Why do we train our bodies? Is it to look good, is it because we genuinely care about our health, or perhaps is it because our brains are wired to always strive to be better? When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins, which trigger a positive feeling akin to euphoria. Life can be stressful, and as many therapists and doctors recommend, exercise can improve mood and boost energy, along with many other benefits. Why do events such as Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, The CrossFit Open and various 5Ks motivate people to begin or better their fitness journey? “If we don’t have goals in life, we just marinate,” says Joel Cochran, Marketing Director of Double Edge CrossFit in Reno, Nevada. “That’s why you train, always an accomplishment with goals that are continually challenging you.”

According to Cochran, there is a difference between a fitness program and a training program.

“A fitness program involves you signing up, then four or five weeks later leaves the ‘Now what?’ question,” he said. “Whereas a training athlete sees their times and wants to improve a faster time. There are always goals to chase after.”

What triggers the brain for the differences?

 The act of signing up for an event, committing to something you know is looming can push people to train their bodies for what’s to come. Cristin Botsford, co-owner of Good Times CrossFit in Sacramento, California, believes that “Competition and events boost one’s de­sire to increase their fitness because they want to feel prepared for any obstacle they come across.” Given Botsford’s experience with per­sonal training, after someone completes their first event, they are even “hungrier for greater fitness.” Events are a great way to motivate people to get in shape or finally achieve that personal record they’ve been eyeing since they first stepped foot in a training facility.

 Events such as Fittest of the Sierras showcase what fire-breathing athlete is currently on top, all the while donating to charitable causes. The ABoxAbove virtual leader board, used by Fittest of the Sierras, shows each athlete where they rank, where they need to improve and how well each person is doing in real time. Scores are entered immediately and each competitor will no longer have to guess where they’re placed. “ABoxAbove gives you the ability to customize a scoring system,” Bostford said. “Personally, it was important to me, so that I could use a 100-point system with a sliding scale – it gave me a range.”

 

Using leader board hubs such as ABoxAbove gives all athletes the ability to use their smart phones to see where they rank. Before such large events the use of ABoxAbove can as­sist each competitor with a simulated event showcasing where one might stand when it comes to a competition. The constant updat­ing places each participant in a position that they can visually see or reference throughout the competition. No longer is there guessing about how each person is doing within the competition. The ability to see in real time where they rank among other competitors could be the extra push that athletes need to improve their training for future events.

Alongside fitness comes companionship and leadership – a team that will hold you account­able for your goals. With the help of others, the daunting tasks of getting your workout in each week, or feeling overwhelmed by a discouraging performance drastically drops. In addition, the potential to meet new people and experience new things with strangers can be terrifying for some, or just what someone needs to break out of their comfort zone. The camaraderie that comes with finishing your first half-marathon or Tough Mudder is price­less. Suffering and sweating with others could motivate you to improve what you’ve already been striving towards.

Strongman coach Aaron Wiggins believes that when it comes to a decision whether or not to sign up for a new event, “Newbies can see what’s in store for them and work up to that level.” Fun and friendly competitions can make exercise that much easier. The question is, why not use all the training you’ve done over the years and test yourself? “People have an easier time ‘fit­nessing’ if it’s for the sake of fun” Wiggins said.

The excuses, oh, the excuses – if there’s a means, there’s a way.

 It’s not necessary to have a fancy gym or a specialty coach in your corner to achieve any fitness goal. A simple workout is simply getting you one step closer to competing in an upcom­ing race or obstacle course. No matter what event you may be preparing for – a wedding, motherhood, or fatherhood – exercise improves the body and mind in more ways than one. Amber Borden, owner of Anytime Fitness in Sparks, Nevada, has been passionate about staying active for as long as she can remember.

Short-term goals can motivate someone to pre­pare for that upcoming doctor’s appointment or perhaps a Spartan Race later in the summer. “Events are FUN! They allow you to create special memories and give you something to be proud of and remember forever,” Borden said.

 

So, what will make you move in 2016?

The excuses seem to get smaller and smaller when you put them into perspective. It’s easier than ever to find a gym, exercise at home on your gaming system, score those half-off Grou­pon or Living Social deals, purchase a Fitbit tracker, sign up for an event, enroll in a fitness class or simply, start walking around your neighborhood a few times a week. Literally, it only takes one step, and if a zombie apocalypse really does happen, just think – all that training for that 10K you signed up for, might just pay off.

Valerie Foley is an avid CrossFitter by day and a drink-slinging bartender by night. She loves baseball and thoroughly enjoys a night in on the couch with her boyfriend and two silly pit bulls. She can be found having fun at CrossFit Initiative in Reno, Nevada, and drinking iced coffee afterwards.

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