I did this 28-day fitness challenge — and I’m so pleased with the results

Photo of Lilly Sabri
(Image credit: Lean with Lilly blog)

The holidays are a time to eat, drink, and be merry, but if you’re looking for a fitness challenge to kick-start your new year, I’ve found it. As a fitness editor and a marathon runner, I tend to give myself a bit of a break over December, before ramping up my training in January ahead of a Spring marathon. This year, I decided to try a free, 28-day fat burn challenge, not because I wanted to lose weight, but to keep me accountable over a month when it’s all too easy for me to skip workouts. Read on to find out what happened. 

As a reminder, what works for me might not be right for you and your body. If you’re new to exercise or returning to regular exercise following an injury, it’s always a good idea to check with a personal trainer or doctor before starting a new challenge. The one mentioned below is suitable for all levels of fitness, with modifications for beginners, but it’s always a good idea to check your form with a personal trainer to ensure you’re not putting yourself at risk of injury. 

Looking for more workout inspiration? Here’s what happened when I did 100 kettlebell swings a day for a week, plus what happened when our fitness writer did ab rollouts every single day for a week

What is the 28-day fitness challenge? 

The 28-day fat burn fitness challenge by personal trainer, Pilates instructor, and physiotherapist Lilly Sabri, repeats the same seven workouts (one every day) for four weeks to sculpt and tone the entire body. If you haven’t heard of Lilly Sabri, she’s an excellent instructor, with over three million subscribers on her YouTube channel. She has also founded a workout app, named Lean With Lilly. 

Here are the different workouts in the challenge

Day 1: Total Body Fat Burn HIIT
Day 2: Booty Lift and Sculpt with resistance band
Day 3: Abs and Total Body Fat Burn
Day 4: Active Recovery Stretch
Day 5: Pilates Full Body Sculpt
Day 6: Lean Legs Sculpt and Tone
Day 7: Arms and Abs Tone 

Each of the workouts are around 28 minutes long, and for most, you’ll need little to no equipment. A few of the workouts require you to use a set of resistance bands or a set of dumbbells — check out the best resistance bands and the best adjustable dumbbells for getting fit at home here. 

I did this 28-day fitness challenge — here’s what happened 

Here’s what happened when I followed the fitness plan for 28-days:  

I’ve never been happier with my body

It’s safe to say, I wasn’t expecting this result doing a YouTube workout series from my spare bedroom, but after 28 days of Lilly Sabri’s workouts, I felt my abdominal muscles look more defined, and my arms more sculpted. Sabri talks a lot about mind-body connection in her workout videos and reminded me to keep my core engaged, or think about the muscles I was working over the 28 days. 

Of course, I wasn’t set out to burn fat or lose weight, and no amount of sit-ups or crunches will give you abs. If visible abdominal muscles are your goal, it’s a matter of lowering your body fat percentage — here’s how to calculate your body fat percentage and why it matters. 

I did all of the workouts from home

I’m a fitness editor who doesn’t currently have a gym membership. After my gym put its prices up, I decided to quit my contract and shop around, and since then, have opted to attend classes when I travel into the city for work, rather than do solo gym sessions. I did all of the workouts from home using a set of dumbbells and a resistance band, so if you’re looking for a challenge you can do from just about anywhere, this is a good one for you. 

I enjoyed focusing on active recovery one day a week

I’ll often get notifications from my Oura ring that I’m doing too much and need to focus on recovery, and definitely tend to overtrain. Even on ‘rest days’ I’ll do a Peloton ride, and soon find myself pushing myself too hard to move up the leader board. While this challenge did include a workout every single day for a month, the active recovery day was definitely more of a stretch, and one week I swapped it out entirely for a longer walk wit the dog. 

“Please don’t forget the importance of recovery, not only to allow your body to rest and recover, but also to ensure that you’re allowing muscle growth to take place," writes Sabri. "You need to be paid for the hard work you’re putting in and by giving your body the time and the tools to recover, you will start to see and feel the benefits."

I’ll definitely be repeating these workouts in the future

With my abs looking more defined than they have in a long time, I will definitely be repeating these workouts, along with others from Sabri’s huge library of content, in the future. I loved training with her — I found her extremely motivating, and appreciated her form corrections and modifications throughout the workouts. 

This 28-day challenge reminded me that I don’t have to pay for an expensive gym membership, or throw heavy weights around to notice a difference in my body. Plus, it served as a good reminder, both in January and throughout the year, that it’s important to find the exercise that is right for you and your body — I love Pilates, so Sabri’s style worked really well for me, but if you’re into kickboxing or weightlifting, this might not be your bag. The best exercise routine is the one you want to do, so don’t be afraid to try new things and don’t get discouraged if workouts just aren’t enjoyable. 

Jane McGuire
Fitness editor

Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past five years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy.