How to Use a Race As Motivation to Exercise – Part 1

I use races and other physical events as markers to keep on the horizon as a way to stay in shape. Exercise on a regular basis is important for a healthy mind and body, but it can be monotonous sometimes. Switching things up can add the fuel for motivation to train for something – so I wanted to share this with you.

My thing is obstacle course races (OCR) plus an endurance event I do once a year that is team focused and not competitive. I do at this time have a trail race set on the horizon to mix things up but regardless what type of marker – there is something there in the future. Nothing motivates me more than knowing that on a certain date I will put my body and mind to the test. I won’t lie, I am pretty competitive. I enjoy doing a race multiple times so I can see my improvement and go back to the drawing board and refining my training process to do even better next time.

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Isn’t training the same as exercising or working out?

Good question. When you are exercising or working out you are attempting to reach whatever goal you have like fat loss, toning,  better posture, getting back into the swing of exercise or a way to relieve stress from a busy day. In comparison when you are training you are getting your body primed for a specific type of movement. Your goal is to be ready for this. For instance you don’t see professional football players training for the season going on 12+mile runs. Instead they strength train along with other things to gear up for the physical work they expect to do on game day. It does not matter if you are a professional athlete…if you are running a marathon just running a mile a day just won’t cut it. It is like your body is studying for a test! But guess what? You may just hit some of those personal goals you had when exercising, training takes your mind off of yourself and instead places it on a certain event.

Does everybody have to “compete” in a race? Isn’t it awesome to finish?

Nope you don’t have to “compete” & yes it is awesome to finish! This is an entirely subjective thing. Your feeling of finishing could be even more overwhelmingly amazing than my feeling of beating my last time. You clicked that button to sign up for that event. You made that commitment. This is about you. Plan according to your goals. Visualize meeting that goal. Don’t fight it if this visualizing takes over your thought process. That is a good thing! You will find yourself more motivated in another aspects of your life. This enthusiasm will start to attach itself everywhere especially in your motivation to stick to your training schedule. Also, guess what? You are exercising on a regular basis!

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How do I decide what race to do? Do I have to do a marathon?

First be realistic as to your schedule and calendar. For instance if you are unable to travel that far from home then do a search for events in your area. In comparison if you are up for a trip and maybe attach a small vacation after (which is what I enjoy doing!) then widen the area. Then you can look at your choices! It could be everything in between a marathon and a 5k, on the road or trails.

You want to a marathon? I won’t stop you! If that is the marker you want to set then allow yourself enough time to prepare for it. You may be able to find some groups that take you through a training for a marathon. Again back to what I mentioned above what your goals are – finishing it is finishing it. Doing it for a certain time or rank is different and equally as motivating.

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Obstacle course race? I want to do one but they look pretty competitive.

There may be some truth to that. Yes some races like Spartan may look very competitive and if that is not your thing then Tough Mudder may be a better option! There are other OCRs in between that are not as big (like the Epic Race Series) or don’t involve mud if that is not your thing. Either way…not everyone starts a race with their game face on like I do.

Many people enjoy OCRs and can care less about the place that they finish and have a great sense of accomplishment. Many teams sign up for races and do the race at their own pace, help each other out (which is often encouraged!) and get the added plus of the camaraderie that those that do the events alone may not experience. Do your homework on the events. Look to see at how the “waves” or start times are staggered. Some events even have competitive waves and open ones.

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