With the new year approaching, you may be tempted to set some — let’s not call them resolutions — goals. Dreams. Plans. January will bring a new sense of focus, so it’s a great time to start working on something that could pay off by the end of the year.
While weight loss goals are probably the most traditional, they’re also boring. Here’s a collection of fitness goals that are all about what your body can do, not what size it is.
Hold crow pose
Arm balances are a cool athletic feat that show up sometimes in more advanced yoga classes. It feels amazing to get your feet off the ground for the first time, and I’m told that if you are good at Crow, you can start working on the similar but more challenging Crane pose (with your knees at your armpits instead of resting on your elbows.) This tutorial from Adriene will get you started with Crow, or choose another challenging yoga pose to work toward, like side Crow or Firefly.
Run a fast mile
Running isn’t all about covering as much distance as you can. If you want a great test of your legs and lungs that doesn’t take hours, train to run a faster mile. Head out for a time trial now — a standard high-school track is four laps to the mile — and aim to improve your time by the end of the year. Look for a training plan like this one that has plenty of variety, including easy and long runs and a lot of speedwork.
Improve your vertical jump
How high can you jump? Mark your fingers with chalk or stick a ball of masking tape on your finger. Touch the wall as high as you can, then jump and make another mark. The difference between the two is your “vertical,” and you can improve it by working on your strength, your power, and your jump technique.
Get your first (or second, or tenth) pullup
That first pullup can be so elusive, but you’ll get there. I recommend a two-pronged approach: First, do pull-up variations like assisted pullups and pullup negatives (where you jump to the top of the bar and slowly lower yourself down). The second, underrated tactic is to work on getting stronger through exercises that are not pullups. Upper body work in general will help a ton, but make rows the centrepiece of your training to build muscle in your back and arms: Kroc rows, bent-over barbell rows, inverted rows, and more.
Sign up for a race
If you’ve only ever done training runs (or solo time trials), do yourself a favour and sign up for a race. This could be your first 5K or maybe it’s time to take the plunge and enter a marathon. If you’re a glutton for punishment, it could even be an obstacle race. Just make sure you give yourself enough training time. If you already run regularly, a half or full marathon takes about four months to prepare.
Enter a strength competition
If you already squat, bench, and deadlift, you might as well go do it in front of a crowd of people who will actually care how much ya bench. Don’t worry about whether you’re “good enough” yet; every meet has at least a few beginners, and chances are there will be a kid or a masters athlete opening at a lower weight than you. Just put it on your calendar, focus on your training, and go have fun.
Do 50 pushups in a row
If you can’t do a full pushup yet, getting a single rep could be your goal right there. But if you can already do a few, why not set your sights on increasing the number you can do in one set? Unlike traditional strength progressions, where you add weight, long pushup sets are a little bit strength and a lot of muscular endurance. Aim for 50, or 100, or whatever number scares you a little.
Do a pistol squat
One-legged squats are tough. Not only do you have to move your full body weight with only one leg, you also need strong enough stabilising muscles to do them without falling over. And if you intend to do a full squat, arse to grass as they say, you’ll need ankle mobility, too. To work up to it, use the squat progression from the r/bodyweightfitness workout. It begins with split squats, and moves you to something called a shrimp squat before getting to the elusive pistol.
Run farther than you’ve ever run before
The first time you hit a given distance is a huge thrill, not least because you know you’ll be smashing your own records for weeks to come. If you’ve only ever done an eight-miler before, you’re probably fit enough to handle 10 — and you get to spend the last two miles thinking, “Oh my god, this the the farthest I’ve ever run. No, this is the farthest I’ve ever run. No, this….”
You can combine this with a race goal, but you can also set a distance goal that means something to you. Five miles around the lake? Twelve miles so you can go down and back on that six-mile trail in the park? Up to you.
Do the splits
You can pick any flexibility exercise that challenges you, but if you want to really impress your friends, try doing the splits. You’ll need a good stretching routine and a lot of time; splits don’t come easily. But when you get there, you’ll feel amazing.
Benchmark your squat, bench, and deadlift
How do your Big 3 lifts stack up against others’? Whether you plan to compete or not, check out a classification chart like this one. (You’ll need to select your weight class to find your spot on the chart, so be aware that the classes are named after the top weight in that class. So if you weigh 72kg, you’re in the 75kg class.) Once you find out what “class” you’re in, set your sights on moving up a level.
Farmer’s carry your bodyweight in each hand
Farmer’s carries are simple: You hold something heavy in each hand, and walk. Strongman competitors train to do these very heavy and very fast, and a good benchmark in the strongman world is being able to carry your bodyweight in each hand (so, double bodyweight for the total lift). If you’re not ready for that, just find something so heavy it’s hard to carry, and work on increasing the distance you can cover. These are great for your grip and your core strength.
Do a handstand
Handstands are a fantastic skill to learn, because they require strength in your shoulders and arms, plus core stability, plus the brain-bending difficulty of learning how to control your body to master a new skill. Start by doing them on a wall, move to freestanding, and if you’re a real overachiever, work on handstand walks.
Do a Turkish getup with something weird or heavy
Turkish getups are a weird lift to begin with. They’re asymmetrical and require a lot of focus. They’re also exhausting, even though it would be hard to describe exactly how. Work on your getups with dumbbells, kettlebells, or even light barbells, and once you’ve gotten the hang of it, start doing it with larger and more awkward objects.
Hang from a pullup bar with one hand
This is a grip challenge that’s a lot harder than it looks. Start by hanging from a pullup bar with both hands, just dangling there. Not too hard, right? Once that gets easy, start hanging from the bar with just one hand. If you can make it to 30 seconds, you’ve beat me.