Challenging But Attainable Fitness Goals to Work Toward

woman doing an unassisted pull-up as one of her fitness goals

Conquering these fitness goals will not only make you a more fit human, but you'll also have fun doing them. Get ready to get motivated!

01 of 13

Why You Should Set Fitness Goals for Yourself

woman doing a pull-up fitness goals bucket list
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If you want to hone your fitness practice but don't know where to start, why not try setting a fitness goal (or multiple!) for yourself? Setting a goal to work toward is helpful for creating and sticking to new habits, can help keep you on track, and might just motivate you to reach a personal milestone. (Pro tip: Using a goal tracker app can help you see your progress in real time.)

Each of the following examples of fitness goals are challenges that target a different aspect of fitness, from endurance to flexibility and strength. Once you've mastered one, strive to go to the next level by adding intensity, time, or reps. For example, once you finish a 10K, try training for a half-marathon.

Read on for fitness goal ideas and expert tips on why and how you should go about checking them off your list.

02 of 13

Do 25 Push-ups

fitness goals: two women (one in focus and one blurred) doing pushups together
  Guido Mieth/Getty Images

Keep in mind that any of your fitness goals should be realistic for you. Mastering the ability to perform 25 push-ups is a very reasonable and reachable goal for most women, says Timothy L. Miller, M.D., clinical professor of orthopaedics at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center. Benefits include upper-body strength in the chest (pectorals), shoulder girdle (scapular stabilizers), and triceps. Another plus? Push-ups require no equipment and can be varied in many ways to train different muscle groups (i.e. a closer grip targets triceps), says Miller. (

Start out with modified pushups, resting on your knees as opposed to on the toes. Keep your back straight, abdominals tensed, and hips and butt down. Your chest should completely touch the floor without allowing your midsection to drop onto the floor. Gradually increase the number of reps as you build strength until you can hoist yourself up on your toes in traditional pushup form. (Or try this 30-day push-up challenge, which will coach you through it.)

03 of 13

Run a 10K (6.2 Miles)

woman running on treadmill training for 10k fitness goals
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Conquering a 10k is one of the best fitness goals for those who want to get into running: The distance is long enough to feel a true sense of accomplishment but does not require the same commitment and preparation time as a marathon, says Miller. "The benefits of training for a 10K are not only physiologic but also psychological," he continues.

In terms of physiological benefits, you'll improve your cardiovascular fitness as well as your upper- and lower-body strength. Plus, the often-overlooked mental and emotional benefits include not only the sense of accomplishment after completion but also the self-confidence that comes with realizing fitness training goals, says Miller. "These include the bonding and relationships developed through training. Partners supporting, encouraging, and motivating one another is what many runners enjoy the most about training," he says. (

Start gradually, increasing mileage by no more than 10 percent from the previous week, advises Miller. Beginners should pick a race about three months down the road and ask others to train with them or look for a running group.

04 of 13

Master 3 Difficult Yoga Poses

fitness goals: woman doing a crow yoga pose

Yoga requires minimal equipment, provides stretching without stressing the joints, and can improve stress levels and posture, says Maureen K. Watkins, D.P.T., assistant clinical professor in the physical therapy department at Northeastern University's Bouvé College of Health Sciences.

"Individuals new to yoga should begin slowly, ideally with an experienced instructor so poses and postures can be corrected and not lead to injuries," says Watkins. ICYDK, many yoga studios offer free classes to new students. Look for experienced, certified instructors, and once you have the hang of a basic flow, test your skills with balancing poses. Three challenging poses to aim to master? Warrior III, crow, and handstand.

05 of 13

Get Good at Sprinting

woman doing a sprint workout on a track field for fitness goals
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Adding sprint training to your running routine has a number of benefits, says Miller. The initial benefit comes simply from the variation in the workout, which prevents boredom. Plus, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) promotes sprinting as a great way to tone your leg and glute muscles, and when practiced as intervals, sprinting is classified as high-intensity interval training, aka HIIT (and therefore provides the many benefits of HIIT workouts).

