Top 10 Inspirational Fitness
By Steve Edwards
From the Million Dollar Body Club - Join Today and Workout to
Oh, magical cellulite cure of
One of the reasons we go to the movies is their ability to
transport us to another time or place. They're like an amusement park ride with
costumes. Beyond pure escapism, they also have the power to motivate. Since
films compress time, we get to see the effects of great acts without having to
do them ourselves. But movies also have the power to transcend their medium and
become part of our real world. For better or for worse, they've become the
strongest educational and motivational tools we have.
Enter the sports film. Since the day we first saw Rocky Balboa
running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Hollywood has been
trying to upstage him. Prior to this time, a "sports" movie needed social
relevance. After watching the Rock go 15 rounds with the champ, and then to the
Oscars, they realized this was no longer the case. A sports film needn't be
"serious." If it made you leave the theater wanting to cheer, it was a job well
done and money in the bank.
This article, though, is about
fitness and not sports. So let's focus on films that will make you want to be
fit. The Natural is a great sports film but it's unlikely that the
subsequent trips to the batting cages are going to change your waistline. These
films should make you want to burn calories, sculpt your body, and chug raw
eggs for breakfast. Well, two out of three ain't bad.
So without further
adoâdrumroll, pleaseâhere are the top fitness movies of all
Without Limits (1998) The story of American
running legend Steve Prefontaine is great on many levels, with plenty of social
relevance, but it's also tough to watch without feeling like "going out for an
easy 10." A biography and, hence, not a definitive sports film, you can't help
but feel Pre's passion to run and, even more, push his body to the brink of its
Best training moment you might miss: The
scene where he tries on some prototype shoes and doesn't come back for hours.
Quote: "Is there anything worse than coming in
Other films in genre: There are many films
about running or runners. Here are some you may have missed: The Jericho
Mile (1979), On the Edge (1985), and Personal Best
Hoosiers (1986) This story of a small-town
basketball team that overachieves (not wanting to give too much away) is often
considered the best sports movie of all time. While it's not a definitive
training film, it's hard to watch it and not feel like doing something. It does
have the "anything is possible" message going for it. Plus, it's true.
Best training moment you might miss: Jimmy Chitwood
shooting around at sunset, even though he's vowed not to play.
Quote: "I'll make it."
Other films in
genre: There are a ton of good hoop films. Don't miss Coach
Carter (2005), One on One (1977), and Soul in the Hole
Blue Crush (2002) Though marketed as "hot
chicks in bikinis" fluff, this is a hardcore sports film. It's formulaic, in a
Top Gunâsorta way, but the main character is driven, conflicted,
and well played by Kate Bosworth. It also gives a decent account of what it's
like trying to follow a dream of living as a surfer in Hawaii.
Best training moment you might miss: Don't walk in late. The
opening scene is worth the price of admission alone.
Quote: "Train Hard. Go Big." Not actually said, but written on
the protagonist's mirror in lipstick.
Other films in
genre: An embarrassing genre from the Hollywood perspective
(Gidget, Ride the Wild Surf, Point Break). Big Wednesday
(1978) is the lone gem, and it's not really about surfing. Instead, rent the
documentaries Riding Giants (2004) and Endless Summer
(2005) A young Mexican kid living illegally in L.A. is
seen by a scout and gets a chance to try out with a Premier League soccer club.
Simple plot, with obvious tension-building elements, moving towards huge
obstacles to overcome while surmounting incalculable oddsânow THIS is a
sports movie! It also happens to be well acted, well shot, and the characters
are not necessarily stereotypical. An easy film to watch that will assure you
that your life could be harder and that you should make the most of it.
Best training moment you might miss: Like I said,
it's an obvious film, but there's a scene where he's practicing on the beach
that evokes his passion for soccer, which makes a nice contrast to all the more
overt face-down-in-the-muck sort of stuff.
don't know where home is." "Yeah, ya do. It's green an' it's got a goalpost at
Other films in genre: Though soccer is the
most popular sport in the world, we don't have much to choose from. Notables
include Bend It Like Beckham (2002), A Shot at Glory (2000),
and Victory (1981).
the Dragon (1973) Before Hollywood figured out sports
films, it figured out people would watch movies if the stars were fit. The guy
they learned it from was Bruce Lee. This low-budget film out of Hong Kong
pretty much changed American film and created a brand-new genre, the martial
arts film. Actually, when you think about how commonplace martial arts are, it
pretty much changed the world. Anyway, Bruce Lee only made a few films and
this, by far, is the best. If it doesn't make you desire greater fitness,
Best training moment you might miss:
It's impossible to miss any training moments in this film.
