Part of the pleasure of running is just the physical act of running. An easy run, in nature, or through your favorite city, is incredibly good for the soul. There is time to think. We have new experiences. We improve our mental health. We become more productive. It seems like a good use of time. And it is.

But there is another side of running too.

We can become complacent about our running. Many of us just keep running the same route and at the same pace. In part because we are creatures of habit, but also, we may be stressed for time and just trying to “fit the run in” before work. But when we are just going through the motions, we stagnate. Our fitness suffers, or worse, we lose interest in running because, well, we aren’t doing anything interesting. Same sights. Same pace. Same everything.

This is how racing can move you out of your rut. Instead of running, you are training. You start to change up your runs. You engage in speed work. You build in longer long runs. You spend more time on strength training and recovery. You eat better. You sleep better. This is where real health and fitness gains are made.

Now, it doesn’t mean you have to build out an 18-week training schedule for a marathon. You can enter any number of 5 or 10K road races. You can enter track and field events, participating in the 800 or 1500, or even the steeplechase.

The point is to set your sights on training for something. Without something to shoot for, you are more likely to lose fitness over time. Research has shown over and over that as we age, we lose fitness, as measured by our VO2 Max. But those of us who train and race, and by extension engage in speed work, are better able to maintain a higher VO2 Max. And maintaining a higher VO2 Max is associated with lower all cause mortality. In other words, racing can increase your life span!

So now that Spring is coming, and the race season is about to heat up, start picking your races. One about 4-8 weeks out is a good start. But add a few more to stay motivated through the year. Remember, racing is more about improving your personal performance, being better than you were yesterday. And the best part: as you improve your fitness, you become more confident, and you may live longer.

And that alone should be a reason to register for a race or two this year.

To get you started, you can sign up for the Annapolis Royal 5K on Sept 1, 2019 by clicking here.

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