This post was updated on December 25, 2023.
Spend enough time around the top fitness professionals in the world and you’ll notice a pattern. They do more than sell memberships. They build communities and bring out the best in those who joined. This means their spaces—whether brick-and-mortar, digital or a hybrid—aren’t just where people go to sweat. They’re where people go to socialize and challenge themselves physically and mentally.
Dedicated fitness challenges can hit all of these notes for your fitness business. They encourage camaraderie and help people achieve a shared goal. You can create lots of different fitness challenges with Wix Fit by downloading Wix Online Programs from the App Market. (If you know challenges will be a big part of your business, you can use a fitness website template that highlights online programs from the start.)
What’s a fitness challenge, exactly?
A fitness challenge is an organized workout program that offers a consistent, progressive (meaning it gets harder as it goes on) exercise plan performed over a specified period of time, often 30 days.
The first (and longest running) fitness challenge dates back to 1966 when President Lyndon B. Johnson introduced the President’s Fitness Challenge, an exercise program that encouraged Americans to incorporate more physical activity into their daily lives. It was only discontinued in 2018.
In more modern times, fitness challenges are a type of online fitness program. They're closely tied to social media extensions like hashtags and online groups, which encourage members to post about their progress and keep the momentum going in between workouts. The more you create moments to engage with your members online—like reposting their sweaty selfies—and encourage them to engage with one another, the more likely they are to enjoy the experience and see it all the way through.
When it comes to program design, there are few rules when making fitness challenges. The length and overall goal (think: strength or endurance) can vary, but the objective is generally the same: to offer guidance, accountability and motivation to members while increasing engagement. Everything you want in a workout program.
Check out Wix Learn for more on building challenges.
Fitness challenge ideas to get you started
These Wix Fit users, trainers and editorial sites took different approaches to their fitness challenges. Take a look for some inspiration before building your next program.
01. A month-long challenge: Barre by Emma’s Monthly Challenges
Barre by Emma has challenges for the months of May, February and November, which is a great way to encourage participants to do a challenge at the same time. This approach lends itself to solid social media promotion—like Instagram Lives—since you’ll know that your followers are already doing the challenge together.
02. A year-long challenge: Peloton’s Annual Challenge
Research shows that long-term challenges of 90 days or more lead to better results than shorter ones. And this one from Peloton is a prime example of how to program an extended challenge in a way that still feels motivating and personal. They do this by focusing on total minutes of exercise, rather than individual classes—every 1,000 minutes earns participants another badge. The goal is to collect all 10 badges, and the gamification element makes it more fun than daunting.
03. A single-move challenge: Shape’s Pushup Challenge
Focusing on a single move can be highly motivating, especially if it’s a functional exercise that pops up in pretty much every other workout. Case in point: the pushup. This 30-day pushup challenge still keeps it interesting with related moves that complement the classic.
04. A muscle-group challenge: Get Up with Nards’ Get Peachy Challenge
You can also focus on a specific muscle group—chest, abs, back, legs—and program workouts that target these muscles. This one’s all about the lower body.
05. A running challenge: Runner’s World’s Running Streak
This running challenge has a simple design—running one mile everyday—making it easy for people to remember and follow.
The benefits of fitness challenges
Fitness challenges encourage community and hold client interest with less financial investment than traditional marketing. Often, these types of programs encourage people to use your facilities or website multiple times a week, ensuring consistent traffic and opportunities to connect with clients in an organic way. They can help you build trust, loyalty, and community—all things that can increase gym member retention.
Challenges are instantly engaging, says Nardia Cunningham, MSE, CPT, who runs a series of successful, online fitness challenges through Wix Fit and on her Instagram account, @getupwithnards. “People just hear the word and want to do it.” Essentially, people are always up for a challenge.
Aside from an opportunity for a little friendly competition, prizes for participating are often nominal (if any) and typically include badges, a free class or discounts. When clients complete a challenge hosted on Wix Fit, for example, they receive a badge they can share on their social accounts. Read more: 7creative ways to get your clients to share their workouts on social media.
They also tend to be a more approachable way to use a gym or studio than independent workouts, where the client needs to create and execute exercise programs on their own. “People sign up for challenges so they have support,” Cunningham says. “They need to be told what to do, when to do it, and they feel better when they know they're doing it with you.”
Even better if people sign up together. Research shows that people achieve better health outcomes when they exercise with others, rather than on their own. They tend to be more motivated and push themselves for longer periods of time. “A fitness community can be very motivating,” Cunningham confirms.
What to think about when creating a fitness challenge for your members
When creating a new online program, you’ll need to consider the frequency and intensity of the workouts. The lower the impact and intensity of a workout, the more frequently you could schedule sessions. A walking challenge, for example, could have a prompt every day. But if you were doing a HIIT challenge, you should plan for at least 48 hours in between workouts. So, two or three times per week.
If the challenge features a single move—like a pushup, plank or burpee—you could do daily drills but for less time. These types of challenges aren’t necessarily designed to replace full sweat sessions but are more of a quick exercise snack people can add to the end of workout.
No matter the format, it’s important to program challenges that appeal to participants at different fitness levels. The easiest way to do this is with an RPE scale, which stands for rate of perceived exertion. This means a person assigns a number to their effort level between one and 10 (with 10 being 100 percent effort) based on how difficult they find the exercise. By individualizing intensity this way, you can program workouts that challenge everyone from beginners to advanced exercisers.
On that note, Cunningham says sustainability is crucial. “If people go from not exercising to working out five or six times per week—or go from zero minutes to exercising for an hour at a time—they may be unable to stick with it,” she says. “It’s better to start with 15 to 20 minutes, then build on that.”
And remember, people are more likely to stick to workouts that they enjoy and have fun doing. “A lot of times people see fitness as a chore or they just jump into it just for weight loss,” Cunningham says. “I'm trying to get away from that and make it an overall lifestyle.”
That’s also why Cunningham is a big believer in building social-media components—specifically group chats (included with Wix Fit)—into her fitness challenges to help people connect. “It's a big community where people can talk with each other,” she says. That helps to boost commitment and accountability, which in turn lead to greater satisfaction and retention.
Ultimately, the more you can do to create an inclusive atmosphere both inside and outside of the gym or studio through your challenges and social media platforms, the greater chance you have of developing meaningful engagement with your members.