Keep It Fun
Keep It Funby Mike Coughlin
Winter is an interesting season for endurance athletes. At no point in the year is there a greater variation in motivational energy.
Some of us have trouble getting out the door, while others are chomping at the bit fuelled by visions of a breakthrough season. The most driven among us may even be facing symptoms of burnout! When motivation drops and we seek to adjust our approach, one common piece of advice is to “keep it fun.”
Keep it fun! Of course! The answer is so obvious we wonder why we ever asked the question. However, what is missing from this beautifully simple piece of wisdom is how exactly we go about keeping it fun. Can a workout be fun without being too easy or too hard? Can we keep it fun but also specific and measurable? In other words, how do we make our training more enjoyable while at the same time ensuring it is still effective?
The answer is different for each athlete. What one of us finds interesting may bore another to tears. However, the following general principles apply to almost everyone.
- Know Thyself – Understanding how your personality type is best energized and motivated is a big step towards determining how to make training more fun for you. Extroverts require a certain amount of social interaction in their training while introverts may be perfectly happy with their power meter for company. Some athletes thrive on accomplishment while others relish a variety of sensations and movement patterns during training. Personality also affects how training is scheduled, as the rigid timetable favoured by a fan of structure would drain the energy of a more free-spirited athlete.
- Include Play – This is something we can learn from successful junior programs. By incorporating play into a training session, we can connect with the kid inside all of us. Group training sessions create endless possibilities, but even solo indoor workouts present opportunities for play. It can be as simple as shooting hoops between intervals on the indoor track or diving to the bottom of the pool to pick up a weight during a swim. The only limit is our imagination.
- Understand the “Why” – This is especially important for coached athletes or those following a written training plan. In many cases, the goal of a workout can be achieved in a number of ways. By understanding why the session is being performed, it can be adjusted creatively to make it more enjoyable (such as riding outside on a mountain bike in the winter rather than yet another trainer ride) without compromising the end result.
As goal-oriented athletes, our drive to succeed can sometimes distract us from the joy of movement that brought us to this great sport in the first place. While not every workout will be the most fun we have ever had, it is important to remember that a deep enjoyment of training is the path to success.
Have fun out there!
Mike is an Ontario-based long-time triathlete and coach with experience at all distances, including Ultraman Canada as well as multiple Ironman finishes.