6 Marks of an Effective Fitness Challenge

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Challenge Yourself by Steph Beth Nickel

Whether you’re new to exercise or a professional athlete, you must challenge yourself physically if you want to see positive results.

A couple of months ago, I agreed to be a young lady’s accountability partner. She needed someone to gently but firmly keep her on track. Sounded good to me.

We both struggle with many of the same issues. We’re busy women. We have weight we would like to lose. We should exercise more regularly. We have a habit of eating whatever is readily available, including less-than-stellar fast food. We often struggle with motivation.

Although we rarely see one another in person, we stay in touch via text and a secret Facebook group we call “We Can Do This.” A few weeks back, she suggested we complete a fitness challenge. I was game and we went for it.

During the course of that challenge, we went from doing 10 squats on the first day to 100 on the last. (I plan to do a couple dozen every other day in order to maintain the strength I’ve developed.)

And now we’ve moved onto the second challenge. We are doing crunches, leg lifts, and a plank every day for the next month. We will go from doing 15 crunches, 6 leg lifts, and a 10-second plank to doing 160 crunches, 64 leg lifts, and a 155-second plank. To some of you, it may sound crazy, but when you increase incrementally, it’s amazing what you can accomplish.

If you’re in good physical shape, these specific challenges may seem insignificant, but the point is to challenge yourself and move from where you are to where you want to be.


So what are the marks of an effective fitness challenge?


1. Understandable

I can’t imagine life without the Internet, but the Web does have its drawbacks. Without having someone show you exactly how to do any given exercise, it’s possible to do it incorrectly and at one end of the scale, achieve little to no benefit, and at the other, actually cause injury. If the challenge doesn’t give clear instructions, do your research to avoid injury and maximize the benefits. In addition, consult your doctor to discuss concerns specific to you.


2. Progressive

As I mentioned, by the end of the squat challenge, we were doing 10x as many as we had been on Day 1. That’s what you want: a steady increase. And when you reach the last day, you just may be amazed.


3. Up-to-Date

Do your best to see that the challenges you participate in comply with the latest developments in sports medicine. What is considered safe and beneficial changes over the years. And what is considered acceptable for a short time may not be advisable for longer durations.


4. Achievable

If you take into account your physical condition, your schedule, and your determination, and come to the conclusion that you can see yourself being able to complete the first week of the challenge, then there’s a good chance you’ll stick with it. Of course a week isn’t statistically enough time to form a new habit, but if you’re 25 percent of the way to completing the challenge by the end of that week, that’s a great feeling and highly motivating. And speaking of motivation …


5. Motivating

If you look at the challenge and know from Day 1 that you’ll hate every minute of it, chances are you won’t stick with it. Now, some people would say they hate all exercise and only do it because they know they have to. Even so, if you find something you enjoy—even a little—it’s much more likely you will persevere.


6. Includes Rest Days

Not all challenges include rest days, but there are several reasons this is advisable, especially if you’re taxing yourself to the point of muscle fatigue. If you are, your muscles will be recovering and increasing in strength even on the days you’re not exercising. Getting stronger when I’m not working out … I like the sound of that.



Choose a challenge just out of reach. Then reach even higher. (tweet this)


Steph Beth Nickel is an author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She’d love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

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