Registering for a Race

Registering for a race

As soon as you have that all important “goals conversation” with your client, it’s time to mention the next 5k, half marathon, marathon, or other race events in your area.

The Journal of Sport Behavior recently published an article, “Motivational Differences Between Half, Full and Ultramarathoners” in which the study authors found the following:

  • First-time marathon finishers ran for one of two reasons—to improve their health or to achieve a personal goal.
  • Women were more motivated to run for weight loss, self-esteem, psychological coping, or affiliation.
  • Men were more motivated by competition or goal achievement.

You’ll notice the above goals probably overlap with your clients’ goals. Well, registering for a race is great for keeping clients engaged, accountable, and driven to achieve their goals and not give up.

The Process Behind Giving Up

Goal disengagement is a cycle that many are familiar with. In the late 1970s, Klinger discovered what he called the four-phase “incentive-disengagement cycle” (Brandstatter et al., 2013). This often occurs when a client faces setbacks and adversity while working towards a goal. Here’s how it typically happens:

  • Phase 1: Invigoration. The client tries harder to reach their goal.
  • Phase 2: Aggression. The client feels angry about their lack of progress or compounding adversities.
  • Phase 3: Depression. The client begins to distance herself from the goal.
  • Phase 4: Recovery. Commitment to the old goal dissolves and the client starts looking for a new goal.

How Will Registering for a Race Help?

Our ISSA Certified Fitness Trainer textbook explains the concept of goal orientation in detail (on page 389) and states, “A goal can be seen as the bridge between wanting to achieve something and actually achieving it.” Whatever your client’s stated goal is, you can create a plan to help them go the distance, whether they choose to register for a 5k, 10k, or a half or full marathon.

As you create their program, keep the following in mind: to prevent clients from disengaging from their goals it is important that you:

  1. Help clients feel competent in their exercise routine.
  2. Reinforce the multiple benefits of exercise beyond the initial “bucket list” goals.

These two concepts are part of self-determination theory (SDT). You can read more about this in our blog post “How Do I Keep Clients Motivated?

Get your Clients Up and Running

Successful behavior modification programs enhance commitment by requiring “skin in the game” from participants. It is well known that people will work harder to avoid a negative consequence—like losing their registration fee—than they will to achieve a goal. Helping a client select their event and complete the online registration is the first step to getting them committed to their goals.

Another way to get your client to buy-in is to add a layer of intrinsic motivation. Choose a favorite charity to raise money for and create fundraising teams. Encourage clients to create a team t-shirt or to dress up in crazy costumes for the event—all to raise awareness for others in need. It feels good to give, so as charity partners your clients will have more incentive to start and finish their training.

Reinforce a client’s motivations by creating mottos or mantras for your clients to chant while they are running. Have each team create a hashtag to track each other and their workouts on social media. This helps them internalize those positive affirmations and develops comradery (known as affiliation and belonging in SDT) among clients.

Make it Easy for Clients to Register

It’s your job to find the races in your area that are appropriate for each client and to stay abreast of upcoming events, but the online registration process is nearly the same for all races. Your clients will find it hard to object to that half marathon if you take all the guesswork out of the equation.

Here’s a process to help clients register for their first race:

  1. Don’t make the client search for the online race registration page. Send them the online registration link.
  2. Let them know they will be asked to provide basic contact information like name, mailing address, phone number, email address, and age. (Age data is used by race organizers to create age groups for medals.)
  3. They may be asked to select the team they will be racing with. Make this part of the registration process easy by giving them detailed instructions and the correct team name.
  4. They may also be asked to provide an expected completion time. This helps race organizers put them into the correct heat. Help ease your client’s stress by suggesting a moderately challenging time that they could accomplish by the event date.
  5. Your client will also have to sign a waiver that releases the race organizers from any liability should anyone get injured during the race.
  6. The last step of the registration process is paying the entry fee. Again, this is your client’s skin in the game, they may need a little help clicking that “pay now” button.

Overcoming Objections

If your client has never competed in a race, they may be nervous. You can calm their fears and get them running by answering the following FAQs.

How much does it cost to participate in a race?

The registration fee varies depending upon race distance, the number of runners, location, etc. The fee often covers some of the costs of the race, such as t-shirts for runners, age group medals, timing chips, race bibs, insurance, security, portable potties, water stations, and online registration platforms. The entry fee will cost anywhere from $30 to $250. There may be additional costs for travel, lodging, and meals if the race is out of town.

How are races timed?

Timing chips are attached to the race bib or tied into the shoelace. Once a runner crosses the start line, special software begins the time clock and when the runner crosses the finish line the software stops the time clock. These times are stored and can qualify runners for their next race (the Chicago marathon?) as long as they don’t go over the time limit.

Other details

Once your client completes the online registration process, they will receive a confirmation email with all the details for the event. The email should include the following:

  • Race packet pick-up information.
  • Directions to the event.
  • Parking details.
  • Race start time.
  • Award categories and age group specifications including time limit.
  • Inclement weather information.
  • Race policies such as cancellations, transferring your race number, etc.
  • Qualification details.

As you prep your clients for their next race, don’t let muscle pain or limitations get in their way. Sign up for the ISSA’s Corrective Exercise Specialist course so you can keep your clients moving through common movement dysfunctions.



Brandstätter, Veronika, et al. “The Struggle of Giving Up Personal Goals: Affective, Physiological, and Cognitive Consequences of an Action Crisis.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, vol. 39, no. 12, Dec. 2013, pp. 1668–1682, doi:10.1177/0146167213500151.

Hanson, Nicholas, et al. "Motivational Differences between Half, Full and Ultramarathoners." Journal of Sport Behavior 38.2 (2015): 180-91. ProQuest. Web. 8 Nov. 2018.

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