Training Should Be Fun

In the high-minded world of fitness these days, terms like “functional,” “patterning,” “activation,” “high intensity,” “assess-reassess,” and “program” litter the landscape. Terms once full of meaning now not much more than buzz words used to complicate the simple act of moving your body.


We – especially yours truly – assume much of the fault for dropping these nuggets damn near daily.


Many regimens out there focus so much on checking these terminology boxes (“Is this program functional?” “Does is address patterning to maximize glute activation based on an assess-reassess?” Ugh.), one of the main points of training gets lost in the fray: training should be fun.


What’s worse is the majority of times these programs don’t even truly do what they’re aimed to do. The buzz words are just lip service to appease a market which thinks it wants these things.


On the submarine, we had a euphemism for situations like this, where a main point is lost in jargon spoken to appease rather than convey. We called them “key words and tricky phrases.”


Key words and tricky phrases just fill the space between how something should really be done and the theoretical execution of it. It bears repeating: they’re mostly said to appease, not to convey meaning.


The fitness world is full of key words and tricky phrases meant to market buzz-worthy products. And it seems worthwhile, until you realize you hate doing it because it’s dull and ineffective and the exact opposite of why you fell in love with training (most likely) in the first place:


It’s fun.


There are three things that play into making training fun:

  1. The coach.
  2. The program.
  3. The athlete.


If the coach is only ever a dick, training becomes stressful. The fun gets sucked right out of it. Of course, a coach must set expectations, uphold standards, and hold athletes accountable. Yet, doing so doesn’t (always) mean the coach must be mean to do so. The best coaches should measure expectations with fun, and incentivize athletes to meet him/her on both.


If you don’t have a coach, then this can be the voice in your head during training. How are you talking to yourself? If you’re stringent, ease up. Be positive in your own mind towards yourself.


Programming should be fun as well. Hard? Sure, if the desired outcome aligns. Varied? Perhaps, though variation is a factor to add fun to training, fun shouldn’t hinge on it.


Programming being fun is sort of ethereal. It plays into an individual’s internal motivations quite a bit. In general, fun programming tends to move you through various planes, contain multiple tempos of work, challenge your ability, lead you to success, and provide some sense of completion, however slight – a sort of catharsis from the daily grind.


Athletes bring the final factor, and it is most likely the biggest variable. Athletes must come to training with a fun attitude. If you step into your training session with a sense of dread or resentment, the best coaches or programming will only help as much as you’re willing. Stubborn, undisciplined athletes won’t improve their attitude much.


In fact, an athlete with a bad attitude, or who knows it all already, displays a level of hubris so off-putting and poisonous it’s better they never step foot into a group setting. They’re not coachable and will only negatively affect others’ experiences. We all have good and bad days, which is fine, but a pattern of negativity will always poison your fun.


The son-of-a-bitch facts, though, are that sour coaches and programming can teach an athlete to have a negative attitude. It’s up to the individual, coach, and surrounding athletes to inspire a renewed outlook on the opportunities training presents in these cases.


Now, in the ideal world, training is both fun and effective (and all of the other key words and tricky phrases). Don’t accept the false pretense it can’t be all of those things. But also don’t accept it’s anyone’s job to entertain you – neither the coach nor the program are Athlete Entertainment Systems. You have as much of a responsibility to make things fun as the person next to you, so don’t be poison in the well.


Fun isn’t the only thing training should be, though, nor should fun be the guiding force behind every program. In fact, training can still be fun even if a single session is boring or not as engaging as others. Fun can also be experienced after the fact (“Type A” fun), for example, after a particularly shitty work cap.


Instead, fun should be an implicit attribute of training, rather than an explicit goal, or you run the risk of losing training effectiveness in favor of gimmicks and always having to up the ante. Fun should just be part of the deal. And an athlete’s attitude should be to have fun during training, and most, if not all, of the other pieces will fall into place.

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