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Training for a Cause: Everyone Wins

A few months ago I wrote about how I dropped some weight without trying. The point was not really that I didn’t try, but that I didn’t focus at all on my day-to-day weight or how I looked. Instead, I signed up for some athletic events (in my case, swim competitions), focused on performing well, and shed some pounds as a secondary result.

For me, setting event-based goals and finding others to train with was way more motivating than if it were just me and a scale. Preparing for an event along with a team shifted the focus outside myself, and freed me from any frustration of minor fluctuations in poundage and the tyranny of calorie counting.

But when it comes to getting fit while making the focus less personal, nothing beats participating in a charity or cause-based event. Training for a cause you’re interested in provides another source of motivation to get to the gym or on the trail. Who cares about that pound when someone in your family made a donation in your name, or you have a personal connection to the cause you’re prepping for?

I recently participated in Swim Across America’s 22-mile Boston Harbor Relay. SAA runs several events throughout the U.S. each summer to raise money for cancer research and awareness. These events are magnificently organized and executed. Each swimmer gets a website to track and communicate fundraising efforts. Beneficiaries of the event – clinics, researchers, cancer survivors and kids battling the disease – are showcased throughout.

So when I didn’t feel like training on a given day. I’d check my fundraising page and see a donation from an unlikely source, or think of a teammate swimming in honor of a family member. This motivated even a cynic like me to push the training harder, and my fitness improved as a result.

And if you’re worried about using a cause-based event to help you achieve a personal benefit of a healthier lifestyle, get over it. That’s why these events exist – everyone wins.

For evidence of how proven this symbiosis is, just do some google searches for events in your area. There are as many walk-a-thons, golf tournaments, open water swim events, and road races as there are causes to champion. Disease prevention, civic organizations and schools, environmental issues – chances are there’s an event that will welcome another participant.

So if you want to get fit, but battling a number on a scale doesn’t fire you up, think of a cause that is interesting or personal to you, and see if there’s an event you can train for. Or start one. You’ll be surprised at people’s generosity and appreciation, and how rewarding it can be to feel good while you do good.

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