For the last four years, I’ve added the same sentence to my list of goals for the new year: ‘get visible abs’. Of course, I have other, non six-pack related aspirations, too. But that’s the recurring fitness goal that pops up every year without fail. I can safely say that despite my consistent weight training and eating relatively healthy (sometimes strict, sometimes toddler at a birthday party) for four years, I have never once had visible abs. Sure, there have been times where I’ve come kind of close (in the right lighting, if you squint a little!) but for whatever reason, I’ve never quite got there.
However, in my pursuit of poppin’ abs, I’ve achieved other fitness goals that I didn’t even know I wanted to achieve. But when I did, they made me feel so much more accomplished than I’d imagine having visible abs ever would. So, for that reason, I’ve come up with a new resolution—stop trying to get visible abs! Instead, I’m going to focus on fun, non-aesthetic fitness goals instead. After all, while having a six-pack probably won’t change my life, being strong, fit and healthy definitely will.
The experts are with me on this one, too. “The aesthetic benefits of working out no longer have the same appeal for me,” says Shauna Harrison, Under Armour-sponsored athlete and creator of the #SweatADay challenge on Instagram. “It’s about self-integrity—that is, holding a commitment to myself.” Athletes train for performance, while bodybuilders tend to train for aesthetics—and from now on, I’m planning to do the former! And hey, if my abs happen to make an appearance somewhere along the way, that’s great!
If you too are in need of some more worthwhile fitness goals to motivate you, here are some great ones to add to your list.
1. Master full push-ups
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with doing push-ups on your knees. But there’s nothing like busting out a push-up on your toes to make you feel like a total boss (even if it’s just one to begin with!). You can find a great guide to mastering full push-ups here.
2. Run a race
Even if you don’t consider yourself a runner, signing up for a race is a great way to stay motivated to exercise. If you’re a beginner, start with something smaller like a 10K. You never know, you might love that feeling of crossing the finish line so much that you decide to eventually sign up for a half-marathon! You can read our guide to going from a runner to a half-marathoner here.
3. Do a bodyweight pull-up
The first time I did a body weight pull-up was definitely one of the proudest moments of my life—especially since I started with using all of the resistance bands! I seriously felt like Rocky Balboa as I hoisted myself above that bar. It was amazing. Less than a year after doing my first bodyweight pull-up, my new goal is to smash out 10 in a row. My point is, you’d be surprised how quickly you can build upper body strength if you dedicate yourself to it. You can find a great training guide to mastering your first bodyweight pull-up here.
4. Balance in crow’s pose
I may be a pull-up beast now (kidding), but I have serious respect for yogis who can hold crow’s pose like it’s no big thing. I’m looking at you, Bianca Cheah! Balancing in crow’s pose is a fantastic fitness goal. Not only does it require great strength, core stability and flexibility, there are varying degrees of the pose. So, even once you master it, you can always keep working on your depth or holding it for longer. You can see our simple guide to getting into crow’s pose here.
5. Enter an endurance event
Yes, crawling around in mud isn’t for everybody. But if you’re up for a challenge, endurance events like Tough Mudder are the perfect non-aesthetic way to motivate you to get fit. Because once you’ve signed up for one, it’s very expensive to not turn up! It’s a good idea to rally up a team and sign up for a smaller one like the 5 km Roc Race Ridiculous, before working your way up to bigger ones. Who knows, you may get addicted to the adrenaline!
6. Hit a handstand
As someone who’s never been particularly acrobatic, a handstand is another thing I’m yet to master (yes, even as a kid!) While being a rather child-like activity, hitting a handstand is a great fitness goals for adults, as it requires a strong core, upper body strength and a healthy dose of confidence in your own ability! You can find a guide to mastering your first handstand here.
7. Get functional
One of my other proudest fitness moments happened outside the gym. I’d locked myself out of apartment (on the second floor) with no way to get my spare keys. However, the balcony to my bedroom was open—so using my upper body strength (thanks pull-ups!), I was able to hoist myself over and in. No locksmith required! Being strong and agile enough to break into your own apartment, fight back if you’re attacked or even just carry your own suitcases or groceries is a great fitness goal in itself. And when someone asks you what you’re training for, you can simply reply: “Life.”