Races and competitions are huge motivators for many athletes. Some of us structure our entire training lives around them. So what do we do when, for the first time, every race is canceled? Fortunately athletes are a resilient bunch and online fitness challenges have popped up everywhere. Some are based on distance, others offer exciting elements such as sleep deprivation and insane feats of strength. Some of them are more personal challenges, while others you can virtually compare yourself against your fellow athletes. Here are a few we’ve rounded up with varying degrees of suffering and cool medals/T-shirts. Be sure to follow local guidelines (however random some may seem) to stay safe if exercising outdoors.
30 miles in a day plus sleep deprivation? Sign me up! For Yeti trail runners, known for their grueling ultra races, this virtual challenge is on the easy side: Run 5 miles every 4 hours for 24 hours straight. Yes, your math is correct- 30 miles of running in a day. When I told my husband about the Yeti 24 Hour challenge he said, “Why don’t you just poke yourself in the eye with a stick every 4 hours?”
Because they don’t give you a Tshirt for that. The Yeti 24 hour Tshirt design is pretty dang sweet too.
The Murph Challenge
Desperately missing your Crossfit box? The “Murph” WOD (workout of the day) is an especially challenging strength/endurance workout named after Navy Seal, Lieutenant Michael Murphy, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2005. There are numerous training plans online with the sole goal of preparing you to survive the Murph. It’s typically done on Memorial Day in Crossfit gyms, so you can get started with your training now and take it on then. Frequently people take the challenge on in smaller chunks, ie. sets of 10 instead of the entire 300 squats in a row. Whatever motivates you. I just need to work myself up to about 99 more pull ups then I think I’ll try it.
Strava, Zwift Challenges
If what you miss the most about racing is having yourself ranked against your peers, Strava and/or Zwift are where you belong. Well known among cyclists and runners, Strava and Zwift both feature a wide variety of challenges that change regularly. They frequently offer prizes (thanks to advertisers) and offer the satisfaction of beating your frienemies in online competition.
Zwift offers virtual courses that you can ride or run indoors. Strava is a social platform that gives you a place to brag about your watts, uphill running pace or just how many endless miles you’ve been grinding out while social distancing.
Ironman VR Club
Triathletes that are jonesing for some Ironman action are enjoying these VR challenges. However; the IronmanVR club features a lot more than just duathlon races. It actually has all kinds of great, free workouts designed by some of the biggest name pros and coaches around that you can sign up for to win prizes from sponsors. All you need is a watch capable of recording and uploading your workouts to get credit for your mad speed. It’s fun to compare yourself against other athletes, but don’t take the results too seriously. Everyone is racing under their own conditions so just take it with a grain of salt. You’re getting tons of great advice and workouts for free. It’s all good.
52 Hike Challenge
Want a challenge that the kids can join too? The goal of the 52 Hike Challenge is to go on 1 hike every week for an entire year. While many large parks have been shut down across the country, it’s still possible to find smaller trails to hike or even venture out around your neighborhood. Check out https://www.alltrails.com to find trails near you that you may never have even heard of. Do be careful not to choose a route that you aren’t physically prepared for. Not that any time is great to wind up in the hospital, but now even more so.
The virtual challenge with the dopest medal easily goes to the Amerithon. Log 3521 miles worth of running, walking, biking, roller skating, etc. either solo or in virtual teams of up to 8 people and you’ll earn your bling. There is no time limit so you can take as long as you need to to rack up the miles. Use their tracker to watch your progress and earn the pieces of your medal as you hit certain milestones.
One of the best things you can do to help support your local race directors is to check out their websites to see if they have any virtual competitions available. Like many of us, they have been hit hard economically by the pandemic. Many smaller companies are having a tough time surviving after losing money from cancelled races and facing the uncertainty of how to prepare for a fall season that may or may not happen. The only thing better than finding ways to keep yourself motivated to stay fit, is giving back to your community while doing it.
Stay fit, stay hydrated and stay safe. Hopefully traditional races will be back soon. I’m still training for my fall races like a big ‘ol optimist. Even if they don’t happen, we can still come out of this social distancing thing fitter than ever. Can’t wait to stand in the porta potty lines with y’all before our next big race!