It’s Move-the-Needle Monday!

Because good things come in threes, it's time for the third week of your Dream Big challenge. We've got all the details (and the science) to help you take your mind and body to the next level.

It’s the third week in our month-long quest to help you get stronger, healthier, and happier. (If you’re new to this program, click here first to get caught up to speed). We know you’ve been putting in some serious work with your chosen challenge—reading more, intermittent fasting, or running faster. If you haven’t already, please stop what you’re doing and give yourself a pat on the back. You rock!

But this week we want you to brag on yourself…just a bit. It’s time to tell the world (or just a friend or family member) about the personal goal you are crushing. Being descriptive in what you want to accomplish and holding yourself accountable to other people will help you get there faster.

An easy way to put yourself out there is to join the Dream Big and Get There community and show us what you've got on Instagram or Facebook at #DreamBigGetThere, and we’ll reshare and cheer you on! Let’s do this—together.

Dream Big: Read an Entire Book This Month

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Week 3: Read 25 Minutes Every Day

The science: Take a minute to check in with yourself. Are you seeing any benefits to your well-being since you started reading more this month? For one, reading could be helping you feel less stressed. A University of Sussex study found that reading just six minutes a day can slow down your heart rate and improve overall health, reducing stress up to 68%, according to the World Literacy Foundation. For an extra stress-reliever, add in a couple of minutes focusing on your breath before you settle in for your next chapter. You’ll have a pretty good self-care plan going in no time.

Move-the-Needle Monday: We’re bumping up our daily reading time to 25 minutes this week. In pages, that should take care of about 75 more of your 300-page book. Remember, whatever is left of your book at the end of this weekend is what you have to finish in the fourth and final week of this challenge, so adjust your pages-per-day goal accordingly. It may mean reading a few minutes more or less each day depending on your personal reading pace.

The plan: Try shifting your reading to the afternoons on Saturday and Sunday this weekend. Doing this can help it to feel less like a chore and more like a gift. You may even feel like extending your reading time because it’s so enjoyable. LaShawn Wiltz, a Decatur, GA-based booklover, lifestyle blogger, Instagrammer, and owner of the book-subscription service Pouring Over Books says she usually sets aside a good chunk of her Saturdays for reading. “I take a break from mommy and wife duties and I read. I don’t cook and clean,” Wiltz says. Reading time then becomes a welcome respite from workweek stress for her and it feels luxurious.

Top tip: If your schedule is nonstop (we all have those weeks) and you are struggling to get your reading time in, audiobooks can be your saving grace. Wiltz sometimes checks out the audiobook and hard-copy versions of the same book as a sort of “tag-team” approach to getting through the pages. She may read a chapter or two of the book, then listen to the next chapter in the car or while cleaning the house. You can subscribe to a service like Audible, or check out audiobooks from your local library. There are even some free titles on services like Spotify.

Dream Big: Run Three Miles in 30 Minutes

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Week 3: Build Your Endurance

Here’s the science: There are benefits to running longer distances but one of the most important to your overall health might be improving your VO2max. V-Oh-What? You ask. VO2max is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can consume while exercising. The more fit you are, the stronger your cardiorespiratory fitness is, and the more efficient your body is. According to a research review published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, moderately trained healthy individuals saw improvements in their VO2max after five to 13 weeks of endurance training. While we may not be training together for that long, you can still be on your way to a stronger, better-functioning body.

Move-the-Needle Monday: Track your progress on the first run of the week. You'll be running for 20 minutes, so how close to reaching two miles are you? Using this check-in as a measurement can help you determine how to run during your other workouts this week. For instance, if you’re feeling good and finishing strong after 20 minutes of running, try running slightly faster during Wednesday’s run. If 20 minutes was difficult to complete, consider resting on Tuesday so you go into Wednesday’s run with fresh legs.

Just like the prior two weeks, you will be asked to run at easy, moderate, and hard paces. As a refresher:

  • An easy pace is one where you can carry on a conversation easily without being breathy. If you were to rate your effort on a scale of one to 10, it would rank a 2-to-3.

  • A moderate pace would be one where that conversation starts getting breathy and you would rank the effort between 4-to-6.

  • And, a hard pace makes talking difficult and the effort ranks at 7 or above.

The plan:

  • Monday: Running workout #1

    • Warm-up for 10-15 minutes with a light jog.

    • Run for 20 minutes at an easy pace, walk for one minute, and then run as fast as you can for five minutes.

  • Tuesday: Cross training

    • Swim, cycle or do yoga for 30 minutes.

  • Wednesday: Running workout #2

    • Warm-up for 10-15 minutes with a light jog.

    • Run for 20 minutes at a moderate pace.

  • Thursday: Rest

  • Friday: Running workout #3

    • Warm-up for 10-15 minutes with a light jog.

    • Run for 25 minutes at a moderate pace.

  • Saturday: Cross training (or rest)

    • Swim, cycle or do yoga for 30 minutes.

  • Sunday: Rest

Top tip: This week’s rest days are non-negotiable. Next week, it’s time to hit your goal so you want to make sure your body is healthy and ready to do so. “Listen to your body,” says Andrew Watkins, director of strength and conditioning at Sports Performance Lab in Middletown, NJ. “I have seen many athletes suffer from long-term injuries just because they didn’t take care of their bodies and take a day off.” If you don’t rest, you may be at-risk for overreaching. This occurs when you push your body too hard and it takes a few days to recover. When this happens, your body stops adapting to training stimuli. Your speed and distance workouts don’t help you getter faster or go longer; instead, these workouts just place more stress on your body.

Dream Big: Intermittent Fast for One Week

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Week 3: Eat Only During an 8-Hour Window

The science: Intermittent fasting (IF) isn’t just about shedding a few extra pounds. It’s an approach to eating that’s been shown to have positive, long-term effects for your overall health. “There are many potential benefits besides weight loss, including healthier blood lipids, blood sugar, blood pressure, inflammatory markers, and body composition. All of this can decrease our odds of developing chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, and even dementia,” says Ryan Andrews, a registered dietitian and adjunct instructor for SUNY in Purchase, NY.

Move-the-Needle Monday: A smaller feeding window doesn’t mean that you should spend your available eating time gorging on anything you can get your hands on. Amy Allen-Chabot, Ph.D., a registered dietitian and professor of nutrition at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, MD, warns, “My concern is that people who adopt a 16:8 hour fast-to-feeding schedule think they can eat anything they want during the hours they can eat. Fasting for 16 hours is not a license to eat junk food for the other eight hours.” Long-term research shows that a diet rich in whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, and healthy fats found in fish, nuts, and plant-based oils is still the most recommended style of eating for health and disease prevention, so focus on eating quality foods when you do break your fast.

The plan: Your goal this week is to eat only three meals—and no snacks—during an eight-hour time period. Sound impossible? This will involve more planning on your part. If you’re working in an office for eight hours, you will need to pack most (if not all) of your meals. Consider delaying your breakfast until 10 a.m., breaking for lunch at about 2 p.m., and eating dinner before you leave the office at 5:30 p.m., so that your fasting can begin by 6 p.m. sharp.

Top tips: If you are still struggling with hunger at this point, rest assured that it will subside over time as your body adjusts to your new schedule. Most experts agree that it takes about two to three weeks for your body’s hunger pangs during a fasting period to subside. Drink several glasses of water in the morning while fasting, or sip on decaf coffee in the evening to help keep hunger at bay. Take a brisk morning walk or evening stroll to take your mind off all the goodies in the cupboards and the fridge.

Contributors: Danielle Gamiz, Carey Rossi, Carmen Roberts