Want to be so sculpted and powerful you glow with confidence in sneakers and a bikini alike? Let’s first talk about your fitness fears!
Break out of your fitness comfort zone. “When you do something that once seemed impossible, it boosts your self-esteem and provides a sense of accomplishment,” says Angela Manzanares, a trainer and the creator of fit-book+, a diet and exercise goal-setting app. “And it can give you the tenacity to continue when you encounter obstacles in other aspects of your life.” Ready to push your workout limits? Set your sights on one or more of these eight goals. They won’t just make you mentally tougher—they’ll help you get a stronger, slimmer, and more flexible body too.
Do 5 pull-ups in a row.
From middle school to the Marine corps, this exercise is the ultimate test of strength. “To lift your own body weight, you need a healthy ratio of fat to muscle,” says Manzanares. Think women can’t raise themselves above the bar? Peek in the window of a Cross Fit gym for some major motivation, and then follow this pull-up progression plan to eventually accomplish it yourself.
1 Focus on the lowering phase.
Use a high plyo box to position yourself at the top of the pullup position. Bend your knees and then slowly lower your body until your arms are extended. Return to starting position. Do 3 sets of 5 reps three times a week. When you can descend for 5 seconds, try the next version (below).
2 get a Spotter.
Hold the bar with hands slightly wider than shoulders and have a strong pal stand behind you. Try to pull up, with ankles crossed if necessary, as your spotter helps lift your legs. Lower to starting position. Do 3 sets of 5 reps. When you can do 5 reps with minimal help from your friend, try the variation below.
3 do half pull-ups.
Stand on a plyo box that’s high enough so that when you grab the bar your arms are bent about 45 degrees. Pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar, then lower to starting position. Do 5 sets of 3. Easy? You’re ready for a full pull-up.
Master crow pose.
Meet the triple whammy of fitness: “Crow challenges your strength, flexibility, and brainpower,” says Kristin McGee, an NYC-based yoga and Pilates instructor. Her program for nailing it:
1 Strengthen your upper body.
Twice a week, lie face-up with knees bent and feet fat on the foor. Hold a 15- to 20-pound dumbbell in each hand outside your shoulders. Extend your arms straight up over your chest ; hold for 30 seconds. Lower weights to shoulders and repeat once more.
2 do garland pose daily.
This deep squat will improve your flexibility for crow. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes turned slightly out. Squat deeply. Press your palms together in front of your chest, and push your elbows against your thighs [shown, top left]. Hold for up to 60 seconds.
3 give crow a Shot.
Once a week, get in garland pose, then place your hands on the ground in front of you. Tip forward and rise up onto the balls of your feet. Try to lift your right foot and then your left foot, pressing knees into armpits and triceps into shins. Keep bending forward until feet are raised and body is balanced on the backs of your upper arms [shown, top right].
Work out for 66 days straight.
think three weeks is the magic number for locking in a habit? You probably need three times that, according to a study in the European Journal of Psychology. When researchers tracked people who were working to establish a new behavior—such as jogging daily—they discovered that the practice went on autopilot after an average of 66 days. If it sounds like a lot of work, consider this: An exercise streak may actually be less taxing (for your brain, at least) than trying to ft in sporadic sessions. “The first three times you do something, it takes a lot of mental energy,” says clinical psychologist Jennifer Taitz. But with repetition, the basal ganglia (the habit forming part of the brain) just takes over, and what once required serious planning and willpower becomes easier. To boost your follow-through, the study authors suggest tying your workout to a cue. For example, go to the gym every day on your lunch hour, or jump rope while you wait for your morning coffee to brew.
The faster you run, the more calories you burn per minute.
Run a 10K in less than an hour.
With nearly half a million people finishing a U.S. marathon last year, it might seem like you’re not a real athlete unless you’ve done a 26.2-miler. But new research suggests that the physical stress of long-distance races may damage your heart over time by creating scar tissue that ups the risk of irregular heartbeats. While the study is ongoing, there are other reasons to stick to a shorter distance: You may have a lower risk of injury, it doesn’t take as much time to train, and there are far more race options available. So rather than pinning your hat on a marathon, go for speed instead. Faster workouts, like sprint intervals and tempo running (or race walking), rev your metabolism and target extra fab around your waistline. Bonus bragging rights: If you can break 60 minutes in a 10K race, you’ll be faster than nearly half of the female racers out there. For a plan to help you do it, go to Shape.com/10K.
align your knees over your ankles or toes—don’t let them cave in.
Climb a mountain.
For this year’s vacancy, skip the cruise and head for the hills instead. Alpine hiking (climbing at high altitudes) offers big-time rewards. By the time you reach 14,000 feet, your body is working on 40 percent less oxygen than at sea level, which forces your muscles to produce new red blood cells and operate more efficiently. It’s a tough fitness challenge, and one of the reasons why many Olympic athletes live and train at high altitudes. But us regular folks can benefit too. Austrian researchers found that over the course of a three-week hiking vacation, people lost an average of 7 pounds of fat. And it’s not just about the uphills, says study author Wolfgang Schobersberger, Ph.D. Research suggests that eccentric exercise (like descending a mountain) works your muscles in a unique way, upping your calorie burn while improving your coordination and flexibility. Want to conquer your first big climb? Book a trip to Denver and take on Mount Bierstadt, Grays Peak, or Torreys Peak—acclimating to the “mile-high” city for a few days
may make the ascent to thinner air a little easier.
Lower your legs more to increase the challenge.
Master the hundred.
“this plates sculptor activates the transverse abdominal—the deep abdominal muscle that pulls your belly in like a corset—15 percent more than a crunch,” says Olson. Add the bent-knee variation to your routine stat, working up to the extended-leg version. how to do it Lie face up with your knees bent over your hips, shins parallel to the ground. Extend your arms at your sides, palms face down. Inhale, then exhale as you lift your head, shoulders, and arms [shown, top left]; look at your belly or thighs. Inhale as you pulse your arms up and down 5 times, then exhale and pulse for another 5 counts. Repeat, working up to 10 full breaths for a total of 100 pulses. As you get stronger, extend your legs at a 45-degree angle [shown, bottom left]. You’ve perfected this move when you can do 100 pulses with your legs extended.
Defend yourself against an attacker.
Just knowing how to fend of an assault will make you feel stronger and safer, according to a University of Oregon study. To get the skills you need , take a self defense class or at the very least master a basic knee-to-groin strike [shown, above]. “This move sends the other person’s head forward and hips back, weakening his stance,” says personal trainer and third-degree black belt Jennifer Cassetta, creator of the DVD set Stilettos and Self-Defense.
how to do it Grab one of your attacker’s shoulders or his shirt and forcefully raise your knee toward his groin as you pull him toward you. Poke him in the eyes or elbow him in the face, and run away as fast as you can.