If you walk into a gym at peak hours, it seems that having fun is the furthest thing from the mind of the average person trudging along on the treadmill. Generally, there’s a slightly hunched, defeated looking posture accompanying a bored, disengaged blank stare. You can almost see an imaginary checklist in front of them; once their 20 minutes are up, they’ve done their duty for the day or “earned” yesterday’s donut. While I admire the dedication, it always makes me a little sad that the joy has been sucked out of the physical exertion.
Brace yourself for a potentially mind-blowing concept: exercise can be really enjoyable and fun.
Whoa, right? Believe it or not, exercise doesn’t have to be tedious or feel like a chore.
I don’t claim to be an arbiter of fun, but I’ve learned a few things as a professional triathlete to keep training and racing feeling more like play than a job. I’m balancing three sports, exercising a bunch, racing under tons of pressure and yet I still derive bouncy puppy joy out of being active. Here are a few tips for ways to inject fun that I hope will help, whether you are a casual exerciser or a seasoned pro:
Mix it up. It’s easy to get too focused in your fitness routine and, as a result, start to feel a bit stale. As they say, variety is the spice of life and your body needs some habanero-style pep to feel fresh. While I compete on the roads, I love to mix up my terrain with a trail run or a ride on the dirt. Not only does it provide me with a mental boost, I find that this sort of variety also challenges my body in different ways and helps me with technique.
By using the TICKR, you can use your heart rate data to compare exercises. An elevated heart rate equals fitness gains, no matter how it gets elevated! Exercise somewhere different, try a new sport or take on a new fitness challenge. Change is never easy, but it’s probably exactly what your body needs.
Find fun with friends. With busy home and work lives, it can be easier and more convenient to roll solo. Although I’m a huge advocate of having meditative workouts, constantly training alone can sap our willpower. By training with a friend or in a group environment, you’ll be able to push a bit harder and to share the experience with others. Some of my best friends have come from my training partners; we share the hard work, the joy, the sweat and a few mishaps along the way. If you’d like to augment the social experience or your busy schedule gets in the way, you can easily use Wahoo Fitness to connect with friends on the Internet. It’s easy to ride with others using your Wahoo KICKR and third-party apps or to be social using Wahoo Fitness apps and your favorite sharing sites.
Don’t always be driven by data. As much as I love seeing my numbers, sometimes it’s good to take a break from the data. Go for a run without knowing pace, ride without looking at power, or swim open water without knowledge of distance. If you simply can’t help yourself, cover your devices or keep them hidden during your session. By ignoring the numbers, it’s easier to remember why you love to be active and to take in your surroundings. What’s great about the Wahoo apps and products is that this is easy to do. You can have your iPhone in your Wahoo Sportcase or in your jersey pocket, making it easy to just enjoy your workout without numbers but still have them available afterward.
Embrace discomfort and avoid pain. The best athletes know the difference between “good pain” and “bad pain”. When you challenge your body, you will feel discomfort and it is through this discomfort that we make improvements. Pain, however, is generally a sign that you are hurting your body. If it hurts, stop; if you are occasionally really, really uncomfortable, you are probably training properly!
You know what’s fun? Being able to do what you love.
What’s not fun is being injured or overtrained.
Intensity feels good. When you watch kids running around, you’ll notice that they will sprint in short bursts with a big smile on their faces. For them, sprinting is play. As adults, too many of us avoid intensity and the accompanying lung busting sensations. Whether you incorporate running up a few short hills a bit harder, decide to trade in your road bike for some fall cyclocross, or make 7 Minute Workout part of your routine, embrace the burn! Not only has high intensity interval training (HIIT) been demonstrated as an effective training strategy, it’s also playtime that will make you feel uncomfortable, yet joyful.
Set benchmarks or small goals. Whether you are looking to improve your cycling threshold power or drop 15 pounds, a big goal can be very intimidating. The biggest, most long-lasting changes generally occur over a long, daunting stretch of time. With your end-goal in mind, come up with achievable benchmarks along the way that will keep you motivated and focused. Progression is a ladder; you have to go from one rung to the next in order to keep moving to the top. Think of the Wahoo Balance Smart scale and your fitness trackers as a means to help you get from one little benchmark to the next.
Go bold. Wear a happy color. Leave the dark and neutral colors at home and break out a bright t-shirt and shoes. It may seem simple, but incorporating a bit more color into your exercise apparel might provide a little psychological boost. I admit that this one sounds silly, but it works for me!
Stay healthy, get active and, most importantly, find the joy in whatever you do.
The next time that you are gasping for breath at the top of a hill while wearing neon apparel, remember to smile and enjoy the moment!