The Playing-Card Fitness Challenge
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The Playing-Card Fitness Challenge

Break out of the fitness doldrums with this fun, fast-paced workout that leaves a few things to chance.

By Kellee Katagi

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There’s a lot to be gained from strategic, well-planned workouts that move you toward specific fitness goals. But occasionally the structure starts to feel like a drag, zapping your motivation. The solution? A touch of serendipity.

You’ll find just that in what we call The Playing-Card Fitness Challenge. As the name implies, all you need is a deck of cards, although you can use weights or other equipment, if you’d like.

Here’s how it works:

First, choose a set number of cards, anywhere from about 15 to the whole deck, depending on how much time and energy you have. Next, choose exercises to correspond to each type of card. For example:

Hearts = Cardio. Cardio exercises could include burpees, speed-skater jumps, high-knee running, exercise-bike intervals—anything that gets your heart pumping.

Diamonds = Core. Possibilities include crunches, bicycle crunches, reverse crunches, supermans, plank intervals and more.

Clubs = Upper Body. For odd numbers, do chest and triceps exercises (push-ups, chest presses, dips, kickbacks and the like). For evens, do back and biceps (pull-ups, rows, bicep curls, hammer curls and such).

Spades = Lower Body. Choose from squats, lunges, side lunges, deadlifts, hamstring bridges and so on. For an extra cardio challenge, make the exercises plyometric—jumping squats or lunges, for example.

Jokers = Shoulders. Try shoulder presses, lateral or front raises, or pike push-ups.

Finally, flip the cards over one by one and perform the number of reps corresponding to the number on the card. For example, if you turn over a seven of clubs, you might do seven push-ups. Or if it’s a king of diamonds, you could do 13 reverse crunches. For a joker, well—it’s up to you.

If you choose interval-based exercises, decide on an interval length—say, 10 or 20 seconds—and then do the number of intervals on the card, with a short rest (10 to 30 seconds) in between. So, if you draw a six of hearts, you could do six 20-second high-knee intervals, with a 10-second rest between each.

The beauty of it is that you can shuffle the deck, swap in different exercises and the workout will never be the same. Have fun!

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