Expert Articles

Fitness Challenges 101

We’ve all seen fitness challenges popping up all over social media and blogs claiming things like “rock-hard abs in 30 days” and “get swimsuit-ready in two weeks.” Before you get too excited about a seemingly quick way to obtain the body of your dreams, make sure you educate yourself about what kinds of exercises are right for you and how you can recognize a good fitness challenge from a hoax.

A fitness challenge is a set of daily workouts created to be done within a given timeframe. It will tell you what exercises and how many reps of that exercise to do each day. The goal of many fitness challenges is to target a specific muscle group or to master a specific type of exercise. Fitness challenges come in many forms, ranging from simple charts that can be printed off to an online program with interactive videos, trainers, and forums.

Whether you decide to take on a fitness challenge or not, it’s important to remember that no matter what the creator of the challenge may claim, simply completing that one challenge is not going to yield a long-term transformation. In fact, depending on the challenge, it may be more beneficial to avoid doing it at all. If you are really serious about getting in shape or losing weight, no single fitness challenge is going to do that for you. You need to take on a new mindset and you need to remember that in order to see permanent results, you need to make some lifestyle changes and plan on keeping those changes for the rest of your life.

That being said, there are some fitness challenges out there that are carefully written by experts and will yield results if done correctly. So if you’re dabbling with the idea of starting one, first read this article to get a better idea of what you should look for and what you’re getting yourself into.

The Pros and Cons of Doing a Fitness Challenge

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First, let’s explore why or why not do a fitness challenge.

Pros

  • Motivation: Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what exercises you should do each day on your own. With a fitness challenge, somebody has already done all the work for you, and it is usually in the form of a well-organized, easy-to-read chart. Being able to see what the progress will be and in what increments may be just what you need to get motivated to work out.
  • A Sense of Community: Many online fitness challenges have question-and-answer and group discussion forums. This enables you to receive personalized feedback and see how others who are tackling the same challenge are doing. The personalized feedback gives you someone to answer to and reading other people’s comments may help you feel like you have a support group, thus helping to keep you motivated to keep going.
  • A Starting point: There are many people who want to get into shape but have no idea where to start because they don’t have a fitness background. A simple fitness challenge with day-to-day goals can help people get started and build up more confidence to learn about more ways to stay fit.
  • Fun: Being able to see what you’ve completed so far and what you have left can make exercising more fun.
  • Education: As with anything else, the more you do something, the more you learn. Once you really put your mind to finishing a fitness challenge, you’re committing yourself to learn how to do the exercises, giving yourself first-hand experience, and opening doors to learning more and more about keeping yourself fit and healthy.

Cons

(Note: these are the pitfalls you may face if you’re not careful about the kind of fitness challenge you decide to do. Educate yourself, choose wisely, and these adverse effects can be avoided!)

  • Discouragement: Fitness challenges may look easy on paper, but you’ll find that, like most things in life, actually doing them is a different story. You may be discouraged at how much harder it is than you expected, leading you to quickly burn out and quit.
  • No results: You need to know that if dramatic results are promised within a short time frame, it is only to catch your attention and those are not the actual results you’re going to get, especially if you’re a beginner. Any gains you do think you see from doing the challenge will only disappear as soon as you stop doing that exercise. Tell yourself right now that there is no magical formula for permanent results; fitness needs to be an ongoing thing.
  • No trainer/may cause injury: There is an actual physical danger associated with a lot of seemingly simple fitness challenges: unless you know how to do the exercise correctly, you are risking injury, or encouraging bad technique and form, which will also eventually lead to injury.
  • Not simple: The cute fonts and smart design of the fitness challenge may make it look simple, but getting in shape is never simple or easy. Don’t be duped, and prepare to work hard.
  • Numbers over technique: There are a lot of fitness challenges where the only goal is to be able to do a ridiculous number of a certain kind of exercise, like squats, or to be able to hold a plank for an insane amount of time. In fitness, however, numbers aren’t everything. Ask yourself, is your goal to be able to do 500 squats or to get your whole body fit and healthy? I can tell you right now that being able to 500 squats does not necessarily mean you are in good shape, especially if that’s the only thing you can do.

How to Tell Good Fitness Challenges From a Not-So-Good Ones

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Here are some rules to consider when you’re trying to find a good fitness challenge to do:

  1. Make sure the fitness challenge has been created by someone who knows what they’re talking about, like a personal trainer or a leading fitness expert in the industry.
  2. Read through the entire challenge and ask yourself if you can see yourself continuing this exercise for the rest of your life. If you can’t, there’s no point in doing it in the first place because any results you may see will not last.
  3. Everybody starts out at a different level, so know that you should modify the exercises to suit your personal fitness level. If you dive into a challenging workout full throttle from day one, not only are you probably going to burn out quickly, you’re putting yourself at a high risk for injury. A good fitness challenge will give you suggestions on how to modify the workout to suit different levels of fitness.
  4. Look through the workout schedule and see if there are scheduled rest days. If there are no rest days at all and you’re being expected to go hard every day for 30 days (or whatever the time frame is), scrap the challenge completely. Your muscles need rest to develop and it’s counterproductive to put yourself at such a high risk of injury, which would really put your fitness goals on hold.
  5. Part of the fun of a fitness challenge is that it’s all structured around a doable time frame. It’s easier to stay excited and motivated if the end is in sight. You may not want to choose a challenge that has too long of a time frame, because it’s easy to get discouraged and give up.
  6. It is extremely important that you do exercises correctly so you don’t injure yourself and also so you’re working the right muscles. A good fitness challenge will have videos or diagrams showing you proper form and the correct way to execute each workout.
  7. It is not a good idea to train the same muscle two days in a row. This is because muscles need adequate time to build back up before they are worked again; this is how they get bigger. Look through your fitness challenge and make sure it alternates between different muscle groups.
  8. A fitness challenge should not expect you to do a pain-inducing amount of repetitions or weight from day one. This will only cause injury and burnout. For longer-term success, you need to start out easy and gradually progress. Make sure that the first few days of your fitness challenge have exercises you think you could do fairly easily.
  9. Once you’ve finished your fitness challenge, then what? Don’t waste your hard-earned progress by reverting back to your old ways. Many websites provide more fitness challenges to continue along the path to your ideal body. Use them! Or, maybe you’ll want to do the same fitness challenge again, except this time at a more advanced level!
  10. Some people can silently work out in isolation, but most people are more successful if they have a support group. Some online fitness challenges provide online forums so you can see how everyone else is doing on the same challenge and receive advice, tips, and commiseration. There could also be a personal trainer on the web site who will give you personalized answers to any questions you may have. This is a fantastic resource and can only benefit you the more you use it!

Doing the Fitness Challenge

Congratulations, you’ve found the right fitness challenge for your goals and your needs at your level! Work hard, have fun, and don’t forget these important points to help your workout be as effective as possible:

  • Start at the level you’re currently at (modify), and progressively work up to the more advanced workouts
  • Stretch adequately before and after your workouts (look up the difference between static and dynamic stretching and find good stretches that work for you. Many good fitness challenges will provide stretching instructions as well.)
  • Utilize whatever resources you have to learn how to do the exercises correctly before you actually start doing them, whether it’s YouTube or a friend who’s a fitness buff.
  • Pair your workouts with good nutrition, always!
  • Keep track of your progress by writing it down every day.

Above all else, remember WHY you’re doing this challenge in the first place. The more your goal means to you, the more likely you are to stick with it, so dig deep and really ask yourself what you want from this and how it’s going to improve your life.

Looking for a great fitness challenge put together by professionals with plenty of videos, education, and support? Check out the IdealShape Up Challenge!

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