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An illustration of a runner crossing a finish line.

People love crossing finish lines. It’s one reason why many endurance events — such as 5Ks, triathlons, and marathons — continue to gain popularity.

While physically stepping over a finish line is certainly a great feeling, these finish lines can also extend beyond just events, such as when you complete a goal-based health program with a coach or a two-week detox.

Finish lines, however, provide so much more than the achievement of crossing it. Having an end date and destination can not only help propel us toward it, but also to additional and larger goals we might never have otherwise aspired to. This impact is what I call “the finishing line effect.” Here are four reasons why it works:

1. Finish lines are great motivators.

Once you commit to an event or time-based program, you can start planning your finish.

This gives you the opportunity to implement a plan around how you are going to get to that end. For example, if you’re running a 5K, you might plan for shorter-route distances to achieve each week to work your way up to those 3.1 miles. Or, if you’re entering a weight-loss competition, you may start cleaning out your fridge or making other changes to your environment to make your goal more easily achievable.

Whatever the scenario, knowing a finish line is in your future will help motivate you to start making changes now so you can actually cross that line when the time comes. You learn to set goals and action steps, and to create an overall structure that will allow you to achieve your objective.

2. Finish lines provide a sense of achievement.

Once you cross that line, a rush of pure satisfaction will come over you. All of your planning and hard work got you to that point, and there is no better feeling than accomplishing something you set out to do.

This wave of positive emotions usually also comes with a surge of feel-good endorphins. Most of us need to be told we are doing a good job from time to time, and the finish line can be that ultimate, concrete source of affirming feedback after all your dedication and work towards it.

3. Finish lines cultivate a can-do mindset.

Many of our members have a weight-loss goal. Yet sometimes they may not begin their journey with a real focus or even exact objectives around how much weight they want to lose or how they want to go about losing it.

Signing up for an event or time-based program often helps put them into goal setting or planning mode. There’s an end in sight and they know they have to make changes in order to achieve it. This can be a very positive experience for many people. If they can make a goal, set a plan, and execute on it, it creates a positive mindset they can then tap into to achieve other fitness goals and results.

4. Finish lines don’t have to have a real end.

Although it is called a finish line, as soon as you cross it, be prepared to ask yourself, “What’s my next finish line?”

Finish lines create a sense of urgency for wanting to feel that powerful rush of achievement again. In fact, there are many people who specifically plan out a year of goals each with concrete finish lines to help themselves continually move forward and enjoy a regular sense of accomplishment.

Incorporating a regular stream of finish lines into your year can create powerful and positive momentum in your life and push you to embrace bigger and bolder goals.

So, what’s your next finish line? If you’re looking for inspiration, here are a few I’d recommend considering:

  • Our 60day Challenge takes place several times throughout the year and has helped thousands of Life Time members make fitness, nutrition, and lifestyle improvements.
  • For weight-loss goals, we have virtual programs designed to help you with those efforts available in the Life Time Member App.
  • Life Time hosts 30-plus running, cycling, and triathlon events across the country that are open to everyone throughout the year. If you’re considering a running event, here’s a 5K training plan you could use.

Keep the conversation going.

Leave a comment, ask a question, or see what others are talking about in the Life Time Health Facebook group.

Anika Christ, RD, CPT

Anika Christ is a registered dietitian, personal trainer, and the senior director of nutrition and weight loss at Life Time. She’s known to many as “Coach Anika,” and is one of the original virtual coaches who continues to lead a number of digital programs each year. She started at Life Time in 2008 and has spent her entire career helping build Life Time’s nutrition and fat-loss programs. When she’s not at work, she enjoys reading, lifting weights with her husband, and playing with her two daughters.

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