4 Ways the STRONGER Challenge Will Make 2018 Your Fittest Year Yet

If you want to lose weight and get fit this year, you might be wondering "How do I get started? Where is my motivation? What do I need to do?"

Nicky Holender's STRONGER challenge will make you sweat like nobody's business. Credit: LIVESTRONG.COM

A crucial component that's been integral to my weight loss and overall fitness over the past several years has been being a part of a fitness challenge group.

The encouragement, support, friendly competition (and let's be honest — the kick in the butt) that a fitness challenge group provides is what I need to kick-start and stick with my diet and fitness resolutions.

I know this from experience.

I've been lucky enough to participate in two different Beachbody test groups. In 2011, I participated in the RevAbs test group and lost 15 pounds in three months.

In the summer of 2012, I was a member of the Les Mills Combat test group, and I lost 20 pounds in 60 days. (See my BEFORE and AFTER photos.) And in 2014, I lost eight pounds doing the 8-week STRONGER Challenge with the LIVESTRONG.COM team.

We're starting an 8-week STRONGER Fitness Challenge for the new year on Monday, July 9, and we're inviting you and all of our readers to join us. We made it our resolution to try to help as many other people as possible get fit.

That's why we made our STRONGER premium fitness program COMPLETELY FREE for everyone. Plus, you can join our LIVESTRONG.COM Challenge Group on Facebook.

We'll be sharing our experiences there, and we'd love to have our audience along for the wild ride. You can also tweet at us @LIVESTRONG_COM using the hashtag #Stronger2018.

We created the STRONGER workout program <ahref="http: www.livestrong.com="" blog="" introducing-stronger-meal-plan-and-fitness-program="" "=""> </ahref="http:>with celebrity trainer and former professional soccer player, Nicky Holender. The daily workouts are all about 30 minutes long and require no equipment at all. That way, you can do the STRONGER workouts in your living room, bedroom, office, hotel room or anywhere you have a Wi-Fi connection. So, there are no excuses! Here's the full calendar of STRONGER workouts.

Here's your workout roadmap. Credit: LIVESTRONG.COM

4 Things That Helped Me Lose Weight and Stay Committed

1. Daily words of motivation from top trainers

Most of us find it too expensive to hire a personal trainer — never mind a celebrity trainer — to provide support and those words of wisdom. I realize that I have been lucky to work with top trainers in my past challenge groups.

In the RevAbs test group, Brett Hoebel gave us in-person pep talks and video updates to keep us motivated. In the Les Mills Combat test group, we received video updates from Dan Cohen, Rachael Newsham and our in-person trainers.

During the 8-week STRONGER Challenge, you'll get daily video motivation from Nicky Holender. Nicky is an expert trainer and motivator with celebrity and athlete clients, including Gordon Ramsay, Robbie Williams, Mel B, Gerard Butler, Salomon Kalou and more.

What does a daily motivational video from Nicky look like? Here's your day 1 motivation to get you fired up to do your first 30-minute HIIT workout:

2. Daily exercise routines prescribed by a professional trainer

Left to my own devices, I would just do a yoga class or head to the gym and jump on the elliptical and watch TV. But those types of self-guided workouts — even when I did them five or six times a week — NEVER got me to lose 15 or 20 pounds. In fact, choosing my own daily workout routine never even got me to lose five pounds.

This is how I understand and know from experience that fitness challenge groups offer something that is truly an advantage over regular old self-directed gym routines.

The fitness challenge groups that helped me lose weight consisted of different daily workouts programmed for the group by professional trainers that involved high intensity interval training (HIIT), strength training, plyometrics and core work. The workouts don't need to be long, they simply need to challenge you and provide variety that keeps you coming back for more.

Want to see an example of a daily workout video from STRONGER? Press "play" to check out the FIRE high intensity interval training HIIT workout:

3. A simple daily meal plan created by a professional dietitian

Most of us can't afford consultation with a nutritionist or dietitian to come up with a meal plan that supports our diet and fitness goals.

As I mentioned again and again, I've achieved my best success as a part of fitness challenge groups. In those groups an essential component was the meal plan and sticking to it.

In creating STRONGER, we decided to work with nationally-recognized nutritionist, author and LIVESTRONG contributor Keri Glassman to develop daily meal plans for omnivores, vegetarians, vegans, and a gluten-free option as well. These are all included in the STRONGER program.

The best part: If you decide to eat something different (say a burrito at Chipotle), it's quick and easy to track because the STRONGER meal plan is built on top of the LIVESTRONG.COM MyPlate Calorie Tracker platform, which already contains over one million popular foods that are in your grocery store and restaurants nationwide.

Getting a flexible easy-to-prepare daily meal plan complete with recipes and grocery shopping lists emailed to me is yet another reason why I'm looking forward to starting the STRONGER Challenge.

4. Support and friendly competition from a great group of people

During the two challenge groups I participated in, getting through day 1, day 15, day 30, day 45 and so on, was not always easy. Some days were particularly harder than others. Whenever I needed motivation, I turned to my online group of fellow test group participants who started with me on day one.

You can join our LIVESTRONG.COM Challenge Facebook group to get this kind of motivation and support. We share our accomplishments with each other via social media and we also share our challenges, such as going to birthday parties and not being able to eat any cake.

That way we can offer each other the inspiration needed to keep going and make it through the next day's workout. It makes it tougher to quit when you have online peers checking in on you. Also, friendly competition can be a great motivator.

Trying to lose the most weight or get the best BEFORE and AFTER photo transformation of the group can help some people to strive to greater success for themselves. (By the way, here's how to take your BEFORE and AFTER photos.)

STRONGER offers a vibrant online community complete with conversations about the STRONGER workouts and a Facebook group to share progress and questions with the other STRONGER Challenge participants and the LIVESTRONG team.

How to Sign Up for the STRONGER Challenge

1. Download the MyPlate app for iOS and create your account. If you're on Android or don't have a smartphone, you can also use the desktop version. Make sure you set July 9 as your start date so you can be on the same page as the rest of the LIVESTRONG.COM community!

2. On your start date (we're launching our next challenge July 9th), you'll be able to log into your account and click on "Meal Plan" in the bottom navigation bar of the app. There, you'll have access to each day's meals as well as each week's shopping list.

Tracking is easy with MyPlate. Credit: LIVESTRONG.COM

3. For each meal and snack, track your calories by clicking the check mark next to each food or recipe. If you need to deviate from the meal plan, you can also enter foods manually from the "Track" tab on the bottom navigation. Just search for your food and click the "I Ate This" button. Also be sure to track your water intake from the "Track" tab.

4. Print out the STRONGER Challenge workout calendar and and follow along with each day's free workout video.

Here's your workout roadmap. Credit: Gracie Wilson/LIVESTRONG.COM

5. Track the STRONGER workouts in MyPlate. On the app's main page, click Exercise then search STRONGER. All of the workouts will be listed below. Select the one you performed that day.

6. Join our LIVESTRONG.COM Challenge Facebook Group to get daily tips, encouragement and motivation! You can also join the conversation in our community boards in the app ("Community" on the bottom navigation) and on desktop.

7. Do the workouts with us, cross them off the calendar and post about it in the Facebook group. We're cheering for you!

Readers — Are you joining us for the 8-week STRONGER Challenge? What do you think of the STRONGER workouts? What do you think of the meal plan? Are you having any trouble accessing and using either the workouts or the meal plan? Have you ever done a fitness challenge group before? How did it go for you? Have you joined our LIVESTRONG.COM Challenge Group on Facebook? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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