Earlier this month my husband and I rode the Moab Century, a 100-mile bike tour, on our tandem. We enjoyed the beautiful scenery, well-stocked aid stations, and camaraderie of being out on the roads with several other cyclists from around the country. This event is not a race, but a celebration of cycling, highlighting the majestic red cliffs of the canyonlands area.
As a regular exerciser and occasional racer, I find there are several reasons to support local athletic events. Nine (9) are listed below.
1. Provides an Exercise Goal
It is not easy to stay consistent with an exercise program. There are many competing demands for your time and attention – family, work, house chores, community commitments, social obligations, and holidays, just to name a few.
Once you fall out of your exercise routine, it can be difficult to regain your momentum to be active again. Just think about the phenomenon of New Year’s resolutions. You start strong only to fade as the weeks pass. Even if you have an active lifestyle, there can be times when it’s harder to summon the drive to hit the trails, gym or road.
I am a big believer in goals. Local athletic events can provide a target for you to aim for and achieve. It may be a big goal, something that really pushes you past what you’ve done before, or it may be repeating the same event year after year. It doesn’t matter. Both are valuable and a success once reached.
2. Increases Your Motivation and Commitment to Exercise
Once your mental goal is set, it is time to focus on your physical preparation for the event. There are no short-cuts here. For you to feel fit and ready for the run, ride, walk or hike, consistent exercise is going to be required.
Consistency is often where we encounter problems in our workouts. There are many reasons we may not be able to keep our commitment to exercise – weather, schedule conflicts, timing issues, exercise partner cancellations, lack of energy and more. It is when we encounter these barriers that we need to draw on our motivation to keep us on track.
My friend and editor Whitney shared a story with me about this. Generally a fair weather exerciser, while training for the 15-mile Jemez Mountain Trail Run, she found herself venturing out to run and hike in cold and even lightly snowing weather–something she would have avoided if she had not set a goal to finish the race.
What is your motivation to do an event? Motivation can be intrinsic, from within, or extrinsic, from external sources. You may be motivated intrinsically to do the event because you enjoy feeling healthy and strong, while also being extrinsically motivated because you want the event t-shirt and finisher’s medal. Either can provide the incentive you need to be consistent with your program.
What’s important is that you know your motivation. I encourage you to write down the reasons you want to do the event. Then, when you are mentally struggling to talk yourself into a workout during less favorable weather, or going to the gym instead of straight home after work, you’ll be able recall why you have made this commitment and to rally your exercise motivation.
3. Enhances Your Fitness
When you are more regular with your exercise program, the natural consequence is greater fitness. In addition, preparing for an event often prompts you to add variety and intensity to your workouts, which stimulates your body to grow stronger.
It is easy to get into a habit of repeating the same exercise routine day after day. You may run the same trail, walk the same loop, hike the same mountain or repeat the same bike ride every week for approximately the same amount of time and at the same pace. In this case the body grows accustomed to the physical demands of the exercise and reaches a plateau where your fitness is maintained, but not enhanced. Pushing beyond your normal workouts either in distance or intensity causes your body to adapt and reach a higher fitness level.
4. Encourages You to Explore New Terrain
When you are extending your exercise sessions, unless you only want to do loops on familiar routes, you will be challenged to go to different places during your workouts. I recall seeing a Facebook post from Whitney during one of her training hikes that showed a beautiful landscape picture–and in the post, she was asking people where she was. She and her hiking partner had pushed their distance while following a trail past their normal turn-around point, and, as a result, had reached a beautiful vista, which just happened to be on the opposite side of a mountain that they had hiked many times. Since neither had ever been there, they need help orienting themselves. They weren’t lost; they were just in awe of how different their typical route looked from the other side.
In regards to local events, I often hear people say, why should I pay for that? I could do it anytime! I live here! The question is – do you? Do you do those longer and more difficult outings into areas you don’t normally go to on your own? It can take extra planning and require carrying additional supplies to do it solo, which can be enough to prevent such an adventure. Participating in an organized event makes these demanding athletic undertakings easier by providing on-route support.
There is safety in numbers. My husband and I have talked about riding through Arches National Park, only a few miles from our home in Moab, UT. We’d love to explore this area by bike, but refrain due to the crowds of cars and very narrow bike lane. During the spring there is an organized ride through the park as part of the Skinny Tire Festival. This local event will provide us with the opportunity to see this stunning landscape on two wheels.
5. Assists in Weight Loss/Maintenance
The number of calories you burn is one variable in the weight loss/maintenance equation. When you are exercising more consistently and are increasing the amount and intensity of your workouts, you expend more energy and burn more calories through your efforts.
But that’s not all!
You also burn more calories after your exercise session, called the Excess Post-exercise O2 consumption, EPOC. This elevation in calorie expenditure can last from approximately two to 48 hours. And, on top of that, you are building muscle through your exercise program. Muscle is a metabolically active tissue that requires maintenance. Hence, the more muscle mass you have, the higher your resting metabolism, which is the number of calories you body burns just to maintain your body structures and necessary biological processes – heart beating, digestion, etc.i
6. Strengthens Your Social Connections
When you train for a local athletic event, your preparation may include joining a training group, becoming a member of a sports club, attending a conditioning class, or establishing relationships with exercise partners. These are all great ways to expand your social network and build friendships among people with similar interests.
In addition to connecting with like-minded people, you will be deepening your affiliation with your community. You will be supporting local organizations that have, in many cases, donated their time, energy and even products to make the event possible. In some communities, such as Leadville, CO–home of the Leadville 100 run and mountain bike races–these events define the identity of the town. Everyone who lives in these areas looks forward to these events as the community comes together to offer participants an unforgettable experience.
7. Builds Your Confidence
The first time you do anything, it can be intimidating and scary. It doesn’t matter if that something is running a 10k race, cooking a new recipe or learning how to program a DVD player. Once you have been successful in the activity, however, you are more willing to try it again and experience repeated success. And, you might even be motivated to raise the athletic demand from a 10k run to a 10 mile run. All marathon runners had to start somewhere!
In our society we seem to have a crisis of confidence with many people feeling inadequate in some way. Sports are an excellent way to build self-confidence. This feeling of ability and proficiency in athletics can spread into other facets of your life.
8. Boosts Your Self-Discipline
If only I could–[insert healthy lifestyle habit]–then I’d be happier, get more done, have more energy, feel better, and on and on. We want to have more control over our impulses, time and food intake. Instead of making the changes we desire, through, we often punish ourselves for our shortcomings, continuously bemoaning our faults and lack of adherence to various health behaviors.
When you set a goal to complete a local athletic event, your priorities shift and your focus narrows. To achieve your objective, you will need to prepare, which takes organization and discipline. Compromises will have to be made and choices carefully considered. Reflecting on your motivation helps to keep you on track when making tough decisions.
The self-discipline you adopt for your physical activity will flow over into other areas of your wellness. You’ll need the support of adequate sleep, appropriate nutrition and stress management to have the time and energy needed to perform your workouts.
9. Makes Sports Season Transitions Easier
Many local athletic events happen at the end of a sports season. They are the carrot hanging out there in front of us that we strive to reach for weeks or months. Completing one of these events gives you a feeling of achievement and an end to a journey. This makes it easier to switch to a new sports season, e.g. biking to skiing, where you can start the process over again.
Now that you realize several benefits of participating in a local athletic event, what are you setting as your next challenge? The season of the Turkey Trot, which happens in nearly every town, is almost upon us . . .
Need help planning for a local athletic event? Contact me. We can discuss crafting a individualized training program.