Following my last monthly fitness challenge blog post I’m going to be writing in more detail about each challenge I’m doing to hopefully inspire more people to get moving and fit more exercise into their days. It won’t be time consuming I promise, or require an expensive gym membership!
I really love a monthly fitness challenge as it’s not too long so doesn’t get boring, yet is long enough to see real changes in your body, whether that’s an increase in stamina, speed, strength or overall fitness.
Previous monthly fitness challenge
In March I increased my plank time from 45 seconds to over 3 minutes
And my wall sit time from 2 minutes to over 6 minutes
This really amazed me and showed me how much can be achieved in a relatively short space of time!
April monthly fitness challenge
For April I wanted something to stretch me but which would fit in with my 2 week holiday in California so I chose to try and complete my Apple Watch fitness rings every single day for the whole month.
Wearable devices like Apple watches and Fitbits record your movement and heart rate and set you targets to complete each day. If you hit the targets a certain number of times or exceed your personal bests then you are awarded achievements which show what you have done over a period of time.
Personally I love a gadget, and it gives me a great incentive to exercise. I can choose to ignore my watch’s targets but it’s good when I want to focus on achieving them as it reminds me what I need to do each day to complete the challenge. My watch vibrates when I haven’t stood up for a while, or need to do a little more movement to close that particular ring. I can switch this feature off if I choose to, if I am focusing on something different, but I find it’s not too intrusive even if my exercise rings aren’t important on that particular day.
How I achieved my targets on a long haul flight!
The real challenge comes on days like today. I am actually writing this blog on a 10 hour flight from Los Angeles to Gatwick. This is what my rings look like now, as I write.
We took off in the afternoon and I stupidly didn’t go for a last sunrise run along Santa Monica beach as I had planned. Therefore, when I arrived at the airport I was some way short of my goals. I still had to achieve nearly 100 calories and 6 exercise minutes, within the confines of an aeroplane! Time was not on my side either as I wasn’t sure when my watch would count as my ‘day’, what with the 8 hour time difference, as I only had 2.5 hours from takeoff until the end of a UK day. I didn’t want the time difference to mess up my challenge!
So, trying not to look suspicious, I made a number of toilet visits, to the ones as far away from my seat as possible. I logged each one as an ‘other’ exercise on my watch, and each time I went I also visited my husband who was sitting away from us, next to the emergency exit. I crouched down two or three times to ‘chat’ – when in fact I was actually doing some squats. I then visited the loo and once inside I did some running on the spot, rotating 90 degrees each 20 reps just to break it up a bit. I also did some standing press ups while I was in there! I know this makes me sound like a crazy woman, which I probably am, but not only was I helping towards my monthly fitness challenge I was also reducing the likelihood of having a DVT on the flight due to inactivity!
My exercise minutes were relatively easy to achieve but the movement was trickier as a normal run only burns 10 calories per minute, so it was going to take a lot of toilet visits to burn up my 100 calorie deficit.
I actually managed to achieve all my targets using the aisle walking and toilet exercises, hopefully without arousing too much suspicion, proving it is possible to exercise in the most confined of spaces.
I hasten to add that this is an unusual scenario and you don’t need to take such drastic measures usually. Our holiday was an amazing California road trip and I completed my exercise targets on a daily basis just from the walking we did. My morning runs were a bonus and I did them for the pure enjoyment of seeing a beautiful sunrise and the time difference meant I was waking early anyway.
Here is how April looks for me now – you can see that I’ve closed the rings for every day so far this month, so I’m nearly half way towards achieving my monthly fitness challenge!
I know I will have challenging days when I have a long work meeting, or am on a train or car journey, when it will be difficult to close my activity rings. By being inventive, I can still achieve my targets; I just need to be mindful and plan carefully to succeed.
Using an Apple Watch
The Apple Watch has Exercise, Movement and Stand rings. This is what they look like when they are ‘closed’, meaning I have achieved all my targets for the day.
