Do your New Year’s resolutions to be a healthier you seem long gone now? Or do you struggle to set fitness goals in the first place? Read on for a few ideas to get out of your comfort zone and to challenge yourself physically. Your body (and mind!) will thank you for it!
Below are two time-bound challenges that will kick your fitness up to the next level. Choose one or the other, depending on whether you want to improve your strength or your endurance – or do what I’m doing and combine both!
Hundred pushups challenge
This is exactly what it says on the tin. Over the course of six weeks – or more if you need to repeat some weeks like I do – you build up to doing 100 consecutive pushups. That may sound scary, but don’t click away yet – the programme starts with a test of how many pushups you can do and then tailors your (short) workouts to your current level. I started really really slowly and I am doing them on my knees (“easy pushups”) – but I am still going when others have given up!
This challenge is entirely free, all you might need is a piece of paper to jot down your progress – and progress you will!
Build up to running 30 minutes
This is a good challenge if the idea of running scares you a bit, but that you are fit enough to run for a bus. If you feel like you can’t run for two minutes consecutively, scroll down to the walking challenge and start building up your fitness that way. The running plan prepares you to run 30 consecutive minutes by incorporating walking between bouts of running.
You will need some kind of running shoes – running in Converse does you no good – I recommend Brooks and Saucony, but the important thing is to try them on and find something comfortable for your feet. Buying shoes might be the incentive you need to follow through – in order to get a return on your investment – but don’t let lack of kit stop you though! Many people around the world run barefoot, so don’t use excuses to delay reaping the benefits of running. 🙂
Summer is also a great time to start: running will give you an opportunity to go out and enjoy the great outdoors! If you’re a regular runner, take your running to the next level by signing up for a 10K or a half-marathon in a few months and building up to that!
Soft ways to get moving
Walk your way out of a sedentary lifestyle
There are many articles about the dangers of sitting too much and about the benefits of walking. If you want a simple way to incorporate more movement into your day, try to set your sights on walking more: take the stairs, walk to the shops, get off the bus a stop early, go for a lunchtime stroll… You’ll rack up 500 miles in no time!
I’m a big believer in “what gets measured gets managed” so if you want to set this as an actual goal for the next month or season, you’re better off tracking your progress. This could be either ticking a day off your calendar for every evening you go for a 30 minute walk, or setting yourself targets with a Fitbit bracelet through the associated app. Many people use steps as their unit of measurement (for instance aiming for 10,000 steps per day). I choose active minutes as my metric, increasing my daily goal every month by five minutes in order to build up to what is recommended my Daily Dozen app: 40 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity or 90 minutes of moderate-intensity activity.
Find what feels good with a yoga challenge
Before you roll your eyes at the idea of a yoga challenge, check in with yourself: how flexible are you right now? Can you touch your toes? Do you get aches in your back, shoulders or legs? You may not immediately identify with yoga as something for you, but it might be the very thing you need!
For anyone starting with yoga or wanting to refresh their yoga practice, I sincerely recommend Yoga with Adriene! It’s a Youtube channel so it’s free and you can practice folding yourself into a pretzel in the intimacy of your own home. You don’t even need a yoga mat to start – a blanket, towel or rug could do!
Adriene is funny and “real” (there is very little spiritual “woo woo” in her videos). She makes yoga a very enjoyable way to work out the kinks. Adriene has several series (playlists on YouTube) adapted to different goals, including month long series. Some are slower and more focused on meditation and breathing whereas others will be more of a physical challenge. I recommend trying the first video of a few series, then following through with the vibe that resonated most with you.
Try yoga, you might surprise yourself!
If you’re feeling quite stuck and unhappy with your health / fitness / appearance and want to make a big change, you could do worse than trying the Abs Diet. Yes, yes, it has the word diet in it and I don’t like it either, but I believe it provides a good introduction to strength training and fuelling your body. There are several editions of the book: the Abs Diet for men and for women are very similar, with a few extra chapters in the women’s version.
The book guides you through how to focus your diet on building blocks of health – though I prefer the Daily Dozen app for this as the latter doesn’t promote eating meat. The book’s main virtue is the detailed workouts (that you can do at home or the gym): you get a six week plan and images to illustrate each movement. You don’t even need to buy weights, at first heavy things you can find around the house will do. If you want to see some changes, order the book, then start reading and applying its principles!
If this all seems a bit overwhelming, take one simple step: find a fun and appealing class at your local gym / swimming pool / leisure centre and sign up for a taster class today! Bonus points if you then pay for several classes upfront – this will provide an incentive to follow through. I’m personally hesitating between CrossFit and something dance-related such as salsa, any recommendations?
Despite personally being obsessed with tracking my weight and body fat percentage with my new toy, I do believe it is more important to focus on the process and efforts of fitness, rather than on the immediate results. So set yourself a goal to challenge your body and discipline this summer and make sure you follow through!
So, which challenge will you try? Please use the comments section or my contact page to suggest other challenge ideas or to share issues you face with body image, fitness or discipline, so that we can work through them together!