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Fitness Motivation

Top 10 Inspirational Fitness Films

By Steve Edwards
From the Million Dollar Body Club - Join Today and Workout to Win!

Oh, magical cellulite cure of celluloid!

ClipboardOne 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.

Boxing GlovesEnter 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 time.

  • 10. RunnerWithout 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 limits.

    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 second?"

    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 (1982).

  • 9. basketballHoosiers (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 (1998).

  • 8. surfingBlue 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 (1966).

  • 7. soccerGoal! (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.

    Quote: "I don't know where home is." "Yeah, ya do. It's green an' it's got a goalpost at each end."

    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).

  • 6. kungfuEnter 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, nothing will.

    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 heavenly glory."

    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.

  • 5. Pumping IronPumping 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 back stronger."

    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.

  • 4. bikingBreaking 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 fries!"

    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 (1987).

  • 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 lost.

    Quote: "When I run, I feel God's pleasure."

    Other films in genre: See Without Limits.

  • 2. boxingRocky (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 damn fight!"

    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 (1972).

  • 1. wrestlerVision 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.

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I am a full time Beachbody Coach. I motivate and guide close to 2,500 Club members and head a team of 11 Beachbody Coaches who are all committed to helping you reach your goals. Before joining BeachBody, I was a certified personal trainer for more than a dozen years and have been a running coach for over 20 years. Continued...


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