FUN! I was thinking about that word the other day. I keep reading that when people want to be more active they should 'make it fun' or 'find something that is fun' or even 'find something you enjoy'. I saw these same kind of suggestions in some of this year's recycled 'Ten Sure-Fire Tips' to stick to your New Year's exercise program (Déjà vu all over again?). Of course if you can find an exercise that is Fun, then you are well on your way to a long-term love affair with exercise and your active lifestyle is virtually assured. My point here however is that if you look only for Fun or if you think it always has to be Fun, your options are more likely to be limited, and your intentions are more likely to be compromised. What prompted this line of thinking was a conversation I had recently while standing next to a lady doing some walking on a treadmill (She was doing the walking, I was doing the standing).

We were chatting about the usual kind of stuff - 'How do I get rid of my flabby arms?', 'What's the best kind of exercise to do to lose weight', etc. I was talking about the fact that she was already doing something really positive by walking on a regular basis when she said "But this isn't fun". To which my response was "Who said it had to be fun". Of course this got a big laugh from her and her neighbours who automatically thought that the 'jock' in me was speaking (See the image above "50 more reps and you WILL be having fun or suffer the consequences!"). However that was not the point I was trying to make. The day before, this lady had seen me in the gym as I was coming to the end of a fairly intense session on the elliptical trainer. There I was in front of her cranking away, sweat flying, arms pumping. I asked her "When you saw me on the elliptical yesterday, did it look like I was having Fun?".

Again she and her neighbours laughed but (without quoting the resulting conversation word for word), the point I tried to make in the ensuing conversation was that, while I was definitely experiencing a number of positive physical and mental feelings during my workout, 'Fun' was not an appropriate descriptor of what these feelings were. Empowerment, self esteem, a sense of achievement, ego, being in control of my body, a sense of completion, of being in tune with the rhythm of my movements - any of those - or more - could describe what I was feeling. But FUN? This didn't even come close to what I was experiencing. FUN is defined in the dictionary as "enjoyment or playfulness", or "something that provides mirth or amusement". It is certainly a pleasant feeling, and one that almost by definition, is rather trivial and not long lasting. In other words not something in my mind likely to persuade you to adopt any kind of long-term behavior change (like regular exercise).

So I said to this lady "I see you here on a regular basis, so what is important to you about what you do here?". She thought for a while (actually for about 20 yards at 4 mph), and said,"It's walking with my friend here (pointing to the lady on the next treadmill). We chat about things and the time just goes by". I let some time go by myself without trying to fill in the silence. Then she said "You know what the best thing is? When we walk out of the door at the end of the session, I feel really good about myself because I have achieved something".

Sounds to me like a lot more than "Fun"!

So as you think about this story - what is important to you about being active?

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