No matter how committed you are to staying fit, healthy and well, your workout can feel more like plain old work unless you challenge yourself and keep things interesting.
There are many ways to build workout challenges into a fitness routine. Depending on your sport, your schedule, and your appetite for adventure, here are a few options to keep the bar high and your head in the game.
Increasing the distance you cover during your run is an easy way to challenge yourself, but don’t go too far, too fast. The classic 10 Percent Rule is a good guideline to follow, advising runners to never increase their cumulative weekly mileage by more than 10% week over week. There are variations of the 10 Percent Rule that offer different ways to log more miles without incurring injury, but the key for any running challenge is to increase distance slowly.
If you have a need for speed, just being more efficient with movement can help trim your time. Keeping your movements compact and controlled can help you run faster, and is easier on your joints, too. Flailing arms and knocking knees detract from forward movement and can lead to injury over time. Have a teammate, running partner, or coach check your form, then work to correct any problems.
To gain strength, you need to challenge your muscles to work harder. Increasing the amount of weight you lift or adding to resistance can add an extra challenge to your strength regimen. It’s important to make gradual changes. Adding too much weight too quickly is an invitation for injury, and lifting more than you can safely handle puts others at risk, too. Use a spotter or training buddy to help you stay in control, support your joints with the right brace, and never sacrifice form for the sake of lifting more weight.
Circuit training is another way to add challenge to your strength routine. By moving immediately from one set of exercises to the next, working different muscle groups at each station, your heart rate stays elevated throughout your routine, improving endurance, and burning more fat and calories than if you were to rest between exercises.
Some fitness buffs don’t feel they’ve worked hard unless they’re exhausted and drenched after a gym session. But stretching and toning routines – especially “hot yoga” and “yoga sculpt” classes - can achieve the same effect at a different pace.
Flexibility may be the most difficult workout challenge of all, forcing you to center your thoughts, hold on to a stretch longer than you’re used to, and really pay attention to breathing and form. As with cardio and strength, easing in to a flexibility workout is key to avoiding injury.
Here are three easy ways add challenge to your workouts
1. Sign up for daily fitness newsletters that deliver a new challenge each day
2. Treat yourself to a 1:1 personal training session with a professional who can push you to do more
3. Workout with someone more fit, or more experienced than you for motivation
Five exercises to help keep your body flexible, strong and safe from injury.
Make Fun Your Sole Goal
Add yoga or Pilates to your exercise routine to balance body and mind—and boost your overall well-being.