For ‘Exercise’ you can track a particular exercise, like ‘outdoor run’, ‘outdoor walk’ or ‘indoor cycle’ and then it will record it along with how many calories you burned, how long you did it for and what your max and average heart rate were. There is also an ‘other’ option which I use for exercise classes and HIIT where I’m doing lots of different exercises. Even if I just go for a walk then the watch will sense my movement and increased heart rate and track it as an exercise.
The Movement ring monitors your motion and heartrate to track the active calories you have burned.
The Standing ring tracks when you are standing up and moving. You only need to stand for 2 minutes for it to record it as a ‘stand’ for that hour. You need to stand for a certain number of hours in the day.
You can set your own targets for each ring or let the watch set them based on your personal profile. I let the watch set them and they are currently the following :
Stand : 12 hours
Exercise : 30 minutes
Move : 380 calories
These may not seem very much and are easy to achieve on a day when I do some organised exercise like a run or a class, but I wanted to stretch myself on the days when I don’t exercise. The targets make me walk further than I would have, or run up the stairs, anything to close the rings. I’ve been known to match up and down my lounge at 10pm just to rack up those last few calories or exercise minutes.
Although it is relatively expensive, an Apple Watch is a great gadget and can really help with a monthly fitness challenge by tracking your movements and notifying you if you need to increase your activities.
Click here to view Apple Watch features in Amazon or click on the image below if you’re interested in finding out more about its features.
However, you don’t need an Apple Watch to take part in this kind of monthly fitness challenge. There are other wearable monitors or you can just use an old-fashioned approach instead.
Using a Fitbit
A Fitbit is a cheaper alternative to the Apple Watch which tracks your activity including your steps, heart rate, calories expended and water consumption. You can set a target for the number of steps per hour and it will warn you if you are under the target, to allow you to get up and walk around for a bit to complete them. If you are going to exercise then you can track it ‘live’ or log it later using the app.
For a monthly fitness challenge you could set yourself a step target per hour or day, or commit to completing all the targets for every day in the month.
Read more here about what the Fitbit can measure or click on the advert below.
You could also use a Garmin device or if you have an iPhone then the Health app which comes as standard tracks your step count so why not set yourself a daily target of, say, 10,000 steps each day for a month. Or if that seems too ambitious then try 5,000 steps.
If you don’t want to splash out on one of the premium devices, and your phone doesn’t track your steps, then you could buy a simple pedometer.
You can get some really cheap but function-rich pedometers which track step count, distance travelled, calories burned and exercise time on Amazon, like this one here, or click on the advert below to find out more.
Or you could simply commit to walking a certain distance from A to B every day, or taking an exercise class each week for a month and track it yourself in a diary or on a note on the fridge.
Monthly fitness challenge motivation
Although mine is a solo monthly fitness challenge, I have a friend who also challenges herself, so even if we aren’t doing the same challenge then we check in with each other for motivation. It keeps us both on track for accountability and our competitive nature drives us on to complete it each day.
Work colleagues are also great for motivation as you see them every day, at least you do if you have a static job in one office on the same days each week. I know not everyone does have that kind of regular job but if you do then see if someone fancies taking on a monthly fitness challenge with you. You could maybe arrange a lunchtime walk together into your day or arrange to walk to or from the train station with them if you both commute.
If you don’t have a friend or colleague who will motivate you then get in touch with me as I’d be delighted to be your exercise buddy! There’s nothing like a daily text or WhatsApp message to get you moving.
The sense of achievement when you complete a monthly fitness challenge is incredible! You will rightly feel an enormous sense of pride, on top of the daily high from achieving your targets, so it can help with mental health issues too and improve your general wellbeing.
I really hope this has got you thinking about what your next monthly fitness challenge could be. I’d love to hear your ideas if you’d like to leave a comment. Don’t forget, for lots of different ideas check out my original fitness challenge post.
For May, I have designed a challenge that everyone can enter with me, regardless of ability or experience. If you sign up to my newsletter below I will send you a preview along with a free printable that will help you chart your progress. I will be your virtual motivator to help you get there and promise that you will feel brilliant when you finish!
So please sign up now if you’d like to join in – I promise not to share your email address with anyone as I value your privacy. You can opt out at any time and I will not bombard your inbox or send you any spam.
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