Fitness is not fun

Fitness is fun. At least this is what everyone trying to make a buck off of their latest and greatest performance tracking widget wants you to believe. But I am telling you today that fitness is not fun. It is rewarding. It is enjoyable. These are true, but it does not fit into my definition of fun.

Fun is carefree, relaxed, full of laughter, contemplation, pleasure, and excitement. Fitness is full of discipline, endurance, and pain, with reward being slowly rewarded by steady progress toward a goal.

Why am I bringing this up? Because I’m tired of companies trying to make fitness fun. Apps, spreadsheets, and analysis are useful, and even necessary depending on your goal, but they are not fun.

That said, I don’t want to leave you hanging if you’re trying to motivate yourself for getting started in the gym. Do you want to know what gets you through the hard and annoying things about fitness? Do you want to know how to make it through the slumps that will come? Do you want to know how to push through to reward, satisfaction, drive, and accomplishment? Yes—of course you do!

There is only one thing you need to drive and push you—your reason for getting, and staying, in shape. You have to have a reason to get you in the gym after a long day at work. You have to have a deep-seated motivation to avoid the donut at work. That one thing is a seed that grows into a lifestyle.

I’ve done what many others have done throughout my life: joined a gym, worked out for three months or so, and then quit. Several times. Until I turned 34 when I discovered my motivation—taking care of my health.

My wife had been diagnosed with cancer 6 months earlier and just completed chemotherapy. I had recently started working again after four months of unemployment. We had a 6-month-old son. I was drinking almost every night after the kids went to bed. But as I reached my birthday, a light came on for me.

It was looking like my wife was going to make it through (she did—Baruch Hashem!). I was enjoying my work and watching my third son grow. I had a lot to be thankful for! I knew that I hadn’t taken very good care of myself for a while, if ever really, and needed to change. My wife always ate well. She never smoked and rarely, if ever, drank. I realized that if she could get cancer in spite of taking care of her body, then I was screwed and didn’t stand a chance! My wife motivated me to start taking better care of myself. So I joined a gym.

The first year, I made it a habit and learned how to make it a part of my life. The second year, I learned more about strengthening my body, and I took care of a shoulder injury to prepare for my third year. My third year, I trained. I put on 20 lbs of muscle and went from 33% to 19% body fat. This year, my fourth year, I am trying to overcome years of eating habits and reduce my body fat from 24% to 15%.

Through it all, I’ve had many interruptions and shake ups that would have stopped me from going in the past. My kids have gotten sick. I have gotten sick. My wife has gotten sick. I have had pain. I have had just slumps where I didn’t want to go for long periods of time. Sometimes, I was just sleepy. There is no fun in going when everything around you is saying “not today!” No app or spreadsheet is going to motivate at these times.

Through all of the things I could use as excuses to stay home or stop going at all, I’ve pushed through because I remembered the one reason I started going in the first place.

That seed of motivation had grown into a desire to learn and improve. It has lasted me through shoulder surgery (where I couldn’t work out) to the downs of life that discourage working out. That seed has grown into a tree so that now you could say I have “the bug”. But even now, years into it, I still need that seed of motivation that pushes me when I don’t want to be pushed.

It is still the one thing that drives me. That one thing is realizing that I need to fight to hold on to my health. I need to do what I can to prevent disease instead of letting life just have its way with me while I sit on the couch. I know that things can change in a moment, but when it does, I’ll know that I have done my best to keep that moment at bay. It’s really just a desire to live my life and not let it live me.

If you don’t have that desire, that one point of motivation that doesn’t push you out the door into the cold night air, or the oven blast of the day, then you won’t go out when it’s nice. If you don’t have a voice inside your head saying, “do what you can now and improve while you can”, then you won’t do a thing. Save your money at the gym, on the supplements, the trainer, and the new shoes.

When you start, spend your time defining what that seed of motivation is. What is that one thing that brought you into the gym? Your health? Your kids? Your reflection? Plant that one thing in your being and keep it there. That seed grows into discipline and hard work. That’s the only shortcut for change and success. Everything else grows from it.

And this is where the fun comes in. It’s fun every time you walk back in your door tired and sweaty, knowing you did something you truly wanted to do. It’s fun when you look in the mirror and see gradual improvement. It’s fun when you get the unexpected compliment. It’s even fun when you’re buying new clothes because the old ones don’t fit any longer. That is fun.