The pride comes from knowing I’ve achieved approximately 100% more by taking on this challenge as a group effort than I would have done going it alone. I had made a public commitment and despite embarking on a very different and deeply personal journey, knowing that I was ‘in it’ with a group of other people, to whom I was both supported by and accountable  to got me much further than I would have otherwise. In those 7 Bikram sessions there were countless times where I felt incapable, like packing in and (true story) faking a spurious contagious disease to quit early, change my name and leave the country. The reason I stayed is that I wanted to prove myself, to me and my fellow challengers and I felt them standing shoulder to shoulder in spirit with me, willing me to succeed. This enabled the little voice inside of me, telling myself I could make it to the end of class to pipe up a little louder – and now that I’ve found it, I’m sure it can motivate me to continue with my new sweaty hobby over the next 30 days and beyond.

So, my fantastically flexible friends I would say my 30 day ‘Bikram’ challenge has been a success. I have discovered that heavy sweating, bending and deep nasal breathing is an unexpectedly enjoyable pastime. The physical and mental benefits are starting to show and the sense of achievement grows with every session. Yes, I have made some errors along the way, over reaching and overestimating my ability to control time (resulting in a number of parking tickets, missed trains and very late nights!) but I have set myself on the road to what will hopefully be a long term life-style choice with benefits to match. My advice for you? When committing to a new activity for a full month, the importance of logistics cannot be understated. Finding a spare 24 hours in a month (48 hours if you include the travel time!) means making some pretty major changes to daily routine and sacrifices in your personal and social life. But as the cheesy old adage goes, you need to reach for the moon to fall among the stars.

Future Foundations’ training programmes challenge young people to set ambitious goals and through experiential learning with guidance from expert coaches develop the confidence and skills to reach them. Every one of us has it within us to achieve our potential. Yes, it requires digging deep and at times sweating profusely but no matter where the road takes you, the one thing you must always remember is to keep moving forward and above all…enjoy the journey!

* Swell = Sweaty Hell