This story originally appeared in the January-February 2018 issue of Scouting magazine.
Studies show that having a specific goal with a time frame is the most effective way to accomplish anything you put your mind to. And what could be more important than improving your health and fitness?
With that, Scouting magazine has a proposition for you: 12 fitness goals — a new challenge for every month. Here’s the plan:
Walk for 30 Minutes a Day
This is easy and delivers benefits almost instantly. The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per day, at least 150 minutes per week. Many studies show that it pays off. Researchers monitored 15,000 walkers in the National Walkers’ Health Study and found that moderate-intensity walking delivered reductions in risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes (all risk factors for heart disease) over a six-year period.
Pushup and Squat Challenge
The pushup and bodyweight squat are two classic strength-building calisthenics that work the major muscle groups, including the lower back and core. Your goal: Do 20 repetitions of each within 30 days. Start by doing five every day. Add five more repetitions every week so you’ll be doing 20 of each by the end of the month.
Play a Game of Basketball Each Week
In the spirit of March Madness, recruit some pals for a friendly game of basketball. It will burn calories and improve your agility, lateral movement and jumping ability. It’s a great workout for heart health, but it’s aerobically intense, so get your doctor’s OK first.
Run a 5K
Thirty days is enough time to prepare for a 5K race (3.1 miles), even if you’re starting from scratch. Run for 30 minutes three or four times a week with a rest day in between workouts. Run until you tire, walk to recover and then run again. During weeks 2 and 3, increase your runs to 45 minutes. On the third and fourth weekends before the race, measure out a 3.1-mile route and do a full 5K at a slightly faster pace. Doing one or two 5Ks beforehand will build your confidence for race day.
Do a Saturday Morning Grinder Session With Your Troop
Each Saturday morning this month, meet at a park with your troop and do a 40-minute high-intensity grinder exercise session. It’s a great way to shape up for summer hikes and camp. Ask a different Scout to choose the exercises — pushups, burpees, lunges — and lead the group workout each week.
Shape Up for a 10-Mile Backpacking Trip
After five months of fitness activity, you should be in pretty good aerobic shape, but the only thing that prepares your body for hiking steep trails with a loaded backpack is, well, hiking steep trails with a loaded pack. Continue your weekly walking and running workouts. At least once a week, substitute a walk or run with climbing stadium stairs at a local high school field. Do three sets up and down the stairs wearing a loaded backpack. Then, every weekend, get out on a local trail wearing the boots and carrying the pack you’ll use on your 10-miler.
Complete a Mile Swim
First step: Find a local lap pool. Swim a few 25-yard lengths, keeping track of the number of strokes you take. If you take more than 20 strokes per lap, get some swimming instruction to lengthen your stroke. It’ll make the mile swim much easier. Work on your technique, especially keeping your hips and legs from sinking, a common mistake. Swim for 30 minutes three times week. Do as many laps as you can until you tire. Once you can swim 100 yards without stopping to rest, start doing 100-yard repeats, resting for 30 seconds to a minute between sets. Once you can swim about 15 of these regularly, you’re ready to go for the mile swim. One mile in a 25-yard pool is 71 laps. But it’ll be more fun to do it at a lake — maybe at Scout camp.
Paddle a Canoe Across a Lake
There’s nothing like paddling a canoe on a still lake in the morning to rejuvenate the soul. But to do it, you need to know the J-Stroke, the essential paddle stroke from the stern of a canoe that will keep your craft arrow straight on course. Dip the power face of your paddle blade into the water to start a forward stroke. When the blade reaches your knee, start to twist the wrist of the hand on the handle so your thumb eventually points toward the bow. At the same time, loosen your grip on the shaft to allow the paddle to rotate in your other hand. When the blade face reaches parallel to the canoe, pull your control hand toward your onside knee while pushing the blade away from the canoe with your other hand. This will swing the bow of the canoe back on a straight course, and you’ll be ready for your next forward stroke.
Bicycle 100 Miles
A century ride is on the bucket list of nearly every cyclist. It’s easy to find 100-mile organized rides in your area, especially in September when the weather is cooler. Training for a century in one month is a tall order, but you can find shorter rides that are just as fun and challenging. And if you’ve been doing all of the other monthly challenges, you should be in the kind of shape to condense the typical eight-week training program into four. You’ll want to do three rides per week: one long and slow; one medium length and steady paced; and a short, speedy workout.
Hang from a Bar for Three Minutes
Hanging by your hands from a chin-up bar improves shoulder health as well as grip and wrist strength, and it promotes overhead reach range of motion by allowing gravity to do its thing. Here’s how to do a passive hang: Grasp a chin-up bar with an overhand grip with your hands shoulder-width apart. Relax your body. Keep your arms straight. Your shoulders should touch your ears. Hold this position as long as you can. If it gets uncomfortable, drop to the floor and lower your arms for a rest. Then hang again. Start slowly, hanging for 20 or 30 seconds total. Each time you hang (and you can hang every day), try to hang a few seconds longer, working up to holding a hang for three minutes or more by the end of the month.
Complete a Spartan Sprint
The Spartan Sprint is a fun 4-mile obstacle race loaded with challenges such as climbing over walls, crawling under barbed wire, climbing ropes, carrying buckets full of stones and wading through muddy water.
Relax With a Few Simple Yoga Stretches
De-stress during the holidays by spending 10 minutes a day in a quiet room doing four calming yoga-style moves: cobra, child’s pose, dead bug and corpse. Dim the lights and think of … nothing.
Photographs by Tommy Penick.