9 Lessons We Learned From Lifehacker’s 2021 Fitness Challenges

9 Lessons We Learned From Lifehacker’s 2021 Fitness Challenges
Illustration: Elena Scotti

It’s always worthwhile to try a new activity, I think. Even if you don’t surprise yourself by falling in love with it, you’ll probably learn something about yourself in the process. Lifehacker staffers have tried a variety of sports, tech, and habits over the past year, and here are some of the top lessons we’ve learned.

Get advice from people who have done the thing

Photo: Jordan Calhoun Photo: Jordan Calhoun

When you’re a newcomer to a well-trodden area, you don’t have to go it alone. Editor-in-chief Jordan Calhoun talked to multiple veteran skateboarders as he embarked on a quest to learn how to ollie. In doing so, he got tips on what to expect, which tricks to learn first, and how to stay motivated when things get frustrating.

Chasing function is more satisfying than aesthetics

Photo: Claire Lower Photo: Claire Lower

Every year, millions of people hit the gym in pursuit of a bigger and hotter arse. Senior food and beverage editor Claire Lower, by contrast, hit the gym in pursuit of elk. Yes, the animal. She got strong enough to be able to draw a 18 kg bow, and along the way just happened to get some butt workouts in. The result, she writes, was far more satisfying.

The best sleep tracker is the one between your ears

Illustration: Elena Scotti Illustration: Elena Scotti

It’s fascinating to see how long and how well you slept each night, and I can get as addicted as anyone to checking on my resting heart rate — no wait, my heart rate variability — no wait, my recovery score — you get the idea. But the truth about all these sleep tracking gadgets, like Whoop and Oura, is that they can’t replace the best way of gauging how rested we are, which is simply asking yourself how rested you feel.

There’s a catch to owning your own paddleboard

Photo: Beth Skwarecki Photo: Beth Skwarecki

My excursions in small watercraft taught me several things, but one of the lasting lessons is that there is a big difference between a cheap inflatable kayak and a cheap inflatable paddleboard. The kayak performs poorly but is quick and easy to inflate. The paddleboard, on the other hand, is perfectly serviceable on the water, but to use it you need a high quality electric pump, which nearly doubles the cost of a cheap board. Consider yourself warned.

Even yoga can be stressful

Photo: Maridav, Shutterstock Photo: Maridav, Shutterstock

There’s a learning curve to everything, and when you’re trying to learn on your own, you can easily get tripped up on the basics. Our podcast producer Micaela Heck wasn’t fazed by the movement part of yoga, but online instructors’ focus on the breath turned out to be the most stressful part. An in-person class might have helped, she writes. But it’s also a little comforting to know that if you find the easy part of a task to be difficult and awkward, you’re not alone.

You have to learn how to fail

Photo: Joel Cunningham Photo: Joel Cunningham

One of the first things our deputy editor Joel Cunningham learned when he cracked open a 1990s-era book on rollerblading is that you need to practice falling. It will happen eventually, so best to be prepared. That sounds like a good life lesson, to be honest.

Hydration is not the health secret you’ve been missing

Photo: 2p2play, Shutterstock Photo: 2p2play, Shutterstock

Water is important to health, for obvious reasons: Our bodies are made largely of water, and being dehydrated is not ideal for health. Our former tech editor, David Murphy, decided to test out the claims that being really hydrated is really good for you. After a month of chugging H2O, though, all he got was waterlogged. Not to say “I told you so” but…I told you so.

Virtual reality can’t replace the gym, but it is fun

Oculus has really been trying to convince us that VR fitness is the wave of the future, and I have to admit that several of the games you can play in virtual reality are fun and engaging. But can VR apps really give you a good workout? According to my experiments, they’re great for low intensity cardio, but that’s pretty much it.

Things are more fun when you get your kids involved

Photo: Joel Cunningham Photo: Joel Cunningham

I usually try to leave my kids behind when I’m working out — and while there’s a case to be made for going it alone, Joel Cunningham found that the best part of rollerblading wasn’t learning new tricks, but sharing the experience with his daughter.

Log in to comment on this story!