Although it may sound counterintuitive, sprints also help optimize long, slow distance runs, says Miller. "Your body needs to know what it feels like to run fast in order for it to perform at that level," he explains. By adding one or two high-intensity interval sessions to your weekly routine, your body will develop the fast-twitch muscle fibers required for sprinting, as opposed to only the slow-twitch fibers most commonly associated with endurance. "This type of training, however, should be added gradually to prevent overuse injuries," says Miller. (Try it: How to Add Treadmill Sprint Workouts to Your Running Routine)

06 of 13

Do a Box Jump

fitness goals: woman doing box jumps at a gym

Plyometrics, also known as jump training, is an advanced way to train. "In addition to fat burning, [plyometric moves] teach you how to rapidly decelerate the body and reaccelerate in the opposite direction," says Neal Pire, C.S.C.S., F.A.C.S.M., an ACE- and NASM-certified trainer and author of Plyometrics for Athletes at All Levels. This ability comes in handy whether you're chasing a ball to the sideline in tennis then immediately returning to center court, or simply jumping off the commuter bus and immediately jumping over a puddle onto the curb, says Pire.

Good fitness goals always provide a challenge, so turn to the mother of all plyometric moves: the box jump. It's killer for developing strength, power, and speed, plus gives you something to shoot for (literally). If you're interested in learning how to do box jumps, start by incorporating slalom hops (lateral jumps) and speed skaters into your routine to work in additional planes of motion, recommends Pire. Like box jumps, do them prior to your workout and after a thorough warm-up. Repeat each for 10 seconds, or five jumps. (

For more detailed info, here's a full breakdown of all the benefits of doing box jumps and here's how to slowly progress to doing a box jump (even if it seems scary). The good news is, once you've nailed it, you already have another fitness goal: Go higher!

07 of 13

Learn to Swim

fitness goals: woman swimming in an indoor pool
Dmitry Sheremeta/Shutterstock

Swimming can have a positive impact on body fat, insulin levels, and overall health, says Watkins. Science agrees: A 2010 study published in the journal Metabolism compared two groups of women — one walking group and one swimming group — who exercised at a moderate intensity three times per week for a year. The findings? The women in the swimming group lost more weight and experienced improved body-fat distribution and insulin in the short term.

If you're not a natural in the water, check out your local YMCA center, suggests Watkins. They offer swim lessons for adults of all levels as well as various aquatic classes — such as aquatic cross training, water aerobics, aqua jog, and even prenatal water classes. "Group classes can help you to stay motivated, have fun, and be social," she adds. (Also, use these tips to make the most of your swim workout.)

08 of 13

Master an Unassisted Pull-up — or Five

fitness goals: woman doing an unassisted pull-up

There's a reason why the military uses pull-ups in basic training: they're tough! "Most women can't do one pull-up," says Pire. There's a reason for that: Most people do more pushing than pulling moves in their everyday activities, which can lead to weak upper-back muscles and contribute to neck aches and pains. "It can also lead to shoulder weakness, which in turn leads to pain and dysfunction," adds Pire. Pull-ups can help correct that imbalance, so add them to your workout once or twice a week for a strong upper body.

Intimidated? Try breaking this challenge up into multiple smaller fitness goals. The first step is perfecting the fixed-arm hang, says Adam Bornstein, certified trainer and founder of Born Fitness. "Stand on a box (or bench) underneath a pull-up bar. Grab the bar with palms facing away from you and jump up. Keep your chest as close to the bar as possible and hang there as long as you can tolerate. When you start to feel yourself coming down, lower slowly for three to five seconds until your feet are back on the box. Then jump back up and do another rep," says Bornstein. Try for five reps, holding for at least 10 seconds and lowering down slowly each time, he suggests.

