I've been exploring this question, not only in my life choices, but more specifically in my exercise choices. Have you ever tried an activity because you heard it’s “the best way to get lean,” or, “it burns tons of calories,” or because you “should” do it? Is that activity something you’re maintaining? Do you look forward to it? Lately I've asked myself, and my coaching clients, what if exercise was fun? How is that different from what you’re currently doing?
I recently read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. One month she was trying to cultivate more fun into her life, and her choices had to pass the "fun test." She wrote, "If something was really fun to me it would pass this test: I looked forward to it; I found it energizing, not draining, and I didn't feel guilty about it later." I thought, what if exercise passed this test, too?
A few weeks ago, I was talking with my cousin and she was bemoaning her afternoon run. She mentioned that she didn't want to face the cold, it was grey outside, and she was unmotivated. After asking her why she was doing it, she answered, “I don’t know, I used to enjoy running. I then asked a series of questions such as: Do you need to be around others for motivation? Are you bored? Is your afternoon run a “should do” activity? There were many points about training and exercise that we covered after that statement. But, one thing I heard her saying was her afternoon run didn't pass the fun test. She wasn't looking forward to it, and it sounded draining.
For me, when I’m dreading exercise or I’m in an exercise rut, it’s usually a result of choosing “should do,” activities. Or, at times I get in my traditional exercise physiologist mind and analyze training research and techniques to get lean or put on muscle, which can rob me of my joy. There is definitely value in gaining muscle, performance goals, or losing body fat. But, I’m going to dare to claim that achieving those goals can be a fun process.
Recently, I've started teaching a dance fitness class and it has helped me remember the freedom and happiness I feel when I’m dancing and exercising. I love booty shakin’, carrying on, and sharing my joy of movement with others. Oh, and I have a guilty pleasure of listening to window-rattling bass. For the first three weeks of teaching this class, I could hardly fall asleep at night because I was still soaring with elation. This is an automatic pass on my fun test. I used to dance growing up and I truly crave it now. As a result, I researched and joined an adult hip hop class.
Am I looking forward to this?
How many times have you chosen and not maintained an exercise routine? Or, perhaps you've maintained an exercise routine but you don’t look forward to it? See if your exercise choice passes the fun test. If it doesn't pass, maybe it’s time to change things up, or try something new. Have some fun the next time you workout.