There’s nothing like a fun fitness challenge to spice up a flagging routine. Here are some of the best to tick off your list in 2023…
As sure as night follows day, the start of a new year always has us itching to pull on our activewear and get moving. But if the thought of returning to the same old routine isn’t firing up your fitness mojo, how about tackling something a little more testing?
We’re talking fitness challenges – from the long-term project (such as nailing a handstand in a month) to the fun, viral quickies (think the five-minute plank challenge). Some will have you honing your technique as you progress week to week, while others are more like mini games that challenge you to complete 50 lunges a day or as many burpees as you can in a minute.
Commit to a fitness challenge in 2023 and you could not only improve your overall fitness but also work new muscle groups, perfect your technique, learn a whole new skill and inject a bit of fun into a dull workout routine.
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We’ve rounded-up some of our favourite fitness challenges to provide some workout inspiration to keep you going all year. Ready for it? Select your challenge…
The five-minute plank challenge
If you think the idea of anything more than 60 seconds in plank position sounds like a personal hell, don’t dismiss the five-minute plank challenge just yet.
This isn’t about holding a plank for five minutes straight, but five minutes in total in any plank variation throughout the day – that could be four one-minute elbow planks and a couple of side planks over different sessions. Read what one writer learned when she attempted this challenge – and make sure you’re nailing the technique with PT Emma Obayuvana’s four-week plank challenge on the Strong Women Training Club. This won’t just give you a super-strong core – planks are a full body workout.
The wall sit challenge
Want to build core, glute and lower-body strength without breaking into a sweat? The wall sit challenge is for you. This isometric (static) exercise is great for runners, cyclists and swimmers, but also anyone who wants to boost their strength and endurance.
You can vary the frequency and length of hold to suit your level, but as a guide follow one writer’s attempt to do wall sits every day for 30 days. Strong Women Training Club’s Dottie Fildes will take you through a four-week programme, culminating in the final challenge: holding a wall sit for 100 seconds.
The 50 squats challenge
Love ’em or hate ’em, squats are another of those simple, do anywhere, bodyweight exercises that are great for improving leg and glute strength as well as joint mobility. Like many fitness challenges you can vary this to your liking – one writer even attempted the torturous-sounding ‘100 squats challenge’ for a month, which she adapted to ensure those 100 moves were performed over a week with rest days in between to avoid over-training.
For Strong Women Training Club, Dottie Fildes has created a five-week squat challenge, an achievable plan that involves mastering control and form, so you can complete 50 squats in a row.
Nail a handstand in a month
I often stare wistfully at yogis on Instagram performing effortless handstands, wondering why on earth I can’t master something that was second nature to me at primary school. Handstands are hard. They require upper-body strength, balance and courage – nailing one not only gives you a massive sense of achievement but yogis believe the inverted position does wonders for our physical and mental health.
Yoga app Alo Moves offers a 31-day programme for beginners to learn a handstand. Short, daily workouts (which also take in the splits and push-ups for good measure) will build towards that impressive handstand by the end of the month. Find out how one writer got on with the handstand challenge.
The 30-day splits challenge
While we’re in ‘impressive moves I want to plaster all over Instagram’ territory (ahem, I mean, moves to increase my flexibility and resilience), how about achieving the splits in 30 days?
Think next-level flexibility isn’t you? Give it a go and find out. One writer, who believed herself to forever be the “inflexible girl”, did just that after following the online challenge #JourneytoSplits by Cassey Ho. Daily stretching exercises build you up to performing full, down to the ground, front splits in a month.
Master a full press-up
Press-ups are a great bodyweight exercise to strengthen your back and shoulders when you don’t have weights to hand. Press-up pro and PT Alice Miller has devised a plan for beginners to master a full press-up in four weeks. Or follow Janine George’s eight-part push-up challenge on the Strong Women Training Club, with specific focus on form and technique.
The 12:3:30 challenge
After emerging from the home of viral challenges – TikTok (or rather, FitTok) – the 12:3:30 workout has been strutting its way into gym routines, with Pure Gym even declaring the it one of the biggest fitness trends for 2023 after noting a huge 309% increase in interest.
The idea is simple enough: set a treadmill to a 12% incline and 3mph (or 4.8kmph) speed, then simply walk for 30 minutes. The continual uphill strut is a good, low-impact way to increase your heart rate, strengthen the lower body and practise one of our favourite ways to stay fit (walking is sooo good for us).
Is it a challenge though? We say yes – it’s tough going and sometimes a bit boring on your own (a mental challenge in itself) so bring a workout buddy or listen to a motivating playlist to get you through.
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Run 5k… then run 10k
Is 2023 the year you embrace a new fitness hobby? Running is one of the easiest to get into as no specialist equipment is needed, just a decent pair of running shoes. Beginners may struggle with stamina so having an achievable goal can motivate you – popular app Couch to 5K is a great way to build progress and reach your target in nine weeks.
And once you’ve smashed a 5k, train to run a full 10k run in just four weeks with this programme by UK Athletics running coach Angela MacAusland. You might want to supplement it with this Strength Training for Runners plan to get you in peak condition for the challenge.
One month skipping challenge
Want an alternative cardio workout to running? Skipping (or jump rope, in fitness parlance) is another playground favourite you may not have tried since school, but is a fab full-body workout that revs up the heart rate and sharpens coordination.
Social media is full of jump roping inspo (check out @MiaJumpRope and @LaurenJumps on Instagram) – and you too could be bouncing about to your own trick-heavy routines if you commit to practicing on a regular basis. Find out how this writer got on when she skipped three times a week for a month.
Create your own fitness challenge
Of course, you could always devise your own personal challenge – whether it’s short, like this TikToker’s core-crunching one-minute abs challenge, or something ambitious, like this runner’s challenge to run the entire length of the London Underground.
Just remember to push yourself (it is a ‘challenge’ after all) but make it achievable – the sense of accomplishment is worth it. But don’t beat yourself up if you don’t hit your goal: all of that trying adds up to a whole lot of learning. At the end of the day, any movement is good!
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