Once you build up to a 30-second hold for five reps, you're ready to move on to step two: band-resisted pull-ups. "To start, loop one end of a large resistance band around a pull-up bar and then put both of your feet on the other side of the band. Try to perform six to eight reps. If that's easy, then move to just one foot in the band," he says. Perform three sets of eight to 10 reps, and you should be ready to take on that unassisted pull-up once and for all. (Here's a full guide to finally doing a pull-up.)

Already got it? Go for five.

09 of 13

Climb a Rope

fitness goals: a woman in a gym climbing a rope with her hands and feet

Climbing a rope is another great (and fun!) challenge for those who are looking for a good upper-body workout. "Rope climbing is a skill that requires upper body/pulling strength, core strength, and flexibility," says Tracey Magee, owner of CrossFit Clan Performance Center in New Jersey. "There's also an element of fear with some people, so building confidence as they progress toward this goal is important too," she adds.

Before you attempt climbing a rope, you need to build some pulling strength. Start with inverted rows with rings or a TRX, then progress to strict pull-ups and chest-to-bar pull-ups. After that, try rope pulls from a seated position: Sit under the rope and slowly pull yourself up to standing by "climbing" the rope.

You use your whole body to climb a rope, so you should also add triceps dips to your training as well as pressing exercises, such as push-ups and dumbbell overhead presses. Core work is majorly important as well: "Strengthening your abdominals, spinal erectors, obliques, and intrinsic stabilizers will build a strong core," says Magee. Work hollow holds, supermans, sit-ups, V-ups, planks, and Russian twists into your routine. Depending on strength and skill level, these movements should be included in your training programs at least three times per week, increasing the number of reps each week as strength develops.

Once you feel strong, learn a climbing technique: S-hook or J-hook. Consider tapping a CrossFit or other strength coach for a demo. Once you nailed it with feet, go legless.

10 of 13

Hold a Minute-Long (or More) Plank

fitness goals: woman holding a palm plank

Core strength and planking go hand in hand. Join the ranks of people setting plank fitness goals by first mastering your plank form and then taking small steps to increase your intervals over time.

"Start with: what's your baseline?" says Heather Stevens, former yoga and interval master trainer at Studio Three. Hold your plank for 15 seconds, see where you're at, and, when it starts to feel easy, add 10 to 15 seconds at a time. Aim for 30 seconds and go from there, she says. "Planks require total core strength and shoulder stability, so your workouts should also involve shoulder strengthening moves (ex: overhead presses) and other core movements," adds Stevens.

If you've already mastered the one-minute plank, challenge yourself to hold for your favorite song or for up to five minutes. "To get there, you'll want to incorporate extra core workouts into your everyday strength routine. Try additional Russian twists, reverse crunches, and hanging leg raises," says Stevens.

Other ways to advance your planks include adding movement and holding three-limbed planks. "Start with your basic plank first, adding toe taps, mountain climbers and shoulder taps. When you feel ready, hold a traditional high plank, then lift your right hand to your left shoulder and hold for thirty seconds. Repeat by lifting your left hand to your right shoulder," explains Stevens. Be sure to keep your hips square to the floor and feet wider than your hips, moving them closer together as you progress, she adds.

11 of 13

Nail a Backflip

fitness goals: woman in the middle of doing a backflip on a beach
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Score Simone Biles status (at least in your own circle of friends) by acing your very first unassisted backflip — specifically, a back tuck. To pull off a backflip, you'll need to build a lot of strength and coordination in your body. To start, try this gymnastics-inspired bodyweight workout, practice gymnast-approved handstand drills to get comfortable going upside-down, and develop better body awareness with Pilates.

"Placing the jump board onto the Pilates reformer is a great way to build agility, leg strength, power, and cardiovascular endurance all at once! A jump-board class will help you get the height, power and strength needed in your backflip," says Sara Grout, former master trainer at Club Pilates. Then take those plyo moves off the reformer: Practice squat jumps and tuck jumps on the floor or even on a trampoline.

