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Why Your Athletes Need Epic Challenges

BY Julie Dunkle

If you have athletes itching to build big fitness in 2021, this one is for you. Challenge them to push their endurance abilities beyond their limits.

The onset of COVID was one of the weirdest things we’ve all experienced. At first it was gradual, like a distant thunderstorm, and then all at once it was pouring. And it hasn’t stopped… for over a year.  And with that storm, our lives as we formally knew them changed drastically. 

Since we have no idea what 2021 might bring, now is the time to plan with the worst case scenario in mind. Who knows? We might be pleasantly surprised by some sort of delightful vaccine/herd immunity hybrid scenario that will bring events back. But in the meantime, in order to stay strong and motivated, we must adapt and prepare for the worst.

So, what does planning for the worst case scenario entail for you and your goal-oriented athletes? It’s time to talk about epic challenges.

What is an Epic Challenge? 

An epic challenge can take on many forms, but ultimately the goal is to challenge your body to accomplish something beyond your assumed physical capability. Epic challenges call for consistency, diligence, endurance and focus. But here’s the thing—we fully recognize that for most, now is not the time to overextend your immune system to the point that you’re putting yourself at risk. So, we’ll leave it to you to assess your own risk tolerance. But in the meantime, if you or your athletes are itching to do something epic, here are a few ideas.

Epic Challenges, For All Levels!

Over the course of 2020, our team of athletes at NYX Endurance took on a variety of epic challenges. This kept our team motivated and connected. Feel free to use these for your 2021 calendar!

The 5.4.24 Run

Run five miles, every four hours, for 24 hours. At NYX Endurance, towards the beginning of COVID, we had over 30 athletes join in for this challenge. We kicked it off with a pre-race Zoom call to build excitement, and did a few Zoom check-ins along the way. Mike Reilly, the voice of Ironman, joined in on one of the Zoom meetings to cheer on the crew. This event, being our first epic challenge, was such a huge success, from this point forward, we knew that epic challenges were the way to go!


The next challenge in our lineup for 2020 was a big one. The concept of Everesting is simple. Pick any hill, anywhere in the world, and ride, run (or even ski?!) it over and over again until you climb 8,848m or 29,029ft—equivalent height of Mount Everest. For our athletes who weren’t up for the whole enchilada, we set alternative goals for ¼, ½, ‘base camp’ (aka 17,500 ft) or 20,000ft distances. Every weekend in May, we climbed and climbed in preparation for the actual event. We had athletes all over the country, on the same day, laying it on the line to reach their finish line. 

The 4.4.48 Run, aka The David Goggins Challenge

Similar to the 5.4.24, athletes run four miles, every four hours, for 48 hours. We offered a 4.4.24 version at the same time for those who were not up for the 48 hours or for those who just preferred the shorter distance. For this challenge, we created an app, and had athletes track their runs. Many in similar age groups raced each other, while others preferred to just race themselves. This challenge helped us build camaraderie and stay connected.


For this challenge, we created Bingo cards with a variety of physical challenges printed on each square. Each card has 25 squares, and there were three different cards at varying difficulty levels. The hardest was “Varsity,” created for the endurance junkies and competitive Ironman athletes. The easier level was “Junior Varsity” for Olympic distance athletes, Half Ironman athletes or our newer ‘COVID athletes’. We called the third level “Gladiator Varsity,” which was for the endurance junkie who wanted to push the envelope with strength training. 

Every athlete had options. They could strive to complete one full row, column or diagonal, or if they were extra motivated, they could go for the full blackout. It was such a fun way to challenge our athletes and keep them engaged. 


For this last epic challenge, we prescribed a specific squat of the week. Athletes would then execute this squat either for a specific volume or at their max four rep weight, depending on their goals and training strategy. Again, by offering options, we appealed to all athletes, regardless of experience, fitness and current motivation. We ended up with some seriously strong glutes, which was great because underdeveloped glutes is an issue that plagues many endurance athletes. 

These challenges made our 2020 a little more fun, bonded us a little closer and made us all a little stronger. On average, 90% of our eighty athletes participated. That tells me, we are onto something. Our athletes are eager for what is next! 

About Julie Dunkle

Julie Dunkle is the Co-Founder of NYX Endurance, a Global Endurance Coaching Company. We’re a group of coaches who like to get our hands dirty. We believe in being in the arena so that we can be the ultimate foundation for our athletes. We train, we race, we fail, and we succeed. We are passionate about your goals and we created NYX because we love the process of unearthing your potential.  Julie is a 16x time Ironman finisher, with 7 Kona Qualifications and over 30, 70’s finishes, Julie uses her experience to offer personalized coaching. Follow NYX Endurance on Instagram and Facebook.  You can find Julie on the trails running with her two Vizsla’s Roo and Mako.