It’s 2020, and nothing says “Happy New Year” like setting health and fitness resolutions. If you’re tired of the same old, vague “exercise more,” why not consider adding something a little more rugged and adventurous to your list of goals? Not only will training for one of these events listed below improve your strength and endurance, but completing one of these brag-worthy fitness challenges will instill a huge sense of self-pride.
So if you’re willing to take on the toughest of physical and mental challenges this year — and perhaps explore the world while doing so — here are fitness challenges that you need to sign up for now.
1. Ragnar Relay — Worldwide
A Ragnar Relay is not your usual trail run — chances are, you haven’t experienced racing like this. During a Ragnar Relay, you’ll join forces with a group of friends and fellow runners who don’t think you’re insane for wanting to run trails in pitch-black darkness.
During a Ragnar Relay, you set up camp with your relay team and take turns running the legs of a relay. However, this is much more than a 400-by-400 meter dash. Ragnar Relays are approximately 200 miles in total, ranging from 11 to 24 miles per runner for a standard 12-person team, depending on which legs you and your teammates choose to run. The races span two days and one night.
Of course, you’ll have a headlamp for the overnight portion, but that doesn’t negate the fact that there are critters, tree roots, and other obstacles that might trip you up. Let’s face it, running overnight will be a novel experience for most. Find a Ragnar Relay near you and round up your favorite runner friends for an adventurous fitness challenge you won’t ever forget.
2. Escape from Alcatraz — San Francisco, California
No, we aren’t suggesting you try out as an extra for a new Hollywood movie. Escape from Alcatraz is a real fitness challenge off the coast of San Francisco, California, during which racers leap from a ferry boat at Alcatraz Island and swim through bone-chilling waters toward the San Francisco Bay.
Once out of the chilly waters, you’ll complete an 18-mile out-and-back bike ride through some of the most beloved San Francisco scenery and top it all off with an eight-mile run that takes you underneath the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. You’ll need a full wetsuit for this triathlon, as well as plenty of layers to shed during your bike and run portions. Don’t forget to pack plenty of race fuel, either.
3. CrossFit Open — Worldwide
The CrossFit Open isn’t your typical fitness challenge. This is an intense five weeks of workouts that make even the fittest people on the planet roll around on gym floors in pain. Every week for five weeks, CrossFit HQ announces a new workout designed to push athletes to the edge. You’ll dig deep and discover that you’re capable of far more than you ever thought you were. You might climb your first rope, do your first muscle-up, or sprint your fastest mile ever on a bike.
And the best part? You can participate in the Open from anywhere in the world. Beginners and elites alike partake in this fitness challenge from CrossFit gyms in more than 100 countries. So no matter where your travels take you this year, as long as you can access the necessary equipment, you’re good to go. If you’re feeling a bit nervous about doing a CrossFit Open workout at an unfamiliar gym, don’t worry: The CrossFit community is known for being inviting and cheering on everyone during tough workouts, even if you’ve never met a single person at the gym you’re visiting.
4. Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, or Rugged Maniac — Worldwide
If you’re feeling adventurous, try out an obstacle course race (OCR) to exercise and explore the outdoors at the same time. During a Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, or Rugged Maniac race, you’ll encounter a collection of challenging, sometimes even frightening or questionable, obstacles that you must conquer to finish the race. Some examples: army crawling underneath barbed wire; leaping over actual pits of fire; trudging through waist-deep, ice-cold water; and flinging yourself up and over high walls and barricades.
OCRs are typically held outdoors in locations away from big cities, so depending on where you’re at, you’ll get some good views along the way. And depending on Mother Nature, you may end up trudging through knee-deep mud or spending the entire length of the race wiping the rain from your eyes. Most of these races offer options for people at all fitness levels, from the length of a 5K to a marathon. Check out the event pages to find a Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, or Rugged Maniac near you.
5. GORUCK Challenge — Across the United States
Many people drop the GORUCK Challenge into the obstacle course racing category, but this fitness challenge is on a whole other level. This beast of a race was developed by an Army Green Beret and has Special Forces roots. Based on military training, the GORUCK Challenge involves a 20- or 30-pound weighted vest, depending on your body weight, and unknown obstacles.
You can choose from “light,” “tough,” or “heavy” options depending on your endurance level and physical and mental strength. These challenges are all about how hard and how far you can push yourself. They take place all over the United States, mostly during the summer months. Check out the event’s website to find a GORUCK Challenge near you for 2020.
6. Race Across America — Oceanside, California to Annapolis, Maryland
Race Across America gives a new meaning to the phrase “coast to coast.” Think Tour de France, but in the United States — and 30 percent longer with no rest days. But you’ll be traveling from the beachfront of Oceanside, California, to the sailing hub of Annapolis, Maryland, on the East Coast, so at least you’ll be preoccupied with stunning scenery.
Here’s what you’ll do: Cycle more than 3,000 miles through 12 states and three mountain ranges, cross four major rivers, climb more than 175,000 feet, and pass through tons of cultural landmarks. You can enter solo or with a relay team, but note that solo cyclists must qualify to ride in Race Across America. The race begins in June and you have nine days to complete the course (as a team). Learn more about registering on the official website. And if you aren’t quite up for this cross-country challenge, check out Race Across the West, a similar event put on by the same organization, in which cyclists travel from Oceanside, California, to Durango, Colorado.