A popular piece of advice when it comes to fitness is to make your workouts fun so you stick to them. A common topic on forums for personal trainers is how to make workouts as fun as possible for clients. And while gamifying your workouts might help for a little while there is a serious flaw in this focus on fun that will stop you from reaching your goals: good workout programs are inherently boring.
One of the most effective ways to improve your fitness is through progressive overload focused around a small set of foundational movements. This means that an effective exercise program will generally consist of repeating the same workout about 3 times a week for 12 weeks. There will be some minor variations to increase difficulty over time, which add a little bit of excitement, but that quickly fades as base selection of exercises remain the same. That’s 36 workouts, and literally 100s if not 1000s of reps of each exercise. And believe me it gets a little repetitive, pushup 734 is a little boring, especially when you are stuck trying to improve enough to earn the next progression. But this boringness isn’t inherently a problem; it only becomes one if your focus is on having fun.
If you are focused on having fun there are a couple of different options open to you. Maybe you will program hop, starting a new exercise program every couple of weeks since you just weren’t feeling the old one anymore. You’ll still be exercising but it will take a lot longer to reach your goals. Or maybe you stick to the program but choose to accelerate the progressions so that it stays exciting (I’ve been guilty of this one); this opens you up for injury as you will be doing progressions you are not ready for. In either case you will probably eventually succumb to a third option: quit exercising and do something fun instead.
You see by insisting that exercise should be fun you are setting it up in competition to other things that you enjoy. And you know what is more fun than doing the same movement 1000 times? Pretty much anything: sitting on the couch binging TV is way more fun and a lot less effort to boot, it won’t help you reach your fitness goals but it is a lot more fun. This is what trainers mean when they call Netflix their competition. So which one is going to win if fun is your focus? The same problem can also affect your diet (pizza is more exciting than a salad), your sleep (going to bed early is pretty boring), and even business now that everyone wants to live their passion and never “work” a day in their lives. And yet we know that one of the biggest keys to success is consistency, which is almost a synonym for boring.
But there are other things you do consistently that are pretty boring: chores like cleaning and doing dishes, and probably a lot of what you get paid to do at your job (even if you are self employed). Why do we do these things even though they aren’t fun or exciting? It’s because we want they results they give us (clean house, money). And we have linked these results to a more important goal than just having fun, also because we have not labeled them as a fun activity we feel obligated to do them and not as though they are an optional pass time. If we do the same for our workouts and see them more as a chore than a fun activity we will now see it as a obligation competing for our time with the laundry rather than a movie. It’s something we have to do because the outcome is important to us, even if it is sometimes a little dull.
Now I’m not saying you should purposefully make your workouts boring and dull and purposely choose exercises you don’t enjoy. I often do actually enjoy my exercising, but since I am not trying to make my workouts fun and games all the time I am able to keep going even when I am doing the same move for the 1000th time.