The Rise of the Fitness Challenge

It used to be that when workout fanatics wanted to take their daily routine up a notch, they only had themselves to rely on. It was up to you and you alone to take an extra trip to the gym, or write your own healthy-eating menu, or convince yourself to try a new class for the first time. If you were lucky (and had the resources), you could MAYBE hire a trainer to kick your workouts up a notch.

But now, with the rise of fitness challenges (both in-person and virtual), sweaty people everywhere have the access to get past a fitness plateau and start reaching new goals.

“It’s another form of accountability, a commitment to yourself,” says Paul Rahn, founder/CEO of SWEAT Fitness Studios (where he regularly leads spring and fall challenges). “I think anyone who is in a rut, a standstill with their fitness routine or just in life can use a 30-day challenge to change it up, spark some personal growth and reignite their senses around being healthier.”

Spring fitness challenge

And, contrary to what you might instinctively believe (“there’s no WAY I’m going to sign up for 16 classes in 30 days”), the evidence shows that people WANT a huge goal to aim for. In fact, it’s something we’ve seen here at aSweatLife with the rising popularity of our #SweatworkingCrawl, in which we challenge participants to take on three (or even four) different workouts over a two-hour “crawl.”

“We started creating #SweatworkingCrawl events a year ago to test if our community was up for a challenge,” shares Jeana Anderson Cohen, founder/CEO of and founder/CSO of the SweatWorking App. “Very quickly we realized that they were telling us a resounding ‘yes’ by packing these events that were triple the size in a day or less. They’re able to try three studios in one afternoon, and they sweat their way through a neighborhood in the process.”

Fitness challenges

With the ever-present, always-on society we live in today, fitness challenges are evolving to include more virtual and at-home options for challenge participants. Before, challenges may have required you to check in at the studio a certain number of times over 30 days, or meet with an accountability group weekly for a status check. Now, thanks to apps like SweatWorking, gyms can create virtual workouts, meal plans and even an entire community of support to help challenge participants succeed.

And, as Rahn predicts, “having instant access to your workouts and meal plans wherever you are is the next wave of health and wellness.”

Yet even with the convenience of working out anywhere and having access to meal plans on-the-go, the most popular group challenges all have an element of accountability. As we say here at aSweatLife, everything is better with friends — and that includes a fitness challenge.

Luckily, app and virtual challenge creators have built that into their challenge format with virtual accountability groups.

Says Anderson Cohen, “We created the SweatWorking App with teams to build in the accountability that keeps people showing up to the workouts. When you know your friends are there with you – digitally or otherwise – you’re much more likely to show up.”

While some gym regulars may anticipate the start of an annual or semi-annual challenge (whether in excitement or dread), most challenges are accessible to any level of fitness, with some advice in your back pocket.

“The most important thing I tell a lot of challenge-goers is that this is really driven by yourself and your desire to make a change,” advises Rahn. “We will give you the tools, we will make you sweat in classes, and we will answer any questions you have throughout. Yet, you go home at night without us! You must be willing to make the choices outside of the gym to ensure you see results that you’re looking for.”

Those choices may include some sacrifices you may not be used to making, like waking up an hour earlier to squeeze in that workout or cutting out your nightly glass of wine, but the connection you have to everyone in it with you makes it that much more achievable.

Want to join the Sweat x SweatWorking Spring Cleaning Challenge? Click here.

Fitness Trends Move

About Kristen Geil

A native of Lexington, Kentucky, Kristen moved to Chicago in 2011 and received her MA in Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse from DePaul while trying to maintain her southern accent. Kristen grew up playing sports, and since moving to Chicago, she’s fallen in love with the lakefront running path and the lively group fitness scene. Now, as a currently retired marathoner and sweat junkie, you can usually find her trying new workouts around the city and meticulously crafting Instagram-friendly smoothie bowls. Kristen came on to A Sweat Life full-time in 2018 as Editor-in-Chief, and she spends her days managing writers, building content strategy, and fighting for the Oxford comma.