I am all for training and not “working out” or “exercising”,but sometimes I would rather play than train.
Now don’t just dismiss this as being “childish” or not the least bit beneficial to you. Read on and keep an open mind.
The Benefits of Playing
- Build and strengthen relationships – whenever you engage in some sort of “playing” activity with other people, you will undoubtedly strengthen relationships. Some people have a training partner or train in a badass gym to where they get this amazing camaraderie. Other individuals, such as myself, train at home or in a commercial gym where everyone else is either curling in the squat rack or treading along on the elliptical machine. Since the majority of the time I train solo, including playful activities is a plus.
If you train solo, then you could definitely benefit from including playful activities with other people – whether it’s your children, family members, and/or friends.
- It’s not another “chore” that must be done. I absolutely love hill sprints, but sometimes it can feel like a chore when I’m already training hard three to four days per week. My main training priority is lifting heavy weights, so sometimes conditioning work, like hill sprints, feels like something else I “have to do”.
This actually happened to me last month; I had been running sprints a couple days a week for a few months, and it was starting to feel like a chore. My enthusiasm for sprinting started to wane, and that started to spill over into my weight lifting as well. I knew it was time for a change. Playing isn’t a chore – it’s just fun.
- Doesn’t exhaust your will-power. Dan John talked about will-power in his awesome book Never Let Go: A Philosophy of Lifting, Living and Learning (I cannot recommend this book highly enough; if you haven’t read it, you really need to add this to your list). He compared will power to a can of shaving cream, and how each day we are constantly using our will power on things like cooking, cleaning, going to work, taking care of the kids, etc on a daily basis. At the end of the day when you’ve taken care of the “have to’s” in life, things like training can become tough to stick with.
This is why I am a big fan of increasing the amount of “play” in our lives. Instead of “having to” run hill sprints, do something fun like go for a hike with your friends and/or family members. Turn a “have to” into a “want to” and save your will power for something else, like eating nutritious foods.
- It’s fun, and because of that simple fact you’ll be more likely to keep repeating the activity consistently. Face it, if something is enjoyable you will be more likely to repeat that activity. If traditional conditioning work such as hill sprints isn’t your idea of a good time, try to do something else like join in on a pick-up game of basketball, or something similar. You’ll reap some of the same health benefits, but you’ll enjoy yourself in the process and maybe even make some new friends.
- Sometimes there are more important things that can be done than making a scheduled trip to the gym or park. Sometimes it’s better to engage in an impromptu play session with your friends and/or family. This is something I reminded myself of recently, and that’s one of the main reasons I started to “play” more instead of doing things like sprints.
I am definitely one for discipline when it comes to lifting weights; but when it comes to conditioning work, I don’t mind changing things up and doing something else, especially if other people get to join in on the fun and benefit from the activity.
For example – if I can’t recruit a friend to join in on hill sprints, they may be much more willing to go for a hike or play a game of racquetball. By opting for a game of racquetball instead of my scheduled hill sprints, not only do I get to have fun and strengthen a relationship, but I recruit someone else to participate in a physical activity. It’s a win-win.
In the past I have been very, very strict with following my training program. It didn’t matter what was going on around me; I made damn sure I did what was laid out in the program. Even if that meant missing out on something else with friends and family, I just thought it was a sacrifice I had to make. (Please note I’m referring more to conditioning work and not weight lifting).
There are definitely times when those sacrifices are necessary, but if they are constantly causing me to miss out on bigger and better opportunities to enjoy life and strengthen relationships, then I know I need to reevaluate my priorities. Training programs must be flexible and allow for the constant changes of daily life.
If your strength training sessions don’t allow for much time with other people, you may want to think about adopting some Time Crunch Workouts.
What You Can Do Now
What can you do with this information and how can you apply it to your life?
- Make a serious effort to “play” more. As an example, I recently traded in my hill sprinting cleats for a racquetball racket and some hiking shoes. In the near future I hope to strap on my rock climbing shoes and do some bouldering once again.
Maybe you can try something similar. Instead of doing your normal conditioning workout, grab a friend and go do something playful instead.
- Try something new! Bust out a map or look online for some activities to do in your area. One of my favorite things to do is explore local state parks and go for a nice hike, especially in the fall.
If you try something out of your comfort zone, you may be surprised with your experience. You may discover a new hobby and make some great new friends in the process.
- Do something you once loved. Often times as we get older, we stop doing things we once loved. As a personal example, I used to spend hours a day roller blading – jumping ramps, grinding rails, etc. I absolutely loved it. It’s time I strap on my skates and start doing it again. However, this time I should wear a helmet.
Is there something you loved doing a few years ago that you haven’t done since? Start doing it again, even if it’s at a much lower level of intensity. Rekindle that passion and start having fun again.
- Recruit some friends and family members. The more the merrier as far as I’m concerned. Set a weekend date to explore a local park or try something different and new. Get others to join in on the fun.
- Do something awesome. Time flies and life is short. Make the most of what you have and do something awesome with the ones you love. Get out of your comfort zone and try something new.
I hope you have found this information helpful. I’m just speaking from personal experience because sometimes I allow things like conditioning work (hill sprints) to take priority over things that are more important in life.
I’m not encouraging you to stop doing traditional conditioning or strength training – I’m just trying to encourage you to play more. Whether the playful activities are in addition to your current training, or whether you substitute some conditioning work with something more enjoyable.
If you have found that your training program is stressful or causes you to miss out on more important things, then it’s time to reevaluate. It could be time to follow a simple training programthat is flexible and allows you to get in and out of the gym in minimum time.
Bottom line – it’s entirely possible to keep your training program simple, stress free, and flexible while attaining great results. Make sure your current training program allows you ample time to play, have fun, and make the most of life.
Playing is good, and we simply need to do it more often.