Include the "Fun" in Functional Training
If you don’t mind, let us participate in a brief word association game. I will give you a few sentences or phrases, and you think about the feelings you associate those things with.
- High intensity plyometrics.
- Sprinting up a steep hill repeatedly.
- Holding a wall sit for as long as possible.
- Walking lunges up a hill.
Unless you are a little on the strange side like I am, these things generally don’t bring about warm, joyful emotions. Add in hot weather and they become slightly cruel. However, these are just a sample of the things I put over 60 teenage hockey players through this past week on Vancouver Island. Yet, at the end of the week, the majority of evaluations filled out by these campers included the dryland training as one of their favourite components to the week. Call me a skeptic if you choose, but this puzzled me a little bit since I’m rather certain it is not my presence or coaching that solely turned what many consider torture into one of their favourite activities of the week. As I contemplated how so many teenagers considered high intensity exercise in hot weather to be fun, I came to the brilliant realization that they enjoyed it so much precisely because it was designed in such a way to be fun for them.
For example, I can guarantee the response from the kids would not have been the same if they had to run themselves through a circuit of burpees, hill sprints, pushups, lunges, bounds and sprints and then go to another ice session. However, these activities became team relays, group competitions, and exercise circuits to complete in as little time as possible, with the promise of a fun activity for the last couple minutes if they worked hard. I was reminded strongly of how indispensable ‘fun’ is to functional training as I watched the kids work their tails off while still competing and enjoying themselves. This post is not going to address what exercises classify as functional and which don’t, but I can assure you surpasses laziness any day of the week. (see previous post Hard Work, Works! Pt 1) Further, if you are anything like these teenagers, and in this respect I’m sure you are, you exert more effort on things you enjoy than things you disdain.
So, as I’ve asked myself since last week, how are you attaching fun and enjoyment to your own training and nutrition plans? Do you begrudgingly step onto a treadmill alone for an hour at a time in hopes of overhauling your physique? Let me propose that attaching something worthwhile to your training that you enjoy will be far more effective than reluctantly going through the motions. While I can’t promise to know how to make you love every training session, I have some suggestions that may help you out:
- Compete against yourself. Keep a training log (which is a good idea in the first place to help you track your progress) to allow you to compete against yourself and set records on different exercises each time you head to the gym.
- Compete against others. Have a training partner join you in your training to have someone to compete against and encourage. In a semi-private setting you can also have the benefit of having a trainer as well as train with your friend, providing even more benefits to the training.
- Incorporate exercises you enjoy. As a strength coach and trainer, I know that including just one exercise that a client really enjoys can help them work harder for all the rest. After all, doesn’t everyone clean the kitchen a little faster if you get to go to the beach afterward? As long as the exercise isn’t dangerous or detrimental to your training, make sure to incorporate at least something you enjoy into your program, without taking away those exercises that are vital to your success.
- Reward success. This one may need some discretion, since it defeats the purpose of your goals to reward hard work in the gym with a huge slice of ice cream cake when you get home. However, having a reward for your work can help the process be more fun. Hiking to a mountain top is better than hiking a field, and in the same way promising yourself a weekend away with the spouse or road trip with some good friends if you reach your goals can make the changes to the scale even more rewarding.
Obviously, this isn’t an exhaustive list, but I encourage you to incorporate things into your training that allow it to be more fun for you, with the goal of working even harder and seeing results even faster. And let’s be honest, seeing results is always fun.
Train Hard, Have Fun