Use Healthy Competition to Score a Weight-Loss Win

Jim Cotta
by Jim Cotta
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Use Healthy Competition to Score a Weight-Loss Win

Most of us know the path to a healthier life: Eat better and exercise more. The tough part is finding the motivation to do it. By awakening our innate competitive nature, the will to win (or at least not lose) serves as the ultimate motivating factor.

An increasing number of people are turning to placing formal wagers with friends or coworkers to reach their weight-loss goals. A study in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people who had financial incentives to lose weight were much more successful at dieting than those who did not.

Games, sports, you name it; even if there isn’t cash involved, competition drives interest and action, too. Imagine if we put the same effort into eating right and exercising as we do fantasy football or March Madness (the research, the stats, the changing lineup, not to mention the countless hours of watching games that we have no interest in, other than the fact that there are financial implications based on the outcome). If we put that kind of passion into eating healthy and exercising, we’d look as ripped as Terrell Owens.

Winning to us is often more important than the challenge itself. Our self-esteem hinges upon it. Sometimes this means beating others, and sometimes this simply means beating our own previous best effort. Anyone who has ever run that lonely oval of a high school track with an eye on his beat-up stopwatch or shiny new iPhone gets what it means to compete against himself. (How many times have you heard a friend or coworker brag about how fast he could run a mile in high school, and you know that now he couldn’t crack 12 minutes if his life depended on it?) And maybe, just maybe, the single most important reason we want to win is for the bragging rights. But money is great, too.

Here’s a step-by-step strategy for creating a fitness competition with your friends:

Competition Cheat Sheet

  • Step 1. Scouting: Think about who you want to compete against—friends, coworkers, and family.
  • Step 2. Choose a type of competition: What will you be measuring?
  • Step 3. Select a competition format—head-to-head, teams, or eliminations. Decide on a buy-in amount (and/or tentative prizes for winner and/or loser). Choose your tracking system.
  • Step 4. Set a start and end date.
  • Step 5. Recruit competitors.
  • Step 6. Set parameters and rules.
  • Step 7. Crank it up! Send out reminders, collect fees, and assign refs or a banker. Step 8. Host a kickoff event for weigh-in, before photos, or other measurements.

Now that you know how to stir up a fitness throw down with your friends, you need a challenge to tackle. Check back tomorrow for our Bracket Buster Workout Challenge.

Excerpted from “Men’s Health Workout War” by Jim Cotta. Copyright (c) 2015 by Rodale Inc. By permission of Rodale Books. Available wherever books are sold.

About the Author

Jim Cotta
Jim Cotta

Jim Cotta is an NSCA-certified strength and conditioning coach and author of Men’s Health Workout War. He was the head strength and conditioning coach for the Los Angeles Lakers (1997-2004), and has trained athletes such as Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone, Robert Horry, Derek Fisher, Horace Grant, Dennis Rodman, and Terrell Owens to name a few. Jim is currently the fitness director at The Grove in the Nashville; he specializes in working with golfers.


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