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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Challenges Accepted: 3 Fitness Challenges for the Achievement-HuntingAthlete

For the last three weeks, I haven't done much in the neighborhood of running.  I haven't gone for many runs, I haven't made many plans for future runs, and I haven't written about running.  Theoretically, it's wise to take several weeks off after completing a marathon.  It's also easy for me to lose some motivation when there's not a finish line or shiny new bling at the end of the training cycle.  Yes, I run because I love it.  I love the chance to step away from the busyness of life and spend some time to myself on the road or the trail.  But I'm also an achievement hunter.  The runs feel all the sweeter when there's a challenge to attain.

Will run for bling, badges, and bragging rights.

I do have a fall marathon on the calendar, but my official training calendar for the Marine Corps Marathon doesn't start until June 9th.  In the interim, I've discovered a trio of challenges to add some purpose to my workouts.

The National Bike Challenge

This is the second year I've been involved with the National Bike Challenge.  While some apps and games have a variety of complex rules, the premise of this bike challenge is almost too simple - ride as many miles as you wish, and record them.  The challenge becomes even easier for smartphone users as it partners with the app Endomondo to track your miles while you ride.

From the website of the Rust Belt Battle.  Oh, and Cleveland?  You're going DOWN!

My favorite thing about the National Bike Challenge isn't its ease, or the fact that it encourages me to cross-train; my favorite thing is the additional local challenge, the Rust Belt Battle between Pittsburgh and Cleveland cyclists.  Lots of cities encourage their own local challenges, which track miles the same way.  Not only is a bit of hometown pride at stake, but local Pittsburgh bar OTB Bicycle Cafe allows riders to earn free pints of beer and soft drinks when they reach certain milage milestones.  Will ride for beer!

Awesome bike bell from Bike Pittsburgh's Bike to Work Day member swag bags!

The National Bike Challenge officially started 3 weeks ago on May 1st, but it lasts through the end of September.  There's still plenty of time to join and to log those miles for both personal and city pride.

The Lose-It Cardio Challenge

Another app-based challenge, the Cardio Challenge is tracked though the Lose It smartphone app.  The app acts as a journal for users to record the calories they consume in their daily food and drink as well as the calories they burn during exercise.  The premise is similar to other apps such as My Fitness Pal and Livestrong.  The unique thing about Lose It is that it incorporates challenges where users are encouraged to focus on specific behaviors from eating more vegetables to sleeping more hours at night.  The Cardio Challenge rewards participants with a point every time they burn their body weight in calories.  Users can participate in whatever type of cardio they like from running to mowing the lawn, power yoga to playing drums, cycling to skydiving.  Lose It allows participants to add activities manually, or to sync several apps and fitness trackers including the Fitbit, Nike Fuel Band, UP by Jawbobe, the Map my Run app, the Runkeeper app, and the Nike Plus Running app.

Horseback Riding - Roughly 300 calories burned per hour.

Football - Approximately 550 calories burned per hour.

The Cardio Challenge is hosted by my employer in partnership with Lose It.  While this particular challenge is not open to the public, there are dozens of similar challenges available to join.  A team challenge, The Cardio Challenge has me allying with 3 of my coworkers in friendly competition to get more points than groups of our peers.  That's my favorite thing about this challenge - there's nothing like some friendly trash-talking each day at work to motivate me to get more and more points!

My team, The Best Team Ever, is standing in 3rd place.  Ben Not Allowed and #riding Keith's coattails?  We're coming for you!

This particular challenge is not open to the public, as it requires a private access code from my employer, but the Lose It app hosts dozens of challenges each month, with varying start dates and methods of point accumulation.

The Runner's World Summer Run Streak

Like the Bike Challenge and the Cardio Challenge, the Summer Run Streak enjoys an extremely simple premise.  From Memorial Day to the Fourth of July, participants commit to running at least one mile each day.  This adds up to 40 consecutive days of running.  Aren't runners supposed to take days off to rest during their training programs?  This is true, but most programs suggest that runners who are otherwise healthy can complete these types of streaks as long as a couple of runs each week are recovery runs with a slow pace and short milage.  I'd never dream of running hard and fast for 40 days straight, but each time Runners World sponsors a Run Streak, I'm compelled to challenge myself with the streak.

The Run Streak does bleed into my first weeks of Marine Corps Marathon training, but I think that getting out the door each day for short runs will help me to build both a physical and a mental baseline for the remainder of my training calendar.  Like the other challenges, this one makes tracking runs super easy through the Map My Run and Map My Fitness apps.  I suppose that committing to 3 app-based challenges also means I'm about to resign myself to a summer of poor battery life in my poor iPhone, but I suppose that's the price I'll pay.

Summer's the time for beer, baseball, and streaking! 

The Runner's World Summer Run Streak starts Memorial Day, May 26th.  Runners can pledge to complete the challenge here and can share their successes with other streakers with the hashtag #RWRunStreak on social media for the duration of the challenge.

Join me in my quest for fitness challenge glory!  Hopefully, I can keep up with all of these over the next few months.  Surely I don't need any other challenges on my plate, but I'd love to hear about any other challenges floating around out there in the fitness community.

1 comment:

  1. I'm doing the run streak too! Fun so far! Good luck with all yours!