It tops New Year's resolution lists every year and is an aspiration for couch potatoes and endurance athletes alike, but getting in better shape has never been more difficult.
Thanks to a combination of sedentary lifestyles and calorie-rich food, more than one-third of adults in the United States are medically obese—and these numbers don't include those of us who just want to be a leaner, faster and stronger version of our current selves.
Whatever side of the scale you fall on, planning out a race calendar for your year is one of the best ways to get in shape.
Unlike calorie counting and other forms of strict dieting—or an unrealistic plan of being at the gym for hours every day—racing is about giving yourself an experience, not taking one away.
Consistency of a Training Schedule
One of the biggest obstacles to getting in better shape is the inability to be consistent, usually because you lose motivation along the way and have no accountability to get you back on track.
A yearly racing schedule, however, has built-in accountability.
In order to participate in monthly or bi-monthly races, whether they involve running, cycling or whatever your favorite activity may be, you have to stay active.
Even a simple 5K waiting for you at the end of each month will make you less likely to snooze your alarm on Saturday morning instead of going for your training run. And of course, no one wants to throw registration costs down the drain just because they didn't feel like it.
Having races lined up every month (or every few months) will keep your motivation consistent and ensure that you're making healthy decisions on a regular basis.
In fact, talk to anyone who has lost weight or achieved a health goal and most will tell you their success came less from being perfect all the time, and more from staying consistent month after month.
Ability to Plan Ahead
Staying in good shape year-long is difficult, especially when the holidays roll around and it gets easier to neglect your health.
By planning ahead now and booking your races for the rest of the year, you'll be less likely to fall off the wagon come Thanksgiving or Christmas, thanks to the existence of Turkey Trots and Reindeer Romps (which double as a great way to get in the holiday spirit).
Though it may seem time-consuming, planning ahead now will actually decrease your workload come January, so you won't have to start your health journey from scratch.
Lastly, planning ahead also saves money. Most races offer a discounted registration fee the earlier you sign up. For someone looking to plan their year in advance, it won't be difficult to find good rates.
Consistent racers can even join loyalty programs like ACTIVE Advantage, which rewards members with no processing fees on events and discounts on training gear. In fact, if you sign up for four events in a year, you'll get the fifth free—even more reason to plan your racing calendar in advance.