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Inspiration to Exercise!

>> Sunday, September 12, 2010

Although it seems that summer has all too rapidly come to a close in western Canada, race season is still in full swing. I competed in the bike leg of a team triathlon in Banff on Saturday (a personal first), and I spent Sunday as the physician on call for the Dinosaur Valley Half Marathon in Drumheller, AB ( During the weekend, I had the opportunity to observe and be inspired by the athletes, and to think about the variety of ways in which people motivate themselves to exercise and stay active.

One key theme was that people were often found to be competing in groups. At the marathon, I met mothers and daughters, friends, and neighbors who had banded together to train up for race day. Although triathlons are traditionally a solo sport, there were many groups who enrolled as a three person team, with one person assigned to each of the swimming, cycling, and running legs of the race. For myself, it was a great opportunity to enrol as a family and cheer each other on at our respective sports. For all of these groups, the important message that shone through each time was that having the common goal of the race in mind provided an excellent opportunity to support each other through the months of training before the race. It's true - exercise programs are often more successful in a group support setting than when a person tries to go it alone. Consider planning workouts with a group of at least 3 people, such that if one person cancels, the other two can still provide mutual motivation to burn some calories!

Another theme was the sense of accomplishment that arose from participation in these events. At the Dinosaur Valley marathon, I had the great joy of watching contestants of all ages and abilities walk or run anywhere from 5km to a full half marathon (26km). I was equally inspired by every individual who competed, because I knew that each person was challenging themselves personally to accomplish their goal. Aspiring towards a personal best provided sufficient motivation for many an athlete to train towards their goal in the preceding months. I came across a number of athletes this weekend who were going it solo, and felt that the drive to succeed was motivation enough!

One interesting theme I heard time and time again, was that people who were racing were doing it to set a good example for their children. Childhood overweight has become a serious problem, and although there are many contributory factors, a key contributor is the increase in sendentary behavior that has been noted (TV watching, internet, etc). At the Banff Triathlon, there was many a child cheering on their parents as they crossed the finish line. At the marathon, I was thrilled to see whole families running the 5km race together!

These are just a few ideas to consider to increase motivation and adherence to exercise. To all this weekend's competitors - hats off to you!

Dr. Sue Pedersen © 2010

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