Fitness Bucket List for Women
For some women, exercise is a means to an end — and by 'end,' we mean being in shape enough to pull off wearing that special dress or feeling confident enough to wear a two-piece on your next vacation. But there are other fitness-based goals that go beyond looking good that are equally important for women. Here are four to strive for that every woman should try at least once — just so your body can thank you for it later!
Bucket list item #1: Hold a plank pose for 60 seconds
Why it's important for women: Building core strength — a strong set of obliques, abdominals and lower back muscles — is key for women looking to develop a flatter, leaner midsection. The plank is one of the easiest and most effective exercises to strengthen all three at the same time.
Best ways to reach your goal: Begin by doing it perfectly right from the start. First, grab an exercise mat and get into a basic push-up position, with your legs extended behind you and your feet hip-width apart. Next, bend your arms and rest on your forearms — your arms should be bent at 90-degree angles with your bodyweight equally distributed on your elbows and your toes. Finally, draw in your stomach until your body forms a straight line from your head to your heels.
Pitfalls to avoid: Don't worry about your time. Instead, focus on your form and quit once you feel you're no longer in perfect alignment.
Bucket list item #2: Run a half-marathon
Why it's important for women: Between the camaraderie you'll feel racing with other like-minded runners and the dedication you'll learn through following a set exercise schedule, a half marathon is the perfect way for those looking to test their fitness, yet feel like a part of something social at the same time.
Best ways to reach your goal: There are many different schedules you can follow in order to build up your endurance, but all of the good ones stick with, the same basic formula — one that gradually increases how far you run each week, provides at least two days of either rest or cross training (to give your body a break), and, asks you to perform one long run weekly. Looking to try out one for size? This schedule meets all of those criteria and can prepare you for a half-marathon in just 12 weeks:
Pitfalls to avoid: Giving your body enough time to recover is critical, but once you start towards your goal, it can be hard to remember to take rest days. That's why writing them into your schedule and sticking to them is a must — it may feel like one step backwards, but it will actually ensure that you take two steps forward when you exercise the next day.
Bucket list item #3: Pull off 10 push-ups
Why it's important for women: It's the exercise many women like to avoid, but this exercise is one of the best moves you can use to strengthen and shape your chest, shoulders and triceps — and even your core muscles to some extent — in one shot. Push-ups are also a terrific, no-equipment required exercise that allow you to always keep your upper body in amazing shape, no matter where you are, or, what you have access to.
Best ways to reach your goal: Having your hands, feet and head in the right position will help your muscles work together to raise and lower your body.
To do it right, start by placing your hands flat on the floor (shoulder-width apart) keeping your arms straight, elbows unlocked. Straighten your legs behind you, drawing your feet together. Rise up on your toes so the balls of your feet are touching the floor. Your body should be one straight line from your feet to your head; your eyes focused straight down at the floor below.
Take a deep breath and slowly lower yourself until your upper arms are parallel to the ground. Pause, then exhale as you slowly push yourself back up. Repeat for as many repetitions as possible.
Pitfalls to avoid: A lot of women like to do push-ups by resting on their knees — this trick doesn't work your muscles as effectively. If you have a hard time just doing one push-up, there are two tricks you can try to strengthen your muscles so that you'll soon be able to do not just one, but eventually, your final goal of ten repetitions.
The first trick is to place your hands on a surface that's higher than your feet — by changing the angle of your body, you'll displace some of your bodyweight so your muscles won't have to work as hard. Most trainers recommend using an exercise step that allows you to adjust the height of the step, such as The Original Health Club Step Aerobic Trainer from The Step. That way as you become stronger, you can remove a riser to lower the step closer to the floor, which changes the angle and makes the exercise more challenging.
The other trick: Don't worry about pushing yourself up. Instead, start in the up position, then lower yourself down as slowly as possible to the floor. Get off the floor in whatever way is easier for you (even if that means just rolling to your side), get back into the start position and repeat — eventually, you'll be strong enough to do a full repetition.
Bucket list item #4: Hold the tree pose for 60 seconds
Why it's important for women: If you remove the expected spiritual and relaxing benefits that yoga offers, there's a running list of perks that performing certain yoga poses can provide. A solid yoga program works all of your muscles — front and back — while it stretches them at the same time, helping to improve your body's overall posture, allowing it to function more efficiently with less risk of injury. It also strengthens muscles while teaching them to work together through a wider variety of angles. The end result: you build functional strength that trains your muscles to work collectively, which can improve your performance in any everyday activity or sport.
Best ways to reach your goal: Kick off your shoes — it will help you balance better — and stand with your feet hip-distance apart and arms down at your sides. Shift your weight onto your right foot, then bend your left leg as you place the bottom of your left foot along the inside of your right thigh. Your foot should end up just above the knee, toes pointing down. Next, raise your arms straight up over your head, pressing your palms together. Hold this pose for as long as possible, then repeat the move with the opposite leg.
Pitfalls to avoid: It's hard not to want to look down at your feet, or, up at your hands. However, doing so will only throw off your balance. Instead, perform the pose in front of a full-length mirror.
Those are our top four — so what's on your bucket list? We would love to know what other fitness goals you think every woman should try, either for fun, or, for the experience. So share them with us, won't you?
— Myatt Murphy, Fitness Reporter
Fitness expert Myatt Murphy, CSCS, is the author of the best-selling books Testosterone Transformation (Rodale, 2012), The Body You Want in the Time You Have (Rodale, 2005), The Men's Health Gym Bible (Rodale, 2006) and Men's Health's Ultimate Dumbbell Guide (Rodale, 2007). His work has appeared in innumerable magazines and online.