The other day my hubby walked in with a package in his hand. “Your medal is here.” The medal he was talking about was the medal for my latest virtual race. I hadn’t done one for awhile, but I needed a little push to help me get moving again after high pain levels kept me from exercising consistently last month. Anytime I start having a hard time being active, I check out the virtual race sites to see if there’s one I’m interested in.
If you haven’t exercised for a while, or you deal with a chronic pain condition, I’m sure you know how hard it can be to get moving again. Virtual races can be a great way to increase movement on your terms.
What Is a Virtual Race?
Virtual races are races that you participate in without having to go to a certain place or show up at a certain time. There are no early-morning wake-up calls, going out in bad weather, or huge crowds to contend with. You do them wherever and whenever you want.
How Do They Work – And Do You Have to Actually Run?
Most virtual races are very simple to participate in. You just sign up for the race and they tell you exactly how to get started. Depending on which company you use, you may need to download an app to keep track of your progress, though not all of them use one.
I’ve done virtual races through Yes.fit, Forty Forty Challenge, and Conqueror Virtual Challenges, and I’ve enjoyed them all. Yes.fit and Conqueror both had apps that you downloaded and used to track your mileage. You had the option to connect both to your Fitbit or other fitness app so you didn’t have to manually log your mileage. The Forty Forty Challenge was more on the honor system, and the T-Shirt came soon after I signed up for the race.
The beauty of the virtual races is that you’re in charge. You get to choose what activities you’ll count toward your race and when you’ll do them. Many allow you to count activities other than walking/running – such as swimming or biking – as part of the race.
For some, you can choose whether to use all your steps toward your distance for the race or only count ‘official’ walks or runs. That depends, in part, how the app is set up. Some of them also do cool things like send you virtual postcards from the (virtual) area you’re racing in or planting trees as you complete certain percentages of the race.
You can even make it a fun family affair and get your friends to sign up and do them with you.
How Can They Help You Get Moving Again?
Sometimes having something concrete to work toward can give you the extra push you need.
When I first started doing virtual races, it was because I had gotten into a vicious cycle of inactivity. As we talked about in Let’s Get Personal, I was in too much pain to exercise, so I kept getting more and more deconditioned, which caused me more pain. I knew I absolutely had to get up and get moving. It’s hard to purposely do something you know is going to cause you pain, but I knew it was necessary if I wanted to feel better in the long run.
That’s where the virtual races came in. I knew having some kind of incentive (besides the nebulous “you’ll feel better” one), would help me be more consistent. I actually had something concrete I was working toward. On those days that I didn’t really want to move, I would think, “Only ___ more miles and I’ll get my T-shirt. I’m going to get a few more steps in.”
A funny thing happens somewhere along the way too. As you increase your movement, you start to feel better, and as you start to feel better, you want to do more. As we’ve talked about before, that small start gives you something to build on. It’s like stair steps – when you go up that first step, you’re not up very high, but as you take each subsequent step, you go higher and higher.
How Do You Get Started with Virtual Races?
There are several different places you can find virtual races. Here are the ones I’ve personally used, but there are many more.
Also, if you have a charitable cause you like to support, many of them do virtual races now. That’s a fantastic incentive to get moving. Not only do you help yourself, you help others at the same time. You can check your individual charities to see if they have them, but sometimes, you can support a charitable cause through one of the other race apps. They often have specific races that support different causes.
Getting started is easy. All you have to do is go to their website, choose your race, and download the app to track your mileage. Once you’ve completed your race, because your mileage has been tracked through the app, they’ll automatically ship your T-shirt or medal (or both if you choose). Easy peasy, right?
Can Virtual Races Help You Get Moving?
Starting to exercise is usually the hardest part. Having something fun to do or something concrete to show for your effort can make it easier. Whether you haven’t been exercising at all, or you’ve just ‘fallen off the exercise wagon,’ virtual races can be a fun way to help you get moving again.
Have you ever tried virtual races? What was your experience with them? If you’ve done any, we’d love to hear about them!