Why do you exercise? What is your motivation to break a sweat each day? Is it because you know you should walk every day to maintain a healthy weight? Did a doctor say you should exercise more since heart disease runs in your family? Maybe you heard that you should exercise to boost your mood and improve sleep quality. “You should exercise because this…” “You should exercise because that…” Should, should, should…
If you are anything like me, you might lose interest in an activity as soon as it shifts from being optional to mandatory, even when you know it’s good for you! I love running now, but I didn’t always. It used to be a chore for me to lace up my shoes and get outdoors, partially because someone else was usually telling me to. While I voluntarily joined the cross country team in high school, you would be hard pressed to find me completing the summer training runs or weekend long runs required by our coach. Later in life I tried everything to maintain my motivation to run. I followed strict training plans, I started working at a running store, and even started coaching a youth running group. I paid for races to jumpstart my motivation, but eventually even shelling out $75 for a race was not enough to pressure me into exercising regularly. My well of joy for running had totally dried up.
After 5 years of hunkering down into my non-running funk, I finally discovered my magic bullet: virtual racing. I was invited into an online race through Racery.com, and it made running purely fun, social, and extremely motivating. I also uncovered a competitive side I never knew I had!
How it works:
- Join a race, or start your own, it only takes a minute to register. Races can be for running, walking (or a combo of the two), swimming, biking, or rowing!
- Walk or run according to your normal, daily routine. Every day you get an email from Racery asking if you were active at all. You simply respond to the email with the number of miles you covered, and your marker on the virtual race course advances. You can also log your miles directly on the Racery website.
My favorite features:
- Racery serves as an amazing (and judgement-free) daily reminder to be active. You know that if you haven’t done something by 4 pm, their email will arrive and encourage you to get out and move.
- You can be as fast or slow as you want to because speed does not matter. One racer can cover 3 miles in 25 minutes, while another can take an hour; all that matters is they both covered 3 miles.
- You get an email letting you know when you’ve passed other runners/walkers, and vice versa. This often motivates me to run an extra mile or walk places instead of drive so I can pass people on the course.
- The website is very interactive. You can “like” and comment on other racers’ activity, and you get a Google Street View of your virtual location when you log your miles.
- It is really encouraging to see your progress on a map. Knowing I ran 300 miles does not mean much to me, but knowing I ran from Paris to Amsterdam is much more exciting!
The downfalls (but not many):
- You have to manually enter your mileage – meaning the honor’s system is required! Racery does not link with any fitness tracking devices. HOWEVER, this is a good thing for two reasons: it does not discriminate against anyone who uses a particular tracking app, and 2) it does not discriminate against the technologically challenged (ie. Me) who do not use fitness tracking devices.
- When you participate in a Racery race, you momentarily become frenemies with all your exercise buddies. (This may be a personal problem). Again this is also a positive, because while I want my friends to do well in the race, I want to do better! This leads to some fun banter and bonding all in the name of physical activity!
After participating in my first Racery race, I started one with my friends. We all ran from Paris to Amsterdam. (One friend was coincidentally in Europe during our virtual race, and ran on our actual course!) I ran more miles than ever before, and I didn’t need a strict training plan to do so. I was motivated by my peers, competition, and visual progress on a map. I learned to run based on what my body communicated to me, instead of feeling like I had to exercise just for the sake of exercising. Participating in virtual races has taken the dread out of exercise, and put the joy back in.