You have a date circled on your calendar. Your bank account statement shows that the registration fee (and maybe the plane ticket?) has been paid. Your heart skips a beat. You're going to do this. You're really going to do this!
Signing up for a race is a fantastic way to get motivated to get fit. The reason why this approach works so well is because it forces you to achieve a set goal in a designated amount of time. For this post, I'm going to focus on running, but you could sign up for a triathlon or a biking event if that's more your thing. The key is to register.
Here's the step-by-step guide:
1. Determine a distance. If you're not a runner, if you just had a baby, or if you're out-of-shape, perhaps it's best to start with a small goal, like a 1-mile fun run or a 5k. You could start with the "run a marathon" goal, but that's 26 miles, people! Why not work your way up in stages...5k, then 10k, then 15k, then 1/2 marathon, then marathon, etc. Of course, only you can decide what would be the most motivating option for you. But don't beat yourself up if you decide to start small. Starting is what is important.
2. Find a race. Runner's World has a cool RaceFinder tool where you can search for a race by location (city/state/country), distance (1 mile, 5k, marathon, etc.), and/or race type (womens only, multisport, trail, etc.). Another way to find races is to just google your city's name and the distance that you want to run. For example, you could google "Seattle 5K."
3. Narrow down your options. Choose five that match your interests and your calendar. There are some really cool races out there. Consider the Walt Disney World Marathon, the Disneyland Half Marathon, Disney's Minnie Marathon Weekend, the Country Music Marathon, one of the Iron Girl events, or one of the Rock 'N' Roll Marathons hosted by Elite Racing. It's important to keep in mind that most marathons also have 5ks and/or 1/2 marathons going on at that the same time so if you're looking for something shorter than 26 miles, still check out "marathon" events. There's probably an event that you can participate in.
4. Come up with a plan. You will need to determine how long you will need to train before you sign up. If your goal is to run a 5K, check out Health Magazine's free Girls Gotta Move plan (which is what I did before I ran my first 5k). Or there's always the Nonrunners Marathon Guide for Women (which looks like a fun book, but I haven't read it).
5. Sign up. Look at your calendar. Talk to your spouse. Make arrangements for the hotel, plane, child care, etc. If possible, persuade one of your friends or your spouse to register with you. Pay the fee.
BONUS: Buy cute clothes. There will be more on this on another day, but I think having good fitness clothing seriously helps in the "how-to-get-motivated" department. Take, for example, the incredibly cute options by SkirtSports. Check back later tonight and you just might have an opportunity to win a really fun SkirtSports item (hint, hint).