The Most Impressive Fitness Feats of 2020

From cartwheels on roller skates to a 3,000-foot free climb, here's how fitness enthusiasts crushed their goals in 2020.

Woman jumping in air in urban studio
Photo: Getty Images/Tara Moore

Anyone who simply survived 2020 deserves a medal and a cookie (at the very least). That said, some people rose above the many challenges of 2020 to achieve incredible goals, especially in regards to fitness.

In a year defined by at-home workouts and DIY exercise equipment, there were still badass athletes who managed to tackle all kinds of awe-inspiring fitness feats, from record-breaking cartwheels (ahem, in roller skates!) to a 3,000-foot free climb. Their determination serves as a reminder that a little ingenuity — and a lot of grit — can go a long way. (Seriously, though, don't feel guilty if you didn't achieve your own fitness goals this year.)

So, as you bid farewell to 2020, draw some inspiration from these workout warriors who are sure to motivate you to conquer 2021, no matter what the new year has in store for you. (Need a little extra motivation? Join our 21 Jump Start fitness program with obé.)

A Woman Ran a 5:25 Mile at 9 Months Pregnant

Running a mile in under five and a half minutes is no easy feat. But Utah-based runner Makenna Myler upped the ante in a major way back in October when she ran a 5:25 mile at nine months pregnant. Naturally, Myler's accomplishment went viral on TikTok after her husband Mike shared a video of her impressive mile time.

This Personal Trainer Did 730 Burpees In One Hour

Let's be real: Burpees can be brutal even when you're just doing a handful of them. But one personal trainer made history this year by crushing 730 burpees in the span of one hour — yes, really. Alison Brown, a personal trainer from Ontario, Canada, beat the prior Guinness World Record in the female category of 709 chest-to-ground burpees within an hour. She told CBC News that she took on the challenge to show her three sons that they can achieve anything they set their minds to.

One Man Bear-Crawled for the Entire Length of a Marathon to Honor Veterans

Bear crawls — which require you to crawl on all fours with coordinated hand-foot movements and knees hovering above the ground — are perhaps the only exercise more maligned than burpees. Devon Lévesque, a 28-year-old health and fitness entrepreneur from New Jersey, managed to complete 26.2 miles worth of bear crawls in November at the New York City Marathon.

Lévesque told Today that he set out to conquer this challenge to raise awareness for the mental health of veterans after losing his dad to suicide. "It's super important that people understand that they can talk about struggles," he shared. "You can't keep it all bottled up. It's going to affect you more than you know so it's really good to be able to express yourself." (Inspired? Try this burpee-broad jump-bear crawl combo.)

A Paraplegic Man Swam 150 Laps In One Day

In 2019, Australian resident Luke Whatley, who is paralyzed from the waist down, swam 100 laps in one day. This year, to commemorate International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3, Whatley added 50 laps to his previous record for a grand total of 150 swimming laps (and roughly 10 hours in the pool) in one day. He told a local Australian news outlet that he did this "to prove to all kinds of people that when they work hard, and they dedicate themselves to fitness, they can achieve their dreams and goals."

A Professional Roller Skater Broke the Record for Most Cartwheels On Roller Skates In One Minute

Roller skating turned out to be one of the most popular fitness trends of 2020 (even celebs such as Kerry Washington and Ashley Graham laced up their skates in quarantine). But one professional roller skater, Tinuke Oyediran (aka Tinuke's Orbit), took the trend to an entirely new level, earning the Guinness World Record for the most cartwheels on roller skates in one minute (she did 30!) and the most spins on e-skates in one minute (with 70 spins).

"Achieving both of these records has made my lockdown dreams a reality!" she told Guinness. "For anyone who has struggled with lockdown like I did, setting yourself a challenge really can help you get through and I encourage everyone to just go for it." (

An Irish Family Broke 4 Guinness World Records for Charity

Breaking one Guinness World Record is impressive. But in 2020, one family from Kerry, Ireland crushed four of them — all in the spirit of giving back. To help support Irish humanitarian-aid agency, GOAL, and its Virtual Mile, the Hickson family accomplished several unique fitness challenges. According to the Irish Examiner, 40-year-old Sandra Hickson ran an 8:05 mile with 40 pounds on her back, while her partner, Nathan Missin, carried 60 pounds during a 6:54 mile and 100 pounds in a separate 7:29 mile. Missin also joined Sandra's brother, Jason Hickson, in another family fitness feat that called for carrying a 50-kilogram (or 110-pound) person on a stretcher for one mile. The pair completed the challenge with a record-breaking 10:52 mile time. While the family waits for their accomplishments to be authenticated by the Guinness Book of Records, they told the Irish Examiner that they hope they'll inspire people both abroad and at home to connect in similarly special ways and to support humanitarian relief efforts amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.

This Personal Trainer Completed a 48-Hour Fitness Challenge In Less Than 21 Hours

If simply reading the name "the Devil's Double Challenge" makes you shudder, you're not alone. The grueling 48-hour fitness challenge, hosted virtually this year by Gut Check Fitness, is a two-parter: In part one, participants attempt 25 miles of running, 3,000 abdominal crunches, 1,100 push-ups, 1,100 jumping jacks, and one mile of burpee leapfrogs (FYI: those are burpees with a long jump instead of a traditional vertical jump). In part two, participants tackle 25 miles of running, 200 overhead presses, 400 push-ups, 600 squats, and another mile of burpee leapfrogs — all with a 35-pound backpack.

Exhausted yet? Tammy Kovaluk, a trainer from Bend, Oregon, did all of this not in 48 hours, but in 20 hours and 51 minutes. In the process, she raised $2,300 for Harmony Farm Sanctuary, which offers a safe place for rescued farm animals to connect with humans. Kovaluk told local news outlet, The Bulletin, that the accomplishment was "perhaps the hardest thing" she's ever done physically. "It also required all of my mental strength. I certainly got what I asked for, being stripped down to the core," she said.

A Professional Contortionist Did 402 L-Seat Straddle Presses to Handstand

If you applaud yourself for mastering tree pose (go you!), you'll be in disbelief about the gravity-defying record Stefanie Millinger crushed this year. Millinger, a professional contortionist from Austria, shattered the Guinness World Record for the most consecutive L-seat straddle presses to handstand — logging 402 in a row like it was NBD.

A Pro Rock Climber Became the First Woman to Free-Climb El Capitan In One Day

Throughout her rock climbing career, Emily Harrington had tried three separate times to free-climb El Capitan, a 3,000-foot mountain in Yosemite National Park. In 2019, she survived a 30-foot fall during her third attempt at conquering the monolith. Fast-forward to 2020, and Harrington became the first woman to successfully free-climb El Capitan in one day. "I never really set out with the intention of being successful, I just wanted to have an interesting goal and see how it went," Harrington shared in a recent interview with Shape. "But one of the reasons I climb is to think very deeply about things like risk and the types of risks that I'm willing to take. And I think what I've realized over the years is that I'm a lot more capable than I think I am."

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