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Sunday
Jan242016

5 Game-Changing Fitness Commitments

When we only think of exercise as health routine, we miss out on so much—like challenge, adventure and motivation.

Taking on fitness commitments can help us upgrade our program to whole new levels and keep us engaged in exercise for the long haul. 

Wondering how to expand your fitness horizons beyond the same old routine and equipment? Check out these 5 inspiring challenges that can move your fitness—and weight loss—into brand new territory.

30 Days of Yoga 

Not every game-changer is entirely physical. Take this one for example. 

Yes, yoga requires physical effort of varying degrees, but what I love about this challenge is the amount of mental fortitude it requires. 

Some time ago, I lived on the Big Island of Hawaii where I belonged to a gym...with no air conditioning...on the rainforest-y side of the island. It was the type of place where apparently no one knew how to wipe their sweat off the equipment—ever. How could a place where no one wears socks always smell like old, sweaty socks?

I quit that gym and joined a yoga studio with unlimited monthly access, and what followed was eye-opening. Every day after work, I’d challenge my way through downward facing dogs, warriors, and other fluid yoga sequences that left me feeling energized, grateful, flexible and strong.

A few times I completed 30+ day stretches of practicing yoga every day, and I can honestly say it helped me get in the best physical and mental shape of my life. (I say this as someone who was a competitive distance runner in college and has finished nine marathons, an ultra-marathon and an Ironman triathlon). 

In addition to the physical twisting, bending and balancing, the daily mind-body integration of practicing yoga teaches you lessons in patience, awareness and gratitude that prepare you incredibly well for just about anything. It will change your life (not to mention your fitness) if you dare to take the challenge.

Twice Weekly Resistance Training

I know – revolutionary, right? In truth, if I personally committed to this level of consistency for the remainder of the year I’d probably get close to that best shape of my life again. 

In the past, I’ve “gotten too busy” to nail two great strength training sessions every week, partially because I enjoy other forms of exercise, too (e.g. yoga, cycling, running, stand-up paddling, etc.). 

However, I do feel my absolute best when all my major muscle groups are activated and tested at least a few times each week. 

When I’m time-crunched, I usually stick to these two “minimal effective dose” maintenance circuits for full body tune-ups. 

After a ten-minute metabolic warm-up, I circuit these movements one after another in this order, resting only when needed for a max of 60 seconds. Pick a relatively heavy weight (60-70% of your max if you know it) with focus on excellent form and controlled tempo. Repeat the cycle 4-6 times, and you’ll be sweating for sure.

Session 1: 

  1. Barbell Deadlifts –10 to 12 reps  
  2. Standing Barbell Overhead Press – 10 to 12 reps
  3. Hand Release Push-ups – 10 to 12 reps

Session 2:

  1. Barbell Front Squats – 10 to 12 reps
  2. Lat Pull-downs or Assisted Pull-ups – 10 to 12 reps
  3. Walking Lunges or Step-ups – 10 to 12 reps each leg

It’s not a magical, super-scientific method, but this approach to strength training is efficient enough to induce some good mechanical and metabolic stress on your system. And it gets you in and out of the gym in about 30 minutes.

Who’s with me on this one?

Weekly Fitness Benchmark Assessments 

If 60 minutes per week will cramp your schedule or be too mundane to repeat for several weeks, then consider testing your maximum fitness abilities in different capacities on a weekly basis. 

These mini fitness tests can take just minutes. Yet, because they aim to test your absolute limits, the intensity may be just enough to gradually improve your fitness over time. 

Fair warning: testing your limits like this will come with some serious physical discomfort if you push yourself hard enough. (You should only consider this if you’re medically cleared for exercise).

Here’s one idea for someone working out somewhat consistently already. 

  • During weeks one, four, eight and twelve, walk, jog or run a timed one-mile effort as hard as you can.
  • During weeks two, five, nine and thirteen, test your upper body strength capacity by counting how many push-ups you can complete in a given time frame (three minutes is brutal enough), resting as needed. Then rest five minutes, and see how many pull-ups (or lat pull-downs or assisted pull-ups at a given weight) you can do in the same time frame, resting as needed. Three minutes would be plenty difficult and plenty effective for you to consistently progress your fitness abilities.
  • Finally, in weeks three, six, and ten, assess your maximum total weight you can deadlift in five combined reps. Start with a challenging weight, and do one rep. Rest completely (3-5 minutes), then add weight for the subsequent reps (if you’re ready). Record the total weight, and try to out-do your total the next time! 

With all of these benchmark assessments, be ready to welcome the pain of pushing through several minutes of high-intensity effort because the point is to impel yourself to go faster, further, heavier or longer each time you attempt your benchmarks. Consistently exploring your limits with these assessments is sure to be a game-changer for a number of fitness abilities.

Endurance Endeavor

If the short and (painfully) sweet benchmark challenges aren’t your cup of tea, then committing to a longer event could force your hand and encourage you to upgrade your fitness, nutrition, and lifestyle patterns in revolutionary ways. 

Whether you sign up for a 10k, half marathon, triathlon or adventure race, once you hit the submit button on your entry (and pony up the cash), your whole outlook on life can change. 

I still remember hemming and hawing about signing up for my first Ironman triathlon. I was nervous! The only thing I was certain of is that to survive—let alone enjoy—the event, it meant I was committing to earlier bedtimes, careful training choices, disciplined eating and supplement regimens, and tons of mental preparation. 

These types of events require serious (but seriously rewarding) long-range prep that demands (at minimum) 12-16 weeks of planning and practice. 

90-Day Challenge

When it comes to game-changing fitness commitments, not many match the power of Life Time’s 90-Day Challenge. Participants in the ten 90-Days to date have collectively lost over 550,000 pounds, and the winners have earned over $750,000 worth of cash, prizes and vacations. Talk about game-changing!

To commit to this Challenge means you register, weigh-in with a fitness professional, and join thousands of peers on a journey that is designed to test, entertain, educate and inspire you to optimize your lifestyle and to help you achieve the pinnacle of your health potential. 

Come to think of it, the biggest, baddest game-changing commitment of all may be this:

  1. Register and commit to the 90-Day.
  2. Resistance train twice a week.
  3. Test weekly fitness benchmarks. 
  4. Practice yoga for 30 days straight.
  5. Sign up for a major event—maybe your next “finishing line” motivator post-90-Day. 

With that, we officially move from game-changing to life-changing, I’d say. How will you challenge your fitness this year? 

Thanks for reading, everyone. Are you ready to take on your next challenge? Talk with a fitness professional and/or sign up for the spring 90-Day Challenge today. 

In health, Paul Kriegler - Corporate Registered Dietitian

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

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