BAHRAM AKRADI Contributor to ExperienceLife
Commit to doing one or more feel-good athletic events annually, and prepare to see your life change for the better.
I turned 51 this year. Not long after my birthday, I achieved a new personal record at the Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race. I also cut a full 14 minutes off my fastest Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival race time. I’m by no means unique in this regard. Increasingly, I’m seeing a number of good friends and colleagues achieve personal-best fitness results well into their 50s.
Maybe we’re training smarter. Maybe it’s that we’re more seasoned as athletes. Maybe we’re just more committed to a healthy way of life these days, and the net results of those choices are paying off. For whatever reason, we appear to be getting stronger as we go along.
Something that has helped me improve my health and fitness results over the past few decades — and that I strongly suggest to everyone I know — is making a commitment to repeatedly participate in specific athletic events each and every year.
Doing one or more annual events gives you built-in motivation to train and take care of yourself. It’s also a great way to benchmark your progress over time. It gives you a tangible basis for setting new goals — to get better, faster, stronger or more confident year after year.
As you begin to make progress on any or all of these fronts, you may want to try out additional events or more challenging courses. But consider choosing just one to start with. It doesn’t have to be a huge ordeal or a physically grueling experience. A simple 5K walk-run is a great way to begin, and something virtually anyone (including many differently-abled folks) can do.
What’s important is that you sign up (which you can almost always do online), put it on your calendar and show up the day of the event. Get yourself to the starting line, then see what happens. You don’t have to go all out. Just go.
If you have never done an athletic event before, I promise you, doing this will in some way change your perception of your own potential. It may just change your life.
There’s something extraordinary about athletic events that you can’t fully appreciate unless you actually attend one. It’s a sense of energy, positivity and excitement that can’t be fully captured on TV. There’s a powerful camaraderie in so many bodies moving together on a focused path. It’s impossible to describe, which is why I want you to go experience it for yourself.
Not ready to participate in an event quite yet? You can still go and observe. Check out the scene. Soak up the vibes (and some vicarious thrills). Volunteer to help out at a water station. Or just sit and cheer on participants as they near the finish line. Sooner or later, I think you’ll get hooked.
One thing I’ve observed in my more than three decades of working in the fitness industry is that when people make the commitment necessary to complete even one athletic event, they often feel the urge to make more healthy commitments. And they are much more likely than the average population to bring those commitments to fruition.
With huge 5K walk-run events being held simultaneously in 35 communities across the United States, and coverage of the highlights being broadcast on national television, Commitment Day represents a giant commitment for us as an organization, and it’s representative of a much broader commitment we are making to advocate for and support healthy change across our country.
While hundreds of thousands of people are participating in local 5K events and confirming their commitment to better health, millions more will be watching on TV, experiencing what we hope will be a tickle of motivation to start making some healthy-way-of-life changes in the upcoming year.
Maybe it’s a commitment to drink more water or get more sleep or spend more active time outdoors. Maybe it’s a commitment to lead, to be of service, to make an eco-responsible change on behalf of our planet. What you commit to is up to you. What matters is that you follow through.