Building core strength is also crucial for pulling it off: "The stronger your abdominals are (rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, and transverse abdominals), the tighter the ball you can make with your body, which means the easier you can flip around while in the air," explains Grout.

Once you feel strong, enlist the help of a qualified gymnastics or tumbling coach to help you land a backflip. "It's important when first learning the steps for properly executing a backflip that there is someone there to coach you through the proper form and, even more importantly, to spot you to make sure that you stay injury-free," says Grout.

12 of 13

Lift Your Bodyweight

fitness goals: woman doing a bench press at the gym
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Lifting your bodyweight sounds like the stuff of professional bodybuilders' fitness goals, but all you really need is a little programming and consistency — at least, according to Ronnie Lubischer, C.S.C.S., a NASM-certified personal trainer and owner of Lubischer's Burn and Blast Training. "You can use this almost exact approach to attack your body weight in any of the five core compound lifts: squat, deadlift, bent-over row, shoulder press, and bench press," says Lubischer.

To get started, you'll want to train the working muscles two times per week with two to three days in between each workout. For example, if your goal is to bench press your weight, "prior to bench-pressing, you should perform some ancillary movements," says Lubischer. Pick two or three exercises — such as cable face pulls/upright rows (upper posterior strength), front raises/lateral raises (shoulder girdle stability) and press-downs/overhead extensions (triceps strength) if you want to bench press — and try for three sets of 15 to 25 reps. "Each feeds into the total strength of the bench press movement," he explains.

Then, you should aim to lift 30 percent of your bodyweight for the first week (so, if you weigh 140 lbs, lift 42 lbs), increasing lift weight by about 5 percent and varying sets and reps each week. When in doubt, tap a trainer or strength coach for advice, to check your form, or for a spotter. If you feel ready, try this sample 16-week bench press schedule for beginners:

  • Week 1: 5 sets x 10 reps at 30% of bodyweight (BW)
  • Week 2: 5 x 8 reps at 35% BW
  • Week 3: 5 x 5 reps at 40% BW
  • Week 4: 5 x 3 reps at 45% BW
  • Week 5: 5 x 10 reps at 40% BW
  • Week 6: 5 x 8 reps at 50% BW
  • Week 7: 5 x 5 reps at 55% BW
  • Week 8: 5 x 3 reps at 60% BW
  • Week 9: 5 x 10 reps at 50% BW
  • Week 10: 4 x 8 reps at 65% BW
  • Week 11: 4 x 5 reps at 75% BW
  • Week 12: 4 x 3 reps at 85% BW
  • Week 13: 5 x 10 reps at 75% BW
  • Week 14: 3 x 8 reps at 85% BW
  • Week 15: 3 x 5 reps at 90% BW
  • Week 16: 3 x 3 reps at 100% BW
13 of 13

Learn to Bodyboard

fitness goals: woman smiling while floating on a bodyboard in the ocean
  Cade Martin/Getty Images

Once you've achieved your swimming fitness goals, try upping the ante (and reap serious benefits) by learning to bodyboard, which is a great segue to surfing, according to Christa DiPaolo, a NASM-certified trainer and founder of Boxing & Bubbles. DiPaolo learned the ropes from her surfer fiancé and was wowed by how much skill and athleticism goes into the sport. (These surfing-inspired exercises will give you a taste.)

"Start by doing regular laps in the pool until you feel confident you can take on Mother Nature," says DiPaolo. "Equipment is everything, so you'll also want to make sure you have the correct bodyboard according to your height," she adds. Someone at a local surf shop should be able to help you pick one and secure lessons with a pro — which is your best bet for learning.

"First, you'll need to 'read' the waves, so your first lesson will be sitting on the beach and learning about how the waves break. This is crucial so you know whether to go left or right once you're in the water," explains DiPaolo. "Once you've mastered reading the waves (which was the toughest part for me), you'll move on to paddling out and duck-diving and, soon enough, you'll be catching your first barrel like Kelly Slater!" she says. (

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