Heeeeeey, you know what’s fun? Performing a repetitive, straining, tedious task, on a set schedule, for the rest of your life!!
Except not really.
Let’s be honest, for most of us, getting in shape isn’t exactly fun. Rewarding? Yes! Enjoyable once you get that endorphin rush going? Usually! Easy to get excited about before you start? Not really. Even career athletes, who live off of the chemical rush of exercise, have mornings where they wake up and say, “Oh hell no, it is below freezing out, I am crawling right back in bed!” They resist this, however, and push on to do what they get paid to do.
But what of us normal, everyday people? I work a standard, eight-to-five day job. My commute adds an hour or so onto each end, give or take. When I wake up, it’s often after a night of too little sleep, and when I get home from work, I’m either right back out the door to teach martial arts, or I’m busy parenting an awesome-yet-rambunctious four year old. Sometimes, starting my workout is one of the hardest things for me to do.
How do we fix this? We make fitness as fun as we can. For me, there’s a combination of things that make fitness more enjoyable. One, is variety. Variety is the spice of life, they say. It’s better for your body, too, as it keeps your muscles from plateauing, and keeps your mind on the task at hand.
A varied workout is a more enjoyable, productive workout.
Sometimes, though, even shaking up my workout isn’t enough. Because of this, I have things that I enjoy to do, that not only require me to be fit, but also functions as good workouts themselves. For me, this is competing in martial arts tournaments, and participating in mud runs like the Tough Mudder. It can be many other things, though, like ultimate frisbee, soccer, football, or even something more outlandish like skydiving! If you don’t have a fun, athletic activity currently amongst your hobbies, you might want to check into local leagues and organizations for such a thing!
Even so, however, having a fun reason to work out doesn’t mean the workout itself is fun. It’s a good motivator, but sometimes you don’t want the same old drag.
Enter creative fitness.
My aforementioned four year old son enjoys working out with me, and he brings with it a spirit and energy that you’d be amazed at(I’m convinced preschoolers run on a near-limitless nuclear fusion engine). Being four, however, he has no time for boring things like repetitive lifts, chin-ups, pushups, or monotonous running. So we do fun stuff!
Our current workout together is usually a laid-out obstacle course that we set up. We pick up weights(him a soda bottle filled with colored water, me a 75 pound sandbag), run across the house, and drop them. Then we jump over a punching bag, do a forward roll on an old gymnastics mat, perform frog jumps over to my chinup bar, and then do hanging swings for a count of his choosing(usually eight to ten seconds). We run back to the punching bag, balance on it, jump off, grab our weights, and bring them back to the starting area. Then we cheer and give each other high fives.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Twenty minutes later, we’re both soaked in sweat, but laughing our butts off and still going. The obstacle course has a sense of a race, so the urgency always drives us onward. I have to keep being awesome dad, so I can’t let up, and he’s trying to beat awesome dad, so he never slows down!
Children, left to their natural devices, keep in fantastic shape, just by playing!
We, unfortunately, have a massive obesity problem amongst children right now. People blame it on video games, but I blame it on poor diet, and lack of outside time. As we know from our previous discussions on workouts, the shape and size we are is almost 100% dependent on what we eat.
Fitness can be fun, if we make it a game. As grown-ups we may refine these games into something like basketball, hockey, or dodgeball, but they’re still games. We’re still four year olds playing some high-level variant of tag, or keepaway. Next time you’re reluctant about your workout, even if you’re by yourself, turn it into a game. Make bets with yourself. Do unorthodox things(instead of just running today, I’m going to see how fast I can get through this stand of trees without falling flat on my face!). Most of all, try to have fun!
If you’re having fun, you don’t notice the usual pain/misery/reluctance of your muscles to do what you’re trying to do, you’re just caught up in having a good time!
Dan “DaRatmastah” Wallace