2017 is finally upon us! If you have decided this is the year you will improve your overall health, a New Year’s fitness challenge will motivate and support you as you move forward toward your goals. If your goals are weight loss, endurance enhancing, muscle toning or improving your flexibility, you can use this challenge to achieve progress through the year.
Our New Year’s fitness challenge is designed to gradually increase your workout duration until you are easily exercising for an hour a day. The American College of Sports Medicine, ACSM, recommends that each week, adults perform 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise. The ACSM also recommends that you exercise each muscle group two or three days a week.
Start with the Basics
Many fitness resolutions are unsuccessful because participants start with too much too soon. Your body and mind need time to adjust to your workout routine and prevent you from burning out or injuring yourself. This New Year’s fitness challenge begins with 20 minutes a day for one month.
Select a cardiovascular exercise such as walking, dancing, cycling, swimming, jogging, trampoline jumping, kickboxing, stair climbing or skating and perform it for 10 minutes. Use a two to three-minute warm-up and perform the activity at a slower pace, then pick up your intensity level and exercise for 10 minutes. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, use the next 10 minutes to strengthen your lower body. Complete 10 to 12 repetitions and rotate two or three times through the following exercises with minimal rest between them:
Squat – With or without holding a dumbbell in each hand, stand with your feet at a hips-distance apart. Look forward and keep your head high as you bend your knees and hips into a squat. Keep your knees over your heels throughout the movement and lower no farther than where your thighs are parallel to the floor. Exhale, straighten your legs and return to the start position.
Lunge – Stand with your feet underneath your hips. Step forward approximately two feet with your left foot. Bend both knees and lower yourself toward the floor until your front thigh is parallel with the floor. Exhale, straighten your legs and push off the floor with your left foot. Return to the starting position and repeat with your right leg.
Curtsey – Stand with your feet at a hips-distance apart. Shift your balance onto your left foot as you cross your right leg behind your left. Place your right foot on the floor to the outside and slightly behind your left foot. Bend both knees as if you are bowing before the queen. Straighten your legs as you exhale and return to the starting position.
Heel Raise/Toe Raise – Stand tall with your feet slightly closer than your hips. Shift your balance onto your toes and raise your heels as high as possible. Then, lower your heels, shift your balance onto them and raise your toes as high as possible. You can also perform this one leg at a time and while holding onto a dumbbell in each gloved hand.
On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, train your upper-body with a combination of bodyweight and weight-training exercises that you can perform at home. Perform two or three sets of 10 to 12 repetitions of the following:
Incline Push-Ups – Place your hands on the side of your bed or countertop. Position your feet approximately 4-feet behind you with your toes on the floor. Lower your hips until your spine is in a straight line. Inhale, bend your elbows and lower your chest toward the bed or counter. Exhale, straighten your arms and return to the starting position.
Hammer Curls – Hold onto a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing your body. Stand tall with your arms along your sides. Squeeze your elbows tightly against your sides as you exhale, bend your arms and raise the dumbbells toward your shoulders. Inhale, straighten your arms and repeat.
Upright Rows– Hold a dumbbell in each hand and in a standing position, extend your arms down your front. Face your palms toward your legs. Exhale, bend your elbows and slowly lift the weights up to your chest. Keep your hands as close to your body as possible throughout the movement and your elbows higher than your hands. Inhale, straighten your arms to the starting position.
Back Extensions – lie face down on the floor or face down over an exercise ball. Keep your legs straight and your feet on the floor. Cross your hands behind your head. Exhale and raise your chest off the floor or ball. Inhale and lower to the starting position.
After January has passed and you have adjusted to your 20-minutes of daily exercise, add 10 minutes to your workout. You can add the full amount to your cardiovascular workout or split it up so you are now performing 15 minutes of cardio and 15 minutes of strength training to continue your New Year’s fitness challenge. Add abdominal exercises this month. Lie face up on the floor or on an exercise ball. Place your feet flat on the floor and cross your arms behind your head. Exhale and raise your shoulder blades off the floor or ball. Pause slightly at the top and then inhale as you return to the starting position.
For this month, add another 10 minutes to your workout this month. Now, you are performing a full 30 minutes of cardio and 10 minutes of weight training. This fulfills the ACSM requirement for a minimum of 150 minutes of weekly cardiovascular exercise. By this point, you see and feel healthy changes. Your clothes should fit more comfortably as you begin to lose weight. Your breathing is not as labored during the exercise since your body has responded with improvements in your cardio and respiratory fitness.
With an additional 10 minutes this month, you are up to 40 minutes of cardio and 10 minutes of weight training or 35 minutes of cardio and 15 minutes of resistance exercises.
This is your fifth month of continuing your New Year’s fitness challenge and you have increased your workout time to a full 60 minutes. You made it and should congratulate yourself with a non-food based reward. Maybe purchase a fitness tracker to monitor your progress or a new pair of workout gloves to help you continue building your endurance.
Since you have gradually increased the duration of your workouts, you should be able to maintain this level of exercise throughout the year. This isn’t just a workout challenge—it’s a new lifestyle change that you can continue indefinitely.
Workout Reminders for Your New Year’s fitness challenge
1. Wear fitness gloves when you are weight training to protect your hands from injuries.
2. Keep water close by during your workouts so you remain hydrated.
3. Wear comfortable clothing that allows your sweat to evaporate.
4. Wear supportive shoes to create a stable base for your movements.
5. Use good posture throughout your workout by keeping your abdominal muscles pulled in tightly and your spine straight.
6. Breathe deeply and normally as you perform your cardiovascular exercises.
7. Exhale on the exertion phase of weight training exercises.
New Year’s Mindset
The only thing standing in the way of you reaching your New Year’s resolutions is your mind. Your body will do what your mind tells it to do. On a daily basis, remind yourself of the reasons you began this fitness program. Be consistent in your training. If you miss a day, don’t be discouraged—return to your routine the following day. Listen to your body and gradually increase the weight load of your resistance exercises to continually challenge your muscles. You should not feel pain, only slight muscle soreness the day after your resistance workouts. Stay positive and find ways to inspire yourself. Before you know it, you’ll have the healthy and fit body you’ve always wanted.