Quote: "Don't think. Feel. It is like a finger pointing away
to the moon. Do not concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that
Other films in genre: Oh, about a
million. Most unwatchable but virtually all feature a lot of training. Pick
your favorite beefcake. Here are three you probably haven't seen: Drunken
Master II (1994), Iron Monkey (1993), and Billy Jack
(1971). Unfortunately, women don't really have their own role model in the U.S.
but Cynthia Rothrock was a big star in Hong Kong for years. Check with Netflix
and pick those with the best ratings.
Pumping Iron (1977) This documentary did two
things: it made bodybuilding a mainstream activity and made Arnold
Schwarzenegger a star. It's both interesting and motivating to see these guys,
who were basically fitness test pilots, devoting their lives to what, at the
time, was an esoteric pursuit with little chance of fame or reward.
Best training moment you might miss: When Arnold walks onto
the stage, looking serious, and slowly breaks into a grin. This is a guy at the
top of his game.
Quote: "Remember, if you are
training hard, he may be training twice as hard. You just gotta keep coming
Other films in genre: Pumping
Iron II: The Women (1985). Not a real popular genre, though I guess you
could add any sword-and-sorcerer movie to this list. At least these guys found
a way to make money after all that time in the gym.
Away (1979) A film about how a group of working-class
kids' lives change when one of them wins a bike and starts to win races. A
great film, that's not really about training, but has many outstanding training
scenes. Paul Dooley, as Dave's father, nearly steals the show. Not to be
missed, training or no training.
Best training moment you
might miss: Riding the rollers and eating an apple in the car wash.
Don't try this at home!
Quote: "I know I-tey food
when I hear it! It's all them "eenie"
foods . . . zucchini . . . and
linguini . . . and fettuccine. I want some American food, dammit! I want French
Other films in genre: American
Flyers (1985). Other than that, we're still waiting for the movie about
Major Taylor. Maybe rent some old Tour de France videos or, if completely
jonesing for some velo action, try Quicksilver (1986) or Rad
- 3. Chariots of Fire (1981)
Film about some British runners that won the Oscar for
Best Picture. A great film in many ways, but it will inspire even the most
sedentary of us to run, "like the wind"
Best training moment
you might miss: Not training, but motivation for training, is when
Abrams is sitting in the stands after losing and visualizing the race he'd just
Quote: "When I run, I feel God's pleasure."
Other films in genre: See Without
(1976) Yeah, sure, we all make fun of the Rock now. But
remember that back before those Roman numerals, Mr. T, Ivan Drago, and when the
culminating scene of the movie was a bar fight, Rocky was the quintessential
American hero. Now we have The Contender, American Idol, and
a bunch of other reality shows that try and create a real-life Rocky. Well, I
knew Rocky Balboa. And those shows are no Rocky. Adriaaaaaan!
Best training moment you might miss: Rocky running up the
stairs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Just kidding.
Quote: "He doesn't know it's a damn show! He thinks it's a
Other films in genre: There are a lot of
great boxing movies and all feature a lot of training. However, most of them
aren't great endorsements of the sport. Three great boxing films that won't
make you want to step into a ring with Apollo Creed anytime soon are Raging
Bull (1980), The Harder They Fall (1956), and Fat City
Vision Quest (1985) Quirky film
about a wrestler trying to cut weight so he can challenge a guy nobody else can
beat. It had too many offbeat characters to become a mainstream hit, but no
movie conveys motivation like Vision Quest. If you think dieting is
hard, watching Louden Swain run around Spokane in a rubber suit and not eat
while trying to fight off opponents, nosebleeds, and raging teenage hormones is
just the "my life doesn't seem so bad" accountability you're looking for.
You're on a Vision Quest, man!
Best training moment you might
miss: I doubt you'll miss it but when Louden warms up for his big
match then busts through the doors to the cheering audience, it makes me want
to train until I pass out. In fact, I think I'll go watch it right now.
Quote: "It's not about the six minutes. It's what
happens in those six minutes."
Other films in genre:
None; probably why it's not more popular.