Is working out fun? Sounds like a rather irrelevant topic of conversation at face value. But is this question simple-minded locker room chatter or is a very relevant subject that should be examined more closely? The answer is the latter, because this query is tied into the most important topic of your life: your health.
In grade school, most of us were taught that sports, teamwork and competition involve the type of hard work and commitment that will benefit us later in life. But when we become adults, the concept of working out is mysteriously morphed into having to be “fun.” Look at any one of the four nationally broadcast fitness shows (Body Shaping, Flex Appeal, Gotta’ Sweat and Co-Ed Training) as proof. “Make exercise fun” is the theme that is pounded into the viewers’ heads. These morning exercise shows feature extremely fit people forcing ear-to-ear grins as they exert themselves through a variety of weight lifting and aerobic exercises. What’s more, the featured athletes are constantly telling us to regard exercise as something that’s fun and to be very creative in trying to find ways to make exercise enjoyable. The host for Co-Ed Training tells the audience before a block of commercials, “We’ll be right back with more fun.” What? Are we watching an exercise instruction program or I Love Lucy reruns?
Is whooping it up and strenuous exercise compatible? Hell no. The mega-fit hosts of these programs have sweated, strained, endured all kinds of pain and put in hour after lonely hour in a plethora of gyms, swimming pools, martial arts studios, dance halls and practice fields to build their lean and muscular bods. And as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, very few of those workouts were characterized by incessant grinning, laughing, joking and merrymaking. Why then are they changing their workout mentality when in front of the cameras? Probably because these programs feel that they are addressing a very sedentary population who just wouldn’t exercise unless it was sugar coated with smiles and jocularity. But for beginners wanting to learn more about exercise technique and fit people looking to take it to the next level, this presentation could be psychologically debilitating.
Think of the consequences of serving up exercise as something that has to be fun: If we can’t make exercise a fun thing to do and don’t seem to enjoy it on the same level as those hosts, does this mean that we will never be in good shape? Does this mean that we should just drop it and put our energy into something that we truly feel is fun, such as bowling, dominoes or gossiping over coffee and cigarettes? Or, if we feel that exercise is a “necessary evil” that we have to do but just isn’t fun, does this mean that we have to live in misery at the thought of a lifetime of three workouts a week?
Let’s look at it this way: What else is motivational because it’s “fun?” Did our parents say, “Clean your room, it’ll be fun?” Did our teachers say, “Study for the trigonometry final, it’ll be fun?” Did your boss ever tell you, “You have to work weekends this month, but don’t worry, it’ll be fun?” Of course not. Appreciation of what is important and/or pleasurable in life is multi-dimensional and in no way is “fun” one’s only source of inspiration and motivation. We have to clean our rooms because we need to learn the importance of a clean living environment, of completing work, of respecting our parents’ instruction and so forth. We have to study for tests because test taking is very important skill in our society that usually results in the acquisition of higher paying jobs and directly affects our ability to appreciate life. We need to work weekends for our boss because respecting a workplace’s chain of command is an important social element and is tied into one’s success at work, which is important for virtually every facet of our lives. These types of motivations are essential to life, yet “fun” doesn’t factor into any of them. So why should it with exercise? The point is: It shouldn’t.
IFBB Pro King Kamali Makes It Look Fun!
If you want a strong, cosmetically appealing, mechanically efficient body, it takes hard work and lots of it. Working out is work, and that’s probably why “work” is part of the phrase. Not one of the fitness professionals on television achieved their phenomenal physiques by yukking it up through their workouts and, chances are, neither will you. You will have to grasp a body of knowledge about exercise, develop a tolerance for different types of pain and, most importantly, develop a tough, hardened mentality that keeps your body moving toward the gym on those nights when your brain is telling you that what you really want to do is relax on the couch, chat on the phone and see what’s on Turner Classic Movies.
To top it all off, nature plays a cruel joke on us by making the most strenuous workouts the ones that develop our bodies the quickest. It ain’t easy and, quite often, it isn’t much “fun” either. But the fact that it isn’t fun is entirely alright. You will train anyhow for the same reasons you engage in any other endeavor that is important, because hard exercise is a satisfying accomplishment that makes you strong, healthy and vibrant and which is essential to your enjoyment of life. On top of this, it’s unlikely that you will be able to achieve that higher level of cosmetic appearance and performance if you feel that your training has to be something that’s fun.
Renowned fitness guru Dr. Frederick Hatfield writes in his classic book, Bodybuilding: A Scientific Approach, “The intensity factor [of your exercise must be] sufficient for adaptation to occur.” Translation: Your body will not change into one that is stronger and leaner unless your exercise is intense enough to force it to. We all know those individuals in the gym who we’ve seen training month after month and year after year, yet look every bit the same as when we first met them. Exercise that is rigorous and strenuous enough to cause your body to “adapt” to it is necessarily hard work and has little to do with fun.
When your body is powerful and flexible, when your heart is strong and pumping blood efficiently, when your immune system is potent and keeping viruses away – all the fruits of quality exercise – you tend to enjoy life more; it is a higher level than “fun.” Our ability to extract pleasure from life is increased with a body that is functioning optimally. We attract more potential sex partners; our performance in leisure sports is upgraded and our overall self-confidence is enhanced.
Going to a movie with a friend is fun; playing softball on a sunny Sunday afternoon is fun. Working out is usually not fun. It is more like work. Approach your workout sessions with this attitude and you will look and feel great; then go out and extract the fun out of life. The horse goes before the carriage and doesn’t ride inside it as the morning fitness shows indicate. Exercise is one of those types of work that enhances the quality of our lives.