Have We Forgotten The Fun In Fitness?

My daughter and I workout together on Sundays. She is 6 years old and it’s become a great way for us to spend time together. In fact, she says she loves going to workout with me. I never pushed her into it. Originally, I asked her if it would be okay if she came along with me while I worked out, and I figured she could read, draw, or play on her Kindle. Of course, I promised to take her to the park afterwards so we could get in some play time outside. The first time we went, she did some coloring for 15 minutes or so, but she was interested in the gymnastic rings and climbing rope. She ended up swinging on the rings for such a long time during that first visit to the studio, that she got blisters on her hands. Since then, she’s become a seasoned veteran on the rings and she recently set a new personal record in the height of her rope climb. When she’s out on the playground with her friends, you can see that she’s a little bit stronger with her climbing skills. All that strength is the product of playing around on the equipment in my gym space, no formal workouts. She essentially is just having fun when we go train. There have been times where I have thought about structuring a workout routine for her, but I have fought that urge. She’s getting stronger, and by having fun, I am hoping to ensure a life long love for being active. Does she really need to do push-ups or is it more fun to do some crawling? Does she need to do pull-ups or could she just climb a rope and swing on the rings? The exercises she does aren’t only more practical, but they are more fun. Most kids begin playing games and sports because it’s fun, until parents, coaches, and/or poor sportsmanship by peers, sometimes ruin it for them. Shouldn’t working out be fun too? When did we lose the fun in fitness, or maybe it was never there to begin with.

As adults, we often look upon working out as a chore that ranks up there with cleaning the kitchen and mowing the lawn. Something we need to do, but we don’t enjoy. Often times, that is where a fitness coach like me comes into the picture. I make people accountable for doing their chore of working out, but my ulterior motive is to actually make people enjoy it. Some people will find motivation in building aesthetics and they may become a bodybuilder or figure competitor. Others may find joy in getting stronger and lifting heavy things, they will be drawn to powerlifting or strong man events. And then there are those who love to compete and they find pleasure in athletics, which keeps them fit and motivates them to be strong. However, there are those that drop off and have a hard time making fitness a part of their routine. My tip for them is to make it fun, or find a fitness coach who will help them make it fun, besides just providing accountability. Here are a few tips for keeping the fun in fitness.

  • Explore movement.  Right from the start, let’s make working out fun. Then there is a greater chance we will develop a life long love for it. My daughter showed me some of the traditional body weight exercises they learned in P.E. class, but I think they would be better served by learning movement skills and moving through obstacle course style workouts. Here is the movement combo workout I gave my daughter at the end of today’s workout.

3 rounds of:

Inverted Crawl x 10 to 15  feet

Run  x 15 yards

Sprint x 20 yards

Forward Rolls x 2

Narrow Offset Plank Walk x 15 feet

10 lb Sandbag Ground to Overhead with Slam x 1

I think most adults would enjoy this type of workout, and it could be modified for any limitations. I keep it short and simple for the young kids, but it could be expanded upon for an adult. As an added bonus, these exercises are practical.

  • Play active games, learn to dance, train in the martial arts, play a sport. I have mentioned these before, but they are fantastic ideas for combining fun and fitness. Some of the best workouts don’t seem like workouts at all, because we are fully engaged in the activity. Rushmore society is a local club that combines social activities with active game play for adults. Maybe you have something similar in your area. In recent years, dance classes have merged into fitness classes, and are quite popular. If you love to dance, by all means, use that activity for fitness. Martial arts can be intense such as boxing, wrestling, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, or more gentle forms, such as Tai Chi and Aikido. Martial arts can promote discipline, balance, conditioning, and self esteem. Sports come in power based versions such as volleyball and basketball, or racquet sports, such as tennis, racquetball , and pickleball, or outdoor sports which include backpacking, mountaineering, and hiking. Don’t forget about endurance sports either, like running, biking, and swimming. I believe it’s important to choose two different sports to alternate between with different movement patterns to alleviate possible overuse injuries. Also, don’t have a youth athlete specialize in a sport too early or you can risk those same overuse injuries or mental burnout. As you can see, there are many ways to get fit.
  • Hire a fitness coach, attend a fitness class, or purchase a quality fitness product. A good coach is going to have the knowledge to draw upon hundreds of exercises that can provide the right challenge unique to each individual. Learning new exercises or new fitness tools can keep any fitness program more exciting, and the client more engaged. Doing the same exercises over and over is another prescription for overuse injuries and mental burnout. My recent coaching session in kettlebells was a great way to spark my interest in getting to know a useful fitness tool better. Learn to use a new exercise tool, how to do a new exercise, or get a new workout.
  • Don’t always worry about sets and reps in your workout. Every once in awhile, or maybe even more often than that, throw out the concepts of sets and reps and just train a variety of movements without any set plans. It’s the equivalent of leaving the GPS watch at home when you head out for a run. Try some movements, do what feels good, and most importantly, enjoy yourself. Maybe some days during this free play workout, you want to pick up heavy things, other days you want to stick to the ground (rocking, rolling, crawling, etc.), and maybe sometimes you just want to work on mobility. Free yourself of the common fitness constraints. I used to love my occasional runs without the watch. I just ran by feel and it didn’t matter what the distance or the pace was. Often times, they were some of my best and longest workouts because I was just enjoying myself and my surroundings.

We don’t have to dread working out. It can and should be fun. If you are not finding any enjoyment in it, find a new way to train. The suggestions above should help you with that. Maybe a good fitness routine can be as simple as going to the playground with your kids and playing, or spending some active time socializing with friends. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that we make fitness an enjoyable part of our lives.

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