Saturday, April 5, 2014

Put some fun in your run

Linda enjoying the trail run, central Thailand
photo: probably Ragan Crowell
Spring is (finally) appearing in the U.S.A. and elsewhere in the northern hemisphere, and you see more and more people heading outdoors to exercise.

It's definitely more interesting to advance forward down a street or trail than pretend you are going forward on a treadmill or eliptical trainer.

Even that little workout screen in the gym that displays your distance, speed, and calories burned can't compete with actually passing real trees, statues, and other landmarks.

So maybe you should hire your son as a personal trainer.

According to a recent Canadian study, kids have a fitness philosophy that many adults might try to emulate. It's called FUN.

yes!  photo:  Funny Fun
As we get older, for some that thrill of riding or running fast, jumping high, whacking a ball, or dancing crazy is replaced by guilt and the determination to keep going to burn off those extra calories.

The dedication to excellence makes others complete that last set of push-ups, squats, or sprints or those last 2 laps of the pool or track.

In each case, we may have impressive dedication but a greater tendency to burn out. Willpower is essential to improvement but it's a limited commodity.

For you runners, be reminded of all the intangible benefits of your sport and have a giggle at the same time reading why running doesn't suck.

The Canada study found that being motivated by something outside the pure physical benefits makes exercise more enjoyable and more likely something you will stick with. Study author Dr. James Gavin of Concordia University says that " wouldn’t do things like play soccer, skateboard, or ride their bikes if it wasn’t fun.”

keeping fun in the game
photo: YouthSportPsychology

It works the same for adults: Gavin suggests that our the more internal reasons we have to motivate ourselves to do a particular activity, the more likely we will continue with it. And just as parents should keep sports fun for their kids, we should remember to do the same for ourselves:
  • keep realistic expectations
  • don't compare yourself to others
  • enjoy how your competition pushes you to improve
  • try new things - new techniques, new dance steps, new running distances, new position on the team
  • laugh at mistakes (if you can)
  • don't overanalyze a game, race, or workout
  • remember the bigger picture (i.e. if winning is the only fun you get from sports, you will definitely be disappointed some times!)
  • enjoy and congratulate your workout partners, teammates, competitors - you know you have a lot in common!

add a backwalkover to your jumproping
photo: Mike Christy, Arizona Daily Star
You can bring back your inner kid by trying new things, even at your normal workout.

Exercise study participants at the University of Florida were split into three groups—one that varied its workouts, one that did the same thing every time, and one with no regulations—those who experimented enjoyed exercising 20% more than everyone else.

That may be the secret behind the popularity of circuit training (HIIT, boot camps, etc), each with a variety of exercises that keep you guessing without getting bored!


  1. This is why playing sports is a great way to stay in shape - running sucks, lifting is boring - but playing basketball is FUN* :)

    (*several responses from knees were discarded in the preparation of this statement)

  2. Agreed! (and a big Like re: the knees possibly protesting more basketball practice!).

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