Want to get more fit, but not sure where to start? Try a 30-day fitness challenge.
Getting started is easy: You pick a fitness goal, find a matching challenge, then follow the ready-made weekly plan to reach your target.
"A 30-day challenge is great because it takes the guesswork out of what to do to create healthy habits," says Catherine Basu, MEd, owner of Fit Armadillo, a personal training program in Houston.
It's also a fun way to shake up your current fitness routine. Basu gives bonus points to these challenges for being SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound.
You can find a fitness challenge just about anywhere: local gyms, universities, smartphone apps, and online. Here's a sampling.
Goal: Be more active, lose weight, and build muscle mass.
This government-sponsored challenge is free. You choose your desired award (bronze, silver, gold, or platinum), then collect enough points to reach your goal.
Choose from 100 activities and earn points for each.
The more calories your activity torches, the more points you get. Track your progress online. When you've earned enough points for a reward, you've crossed the finish line.
2. Couch to 5K
Goal: Run a 5K (3.1 miles).
Wish you were a runner, but don't believe you're up to the task? Smartphone apps such as Couch to 5K and C25K say they can prep you for a 5K, one step at a time.
You'll run (and walk) while your virtual coach gives you verbal cues to guide you through each workout. The apps spell out your weekly program, record your workouts, and track your progress. Some also have GPS support for mapping your routes and social media tools for sharing your progress. In 8 to 10 weeks, you might even be ready to lace up for your 5K.
3. 30-Day Yoga Challenge
Goal: Improve your fitness, posture, flexibility, relaxation, sleep, and digestion.
If you want to bone up on your yoga form without stepping foot in a studio, plenty of 30-day challenges are up for grabs online. Many are free
(doyouyoga.com and yogawithadriene.com), and others (pranashama.org's 30DYC) are paid subscription services that offer extras such as guided meditation, audio classes, and e-books. Many send you a daily email with an inspirational message and link to the workout of the day. Most sessions run about 10 to 20 minutes, can be done at home with no special equipment, and are A-OK for beginners.
Goal: Build strength and endurance
If you love to rock a rowing machine but could use some camaraderie, try this annual challenge, which runs May 1-15.
Join your fellow rowers and skiers across the globe as you burn through meters on an indoor rowing or Nordic skiing machine. The goal is to rack up the equivalent of a half marathon (21,097 meters) or full marathon (42,195 meters) in a single workout.
Follow the training plan, log your meters online, and see how your comrades are doing. Hit your target, and you'll score a mention on Concept2's honor boards, a completion certificate, and a marathon pin.
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