The Most Inspiring Fitness Documentaries On Netflix
The Doc That'll Get You to Try Rock Climbing: Valley Uprising
Thinking of trying an outdoor adventure sport, but worried your body isn't capable? Get some inspiration from early climbing legends. Valley Uprising documents the history and evolution of rock climbing in Yosemite National Park. At first, the climbers were seen as "nutcases" because of the risks involved in the sport. While the early hotshot climbers (and those featured in the film) were mostly men, that didn't stop Lynn Hill, a female climber who made the first free ascent of The Nose of El Capitan in 1993. (P.S. Keep an eye out for Alex Honnold, the world's current climber extraordinaire.)
Guaranteed, by the end of the film, you'll be itching to get your hands on some holds. (More incentive: rock climbing has a lot of a ton of benefits.)
The Doc That'll Make Anything Seem Possible: Losing Sight of Shore
Losing Sight of Shore
is the story of the first four-woman crew to row across the Pacific Ocean, from the shores of California to Australia. They traveled over 8,000 miles in nine months, which not only made them the first all-female team ever but also the fastest team to row across the Pacific Ocean.
Schlepping to that hour-long spin class will seem way more doable after you watch these women row 24/7 in shifts—two hours on, two hours off—in a 29-foot, bright pink rowboat named Doris. And they didn't just kick ass across the entire ocean. They also raised money for two U.K. charities, Breast Cancer Care and Walking With The Wounded. (Want to get a taste of what they experienced? Try this full-body rowing circuit workout.)
The Doc About the Power of Exercise on Mental Health: Resurface
is an incredible Netflix original about veterans who are learning how to surf in an effort to manage their PTSD. Watch a vet—who lost both his legs and one arm to a detonated IED—catch his first wave, and try not to be inspired.
Operation Surf, the California-based program showcased in the film, helps wounded and injured veterans use the sea as their therapeutic escape from their traumas. No injury is too big an obstacle to avoid the surf—even a man who'd been through six different explosions and who lost most of his hearing and his vision keeps returning to the ocean. (See: How Fitness Helped This Woman Cope with Going Blind and Deaf)
"The traumas live in their bodies," said Van Curaza, the founder of Operation Surf, in the documentary. "In order to get healing, you must involve the body in the treatment." You've been warned: it's a tearjerker, but next time you have a rough day, think of these veterans who used sport as their rehabilitation and follow their lead. (Related: 13 Mental Health Benefits of Exercise)
The Doc That'll Give You Courage to Run an Ultra: Finding Traction
In 2012, Kimball ran Vermont's Long Trail, a 273-mile course through the Green Mountains. The documentary follows alongside Kimball as she set the women's record in five days, seven hours, and 42 minutes. This film not only gives an insight as to how hard this trail is but also helps you understand why Kimball is crazy enough to attempt it. (Seeing the trail without leaving your couch is great—but there are some bucket-list ultramarathons so beautiful they're worth the pain.)
The Doc That Lets You Inside the Ring: Fightworld
This Netflix original documentary series puts all types of fighting into the ring, from muay thai in Thailand to hand-to-hand combat in Israel. In Fightworld, Captain America actor Frank Grillo uses his passion for boxing to explore fight culture around the world and its role in different communities. In Mexico, a woman explains how boxing training keeps her sober. In Senegal, learn about the traditional wrestling style that's one most popular sports in the country. Watch how fighting empowers people of all genders, cultures, classes, and ethnicities around the world—then consider how boxing may change your life too.
The Doc That'll Inspire a Comeback: Maria Sharapova: The Point
In 2016, five-time Grand Slam tennis champion Maria Sharapova admitted she had tested positive for a recently banned performance-enhancing drug—and was suspended from the sport for 15 months. Before Maria Sharapova: The Point's release, Sharapova wrote on Instagram that the documentary was a "very candid and vulnerable 55 minutes" about how the scandal affected her.
After such a public embarrassment, Sharapova could have easily quit—but she didn't. Now she's back in the game: She recently made it to the fourth round of the U.S. Open and is hoping to make her way back to the top 10 women's tennis players in the world. (Before she was suspended, she was ranked number seven.)
The Doc That'll Convince You to Get Outside All Winter: Under an Arctic Sky
, goosebumps are a given. This documentary tells the story of six surfers who sail along the shores of Iceland in search of a perfect surf, all during the dead of winter. (Peak moment: Watching a surfer catch a massive wave under the Northern Lights.) During their adventure, the worst storm in 25 years shuts down the country and their quest becomes life-threatening. They consider going home, but after doing a little soul-searching, they realize that they would regret giving up. This docu-short is a humbling reminder that sometimes you—and not Mother Nature—are the only obstacle between you and your passion.
The Doc That'll Send You On a Solo Fitness Trek: Pedal the World
In Pedal the World, Felix Starck decides to spend a year traveling by bike over 11,000 miles to 22 countries. Starting in his home country of Germany, he rides south across Europe all the way to Turkey, then hops aboard a few planes to continue biking in Southeast Asia, New Zealand, and the United States.
During this documentary, you get to play Starck's copilot as he pedals to some of the world's most famous landmarks and meets people from every corner of the globe. Equally as important: You'll see what it's like to experience the true loneliness of doing a yearlong solo trek. (And it has nothing to do with the current loneliness epidemic.) You'll come away with some serious wisdom; sometimes it's during these moments of solitude that you learn things about yourself that you never knew. Not quite ready to bike solo around the world? Here are some of the best fitness retreats for women traveling solo.)
The Doc That's All About CrossFit: The Redeemed and the Dominant
The Redeemed and the Dominant
, you'll quickly understand why.
This film shows how these athletes prepare for the annual competition that forces them to push their bodies to the limit—and beyond. During the 2016 games (which were also featured in a Netflix documentary, Fittest
on Earth: A Decade of Fitness
), Katrín Davíðsdóttir and Mathew Fraser snagged the titles. But do they hold on to them in 2017? Watch
The Redeemed and the Dominant
to find out—or settle in for a doubleheader of both docs for a fitness-filled night.
The Doc That's Ideal for Girls' Night: GLOW
(short for "Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling") premiered as the first all-female wrestling show on television. It captivated millions of viewers worldwide and later inspired the 2017 Netflix original fiction series. Just like in the new series, the women of the original
documentary interviews many of the original show members and they provide hilarious insight into what it was like to be part of such a unique TV program. (P.S. here's how Alison Brie trained to do all her own stunts on the new
Who knows: You and your girlfriends may be inspired to form your own crew to hit up a weekly boot-camp class together—or at least to reconvene to watch the
series. (P.S. Research shows there are major benefits to taking classes vs. exercising alone.)