START 2021 WITH AN INCREDIBLE BOOST

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve all juggled challenges across work, relationships, health, isolation ... It’s been tough going. So is it really a good idea to now seek out more ways to test our minds and bodies? The experts say yes.

Ask fitness professional Rachael Newsham about dealing with challenges and she says regardless of what it is, a challenge is one of the best things you can do to feel good about yourself.

“Embracing and overcoming challenges gives you an incredible boost of self-esteem,” she explains. “It delivers a sense of achievement that feels like rocket fuel for your soul. Your sense of self and strength is being elevated to a greater level – and that's something that can't be bought.”

It delivers a sense of achievement that feels like rocket fuel for your soul.

"I've had a huge injection of strength from the experiences of the past 12 months and I'm so grateful. I had to tackle some big challenges, but now they have gone, and in their wake, I've gained resilience. I'm wiser and stronger now – and all the better for it."

Rachael recommends we all adopt a new appreciation for challenges – whether it's the type of challenge that's sprung on us (think suddenly being confined to our home for weeks on end) or a challenge we willingly opt into (perhaps starting a new job, or embarking on a new fitness routine).

“The bi-product of a challenge is strength and experience – something that nobody can take away from you,” she adds.

If you’re seeking out a new challenge, focusing on health and fitness is a great place to start. Perhaps you want to try a new type of training? Maybe you want to resurrect your old fitness habits? Would you like to add more mindfulness and meditation to your life? Or perhaps you simply want to drop a few pounds and get in better shape? The good thing about fitness challenges is that there really is something for everyone.

The simplest fitness challenges are the ones that involve doing just one move every day for a period of time – 30 burpees a day for 30 days, 200 squats each day for a month, or a 16-day push-up challenge.

These types of challenges can be a fun way to add physical activity to your day. But if it is your sole form of training, you certainly can't count on it being transformational. Fitness challenges that focus on a specific move lack the diversity needed for well-rounded training. By doing the same movements over and over again, not only are you missing out on exercising other parts of your body, you’re also repeatedly targeting the same muscle group and not allowing these muscles time to recover.

A far better approach is to follow an exercise challenge or plan that includes a range of different training styles. Research shows that easing into exercise with a well-rounded set routine, or ‘challenge’, can be key to long-term engagement, not to mention physical results such as reduced body mass, lower fat body mass percentage and other improved health markers.This research has been used to shape the series of Booster Challenges available on LES MILLS On Demand – each challenge features a balanced combination of training styles, and there are options for beginners, intermediate and advanced exercisers.

SEE NEW BOOSTER CHALLENGES NOW AVAILABLE ON LES MILLS ON DEMAND

Why your body responds well to a challenge …

There’s a finish line. This gives you something to reach for. You are more motivated to make positive lifestyle changes when you focus on doing it for a short time (then it just becomes a long-term habit).

There’s structure – you know what to do. Forget flipping between different workouts and faffing around trying to decide what type of exercise to do. A challenge makes it easy to stay focused and achieve goals.

It’s new and different. Boredom is the ultimate motivation sapper, so it’s important you keep working out in novel ways. And it’s not just your mind that needs variety, studies show your muscles benefit from mixing things up too.

There are others along for the ride. If you’re following a structured challenge, chances are you’re not the only one – and connecting with your fellow challenge colleagues will pay off. Scientists have found that sharing your exercise experiences with others can positively influence your training.

How to know if you’re ready for a challenge?

Rachael says you should always be up for a challenge. “If you’re feeling stuck, if you want to get out of a rut, if you’re eyeing up a new goal, or if you want to feel more confident and more in control, then a challenge will help reinvigorate your training and feel amazing.” And, on the other hand, “If you’re already feeling pretty good about things, challenging yourself will help you feel even better.”

Her advice is to think big. “It’s got to be big enough to make your palms sweaty at the thought of it,” says Rachael. “The sweatier the palms, the greater the buzz at the end.”

RACHAEL’S FIVE TOP FITNESS CHALLENGES FOR 2021

  • The ‘Phone a Friend’ Challenge. Get a friend to start exercising together with you so you can both be accountable and turn up for each other.
  • The ‘Stairs’ Challenge. It’s simple, if you see stairs you take the stairs. Count the number of stairs and keep track of your stairs stats.
  • The ‘Ask the Audience’ Challenge. Each week or month ask your family or colleagues to vote on what type of exercise you will do.
  • The ‘Suck It and See for Three’ Challenge. Spend three weeks doing the type of training you least enjoy and see if you can overpower your dislike for it. If you still absolutely hate it after three weeks, then you can leave it there!
  • The Fast Burner Booster Challenge. Created by Rachael and Dr. Jinger Gottschall, this challenge is now available on LES MILLS On Demand. The 30-minute equipment-free workouts are a great way to fast-track your fitness, burn fat and get lean.