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The Wisdom of Making Fitness Fun

I was in the park this afternoon, sitting under a shelter recovering from just having run some sprints. As I was resting there were two young boys nearby playing, chasing after one another. And as they ran by me, I noticed they were both breathing quite heavily from all the running they were doing, yet they were both also laughing and having fun at the same time.

It immediately occurred to me that there was a great lesson there for anyone who was interested in getting into shape but always found it difficult to stick to their program. These boys were just playing and having fun, their intention wasn’t to get fit or lose weight, but at the same time there were obviously getting a great workout.

Whenever a child has a weight problem, what kind of advice do people generally suggest for him or her? Get outside more, be more active, take up a sport, back off on the video games, and so on. You would never think of advising an overweight child to join a gym, lift heavy weights, take up circuit training or Crossfit, or starting a HIIT program.

There are a couple of reasons for this.

Firstly, children respond well and stick to things they find fun, even if they’re physically challenging, as the two boys in the park today demonstrated. On the other hand, they don’t respond so well to things that they find tedious or boring.

And secondly, forcing children to endure a daily exercise program is considered by many as cruel. Children should be enjoying life and having fun, not treated as though they’re in the army.

The interesting question is, why do adults have to be treated any differently?

The fact is, even adults find tedious or boring things difficult to stick to. And why shouldn’t adults be enjoying their lives as well? Why is it OK for them to have to sweat it out in an exercise program they hate, but not kids?

Make no mistake, there are many adults out there who actually enjoy working out in the gym or engaging in various types of tough conditioning training. But these individuals are generally more experienced exercisers who have adapted over time and eventually embraced the fitness lifestyle.

The average adult who’s unfit and needs to lose weight however, who has absolutely no interest and little or no experience in fitness, will most often find working out just as difficult and distasteful as a child would. And yet he or she is expected to do it nevertheless, even though a child wouldn’t be.

Why is that?

I believe there’s somewhat of an attitude in society that overweight children aren’t responsible for their condition – their parents are, whereas overweight adults are responsible, because of their laziness or poor decisions. So overweight adults need to work and pay penance to get themselves back into shape.

Regardless of who is or isn’t responsible, fitness shouldn’t be about punishing poor decisions or making people suffer for their sins. It should be about making everyone healthy as easily and painlessly as possible.

Generally speaking, anyone who’s overweight and makes the decision to lose weight will automatically start thinking that they have to suffer. “I need to join a gym”, “I need to start jogging early each morning”, “I need to start some Body Pump classes”, and so on.

They assume by default that they have to work hard and start enduring a miserable life to improve themselves. But this isn’t necessarily true. Sure, getting into shape takes some amount of effort, but why not adopt the mindset of treating yourself kindly, as you would a child, and think about making it fun instead?

My philosophy is that you should always aim to lose weight as simply as you possibly can. If you find that keeping it simple doesn’t seem to work or isn’t very effective, then by all means you can add some more advanced methods. But the idea is to just do what you need to do, to get your results.

Just because a competition athlete puts a massive amount of focus on her nutrition, supplementation and training style and techniques, it doesn’t mean that you need do. You’re not trying to get to her level. You’re just trying to lose some weight, that’s it.

The simplest way to lose some weight is to merely change your lifestyle, but make it fun. This is exactly what you would prescribe to an overweight child. So if you’re somewhat of a fitness novice and your New Year’s resolution is to lose weight, this is a great place to start.

Forget about the fancy workout equipment, the allegedly groundbreaking workout programs and the miracle weight loss plans you see on TV. Imagine your child was overweight, imagine what you would advise him or her to do, and then take your own advice.

Some great suggestions for a fun lifestyle change to help you lose weight would be:

  • Go for a walk each lunchtime or evening (you can walk with a friend or walk the dog).
  • Take up an active sport, for example, tennis, squash, touch football, soccer, volleyball, badminton, etc.
  • Take up a fun physical activity, for example, swimming, kayaking, rock climbing, bushwalking, cycling, surfing, ice skating, dancing, etc.
  • Join a Zumba class.
  • Learn a martial art, for example, kickboxing, boxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, wrestling, Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Mixed Martial Arts, Krav Maga, etc.
  • Look for ways to make your everyday life more active. You can find some great ideas on how to do this by checking out this blog post.

When you combine some of these ideas with a healthier diet based on sensible portion sizes that excludes processed and fatty junk food, the results can be significant.

Too many women have it set in their mind that adopting a fitness lifestyle means enduring a prison sentence. Fitness doesn’t need to be tedious and boring, however, it can be made to be challenging but yet still fun.

If you’re not a big fan of exercise (yet) then think about treating yourself as you would a child, and do your best to create an active, healthy lifestyle that you can actually enjoy. It’s a great New Year’s resolution that you’re far more likely to stick to!

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Fabian Colussi is a women's Bikini and Figure competition coach for natural athletes, certified personal trainer and gym instructor, and women's fitness consultant. He also has a background in martial arts, is an NLP Master Practitioner, and has a certification in Hypnotherapy. Fabian is a co-owner and co-founder of Million Dollar Baby Fitness.

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