Challenges: where to start?

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I am one of those people who only really stays motivated with a goal in mind; for years I hadn’t worked this out and struggled with running, excuses were plentiful without the urgency of a looming event. I told myself I wasn’t competitive so didn’t need to race, I realised relatively recently I’ll only commit to something if I’m scared into it.

Running is our sport of choice but of course it’s by no means the only way to challenge yourself. We’ve put together a few different ideas to keep yourself getting out of bed/over the doorstep until you see the changes you’re after.

Races and events

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Not the only type of challenge but for me by far the most effective way to self-motivate.

Start small with a 5k and work your way up, you don’t need to increase the distance every time; maybe you want to beat a PB, improve your technique or try a new kind of running/cycling/swimming/whatever sport you do.

A year ago yesterday - from first ever trail run in March 2014 to a trail ultra in June 2014

A year ago yesterday – from first ever trail run in March 2014 to a trail ultra in June 2014 (hated every minute but did it)

Trail running was new to me last year and it’s still a huge challenge, despite completing an ultra on trail I’d still find a 6-mile run an achievement. Then, of course, there’s fell running – if you excel at this you’re an inspiration to us all because watching my insanely athletic younger brothers tear up a hillside through binoculars is exhausting enough for me.

Find events at www.runnersworld.co.uk/events

Personal challenges

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A couple of years ago I wanted to get back into running regularly but wasn’t quite ready to sign up to a race (in my head that is – looking back I would’ve been fine). What I did instead was to challenge myself to run every day for a month. It didn’t matter what distance I covered, I just had to run at least a mile to keep my streak going and I enjoyed it so much I ended up doing 50 days. My friend’s mum Julie recently did the same for charity and like me, she found the struggle often far more psychological than physical.

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I am not remotely competitive but when it comes to myself I have discovered I can be pretty strict once I’ve decided to stick to something. This really worked for me and I made sure I told everyone about it so I’d guilt trip myself into dragging my weary legs out whatever the weather or hangover. Rest days are important so something like this can only ever be temporary, but I found it a great way to kickstart a winning streak that saw me sign up for a string of races after working my way back to fitness out on the streets on my own.

The 30-day thing is just an idea, I’ve also done 80 and 100 mile months and have chatted to new runner Jo about doing a 40 mile June to keep her momentum after completing her first 5k race. Whatever you decide, it could be the start of something great.

30 Day Shred – Jillian Michaels

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This was the first fitness challenge I ever completed and though I’ve seen a string of similar programmes since, it seems to be one of the first of its kind at least among my exercising contemporaries. I remember first hearing about its horrors on Weight Watchers message boards and I decided to challenge myself. After several failed attempts I finally did it a couple of years ago and the daily running challenge I mention above followed on from it, such was my newfound commitment to #goals.

The woman you will grow to love and hate in equal measures

The woman you will grow to love and hate in equal measures

Three twenty-minute workouts designed and enforced (to put it mildly) by supertrainer Jillian Michaels, Shred encourages you to complete each of the three levels for 10 consecutive days before progressing to the next. Chaz and I completed it at the same time and revelled in Jillian’s threatening catchphrases “I want you to feel like you are going to die”, “I’ve got 400lb people who can do jumping jacks!” and the classic “don’t phone it in!”

By the end of the 30 days I had lost quite a few pounds and impressed myself by how much more I could do compared to day 1. It’s usually about a fiver on Amazon and most of it is on YouTube too so if you’re looking for a good place to start a fitness journey, this is it.

Diversify

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I know a lot of people have benefitted from branching out into different types of exercise and event after getting bored of the same thing. Although we’re runners first and foremost, we went through a huge phase a few years ago of going to Les Mills classes like body attack, pump and combat when we were both members of the same gym and it was a nice change from hitting the pavements, especially in winter.

If you’re looking to challenge yourself to something different there’s just so much choice out there now. You’ll find weights at every high street gym, new takes on classics like spin as well as the latest fitness crazes popping up everywhere like bootcamps, bokwa, zumba, pole dancing or hula hooping (I just drove past a sign for this last week – has anyone tried it yet?). Recently Chaz and our friend Terri have been trying yoga and pilates classes to limber up and find their inner zen.

If you’re more of an all rounder than us why not try (geddit) a triathlon? We made a new friend called Rebecca at a hen do this past weekend who has done a few triathlons – she’s a self-confessed slow coach whose only goal first time was to not finish last (we bonded over this), then to get off the last page of the results – progress is progress!

I’ve read enjoyable blogs by Susie Chan and Rhalou Allerhand, both ultra marathon runners who branched out into triathlons and various other wildly impressive challenges so if you’re struggling to enjoy what you’re doing, don’t be afraid to mix things up.

Join in a gym challenge

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When we interviewed Ashley McClure for the blog she mentioned how a 60-day challenge set by her local gym was the springboard to a crazy fitness adventure for her. The original challenge was one she took on with her sister as a way to shape up while spending time together. This sort of group event usually has me running for the hills but it made me reconsider and I can see how so many people get hooked this way.

Most gyms run challenges of some sort so next time you walk past the noticeboard or see their latest post on Facebook you could always grit your teeth and get involved rather than assuming it’s not your sort of thing.

Over to you for more ideas. What kind of challenges and goals have worked for you?

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Images taken by us or from Pinterest

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