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Can Firewalking Really Make Exercise Fun?

Oyster Race 2012!

Oyster Race 2012!

For some of us, exercise is fun.  Exhilarating.  Maybe even one of the highlights of our days.

But for others, it’s a chore.  Something they dread.  Maybe even something they only do under duress.  Gretchen Reynolds profiled this type of exerciser in her recent column, “When Exercise Stresses You Out,” in which she reports on a study published by scientists at UC-Boulder’s Center for Neuroscience.  The study, which was conducted on rats (who were assessed as happy or anxious), found that “even forced exercise increases stress resistance.”  This means that even if you don’t WANT to exercise, you’ll likely end up glad you did after it’s over.  The bottom line is, no matter how exercise happens…and how much you naturally enjoy the process or don’t…it IS good for you.

Now, if you’re reading this blog, you’re likely a relatively avid exerciser (or at a minimum, you like the idea of it).  So how can you get your more sedentary friends on board?  Beyond sending them this Reynolds’ article, one simple idea is to pull together a team to do a fitness event together (even people who hate exercise like fun + friends + beer at the end).  There are tons of amazing events to choose from these days, offering everything from climbing walls (Warrior Dash) to fire walking (Tough Mudder).  These team-based events are doing a great job of bringing the “hardcore” into the every day, and giving everyday (and new) athletes cool and fun ways to exercise.  Beyond the super famous ones I just mentioned, there are a few other great races out there you might want to pull a team together to try.

  •  Oyster Racing Series: One of my personal favorites, the Oyster is a team-based urban scavenger hunt including activities ranging from three legged races to kayaking to paddleboarding to finger painting…all connected by running/walking and biking.  There are full and half Oyster distances…something for everyone!
  • Rugged Maniac: A 5k obstacle course, some people call this the warm up to the Tough Mudder.  This year, participants in 21 cities across the U.S. slide down 100’ water slides, jump over fire, crawl through tunnels of mud and face a host of other challenges all while running through a combination of forests, fields, motocross tracks and ski slopes!
  • Gladiator Rock ‘N Run: I used to love watching American Gladiators on Saturday mornings…they had such cool names and were such specimens!  Founded by a real-life Gladiator, this race gives you a chance to be a Gladiator or a Goddess for a mud-filled day.

And if your friends aren’t into obstacles and mud and beer, there are tons of other options — road races, Zumba marathons, entering triathlons as a team, running relays like Hood to Coast, or even doing a day-long hike as a group (the Dipsea trail is a great one here in the Bay Area).

What events have you done with a team that you’ve loved?  Were they a good way to motivate friends to try something new?  Did they change the way you or your friends were thinking about exercise?  Please share…and just as importantly, think about what’s the next big event on your calendar!

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