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Without a goal in mind that amounts to more than changing the numbers on the bathroom scale, in today’s instant-fix world it can be tough to commit to a long term fitness routine. For the competitively inclined there races that feature various fitness challenges which can require months of preparation to perform. There are races and race clubs such as the Ironman Challenge, Coast to Coast, and the F45 8-Week Challenge. These challenges are a trial of human strength, endurance, and spirit. Here are 5 tips on how to prepare for a fitness challenge and get in the best shape of your life.

Lift Weights

Weight bearing exercises increase bone density along with building strength. Weight machines, free weights, and your body’s own mass can be used to provide helpful muscle-building resistance.

Do Cardio

Sprinting and full on running are absolute essentials for challenge training, but don’t neglect other types of cardio that get your blood moving and your muscles flexing. Jump rope and the boot camp tire-run challenge your dexterity and spacial awareness while increasing blood flow to the heart.

Time Yourself

Compete against yourself by recording how long it takes you to do certain exercise tasks, and then try to beat that time during your next training session. There are useful apps available for smartphones that are great for tracking daily workouts.

Build Up Your Stamina

In addition to timing your tasks, you can build up your stamina by making certain exercises more difficult. Try stair climbing while holding weights or wearing ankle weights; add exercises like tire-lifts and rope pulling to your routine to push the body’s endurance to the limits.

Take Rests from Training

Schedule a day of rest every other day or so; the real work in muscle strength and durability happens not during exercise activities, but during the following rest period. During a challenging workout, muscles develop micro-tears which, when healed, make the muscle tissue stronger than before. Large tears, however, will do the opposite and may even cause permanent impairment. As always, check credible modern sources for information on exercising safely and effectively.

You may feel as though you’re not capable of performing in one of these challenges. Perhaps it’s due to the common misconception that you have to win. What truly makes these challenges special though, is that your real competition is yourself. Training and racing in and of itself is a huge feat. With the right preparation, you’re more than qualified and capable to participate.