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The Pitfall Of Getting Better Might Be Losing The Fun

Do you have a hobby, passion or interest that you are getting better at and taking more seriously? As you have started taking it more seriously, is it starting to feel more like work? That might be a sign of danger, and some quick action may be needed to avoid burnout. What can you do today to inject a little fun back into your journey?

Learn more in this week’s Goal Success by Choice.

Amuse Bouche

Before we get to today’s post, I offer you this light “amuse-bouche” to entertain your mind before we get down to business. Like any other amuse-bouche, you may hate my “dad joke,” but it is worth every penny that you paid for it, right?

I was at the grocery store and noticed a woman shopping for a frozen turkey. When she couldn’t find one big enough, she flagged down a helpful employee. “Do these turkeys get any bigger?” she asked. The employee quickly responded, “no ma’am, they’re dead.”

Goal Success by Choice

Do you have dreams that you are trying to make come true? Do you have a goal that you are trying to crush? Success doesn’t happen by chance.  Success is a series of choices that can make you unstoppable. Goal Success by Choice helps you make these choices to move you closer to your goals.

Are you ready to help build a world where no goal dies of loneliness?

The Pitfall Of Getting Better Might Be Losing The Fun

Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.

Guillaume Apollinaire

I recently added my latest race into the record books with Columbus’s Cap City Half Marathon.

Before getting into the meat of today’s topic, I want to share a vulnerable moment. While I participated in the Cap City Half Marathon, I only ran the quarter marathon (6.55 miles). I have a little remorse about just doing the quarter marathon, but I know I made the right choice.

This has been a challenging year for my body so far. I had COVID and some prolonged symptoms that impacted my ability to run. Then, once I started getting back into my running and lifting routine, I suddenly developed sciatica. I haven’t gotten back up to my full running fitness, and I didn’t feel like I was in half marathon shape. So, I listened to my body, ran the quarter marathon and exceeded my expectations.

My conclusion is that the right choice isn’t always the fun choice, but it’s better than the alternative.

This brings me to today’s topic: fun.

I have recently had the lightbulb moment that getting better at something and taking it more seriously can have an unexpected consequence. We can lose the fun that we used to experience when participating in an activity as an amateur.

My First Run

As many of my long-time followers may know, I never set out with the goal of becoming a runner. In my pre-fit days, I would often mock runners and say that they always looked miserable. The idea of running 3, 5, 10, 13 or 26 miles was beyond my comprehension; I don’t even like driving more than ten miles. Plus, I was confused about why a runner would pay for a race when they could simply go out and run that distance for free. Running was not something I envisioned being in my future.

Then I started my fitness journey, and my opinions began to change. My go-to exercise at the beginning was walking. I would start my morning with a walk before work. My walking durations, distances, and frequencies increased as my fitness got better. That’s when my current habit of walking as much as possible in a day began, and it continues today.

As I started losing weight, the calorie burn associated with walking decreased. Even as I ramped up distances, my total cardio impact weaned slightly. I mixed in weightlifting and other gym fun, but my cardio impact continued to decrease.

One afternoon, I was out for a walk and was enjoying the nice weather and good music. That’s when I decided to try something new. There was a stop sign about thirty yards ahead of me, and I decided to try jogging to it.

Surprisingly, that first run didn’t suck, and a runner was born. I started running more frequently, trying different routes, paces and distances. I hosted my first 5k and started jumping into races when I could. This quickly taught me why people pay to run; the energy is just so different. Running was fun, and it had a huge cardio impact.

Operation Melt: How I Used Life-Changing Project Management to Lose Over 100 Pounds in Under a Year

As I continued running, I started getting better at it. I was setting personal records in races and was learning a lot from other runners. When I started getting better at running and became an amateur athlete, I started taking it a little more seriously. My numbers-focused brain wanted that next PR.

An unfortunate byproduct of getting better at running and taking things more seriously is that it started losing a little of the fun.

Race Day

Let’s contrast my early running experiences with my race day experience in my most recent Cap City Half Marathon. Most runners have their own routines and rituals for race day. I am no exception. Though races vary in start times, lengths and locations, I have a pretty similar approach to how I handle race day.

I will start with a bit of clarification; “race day” actually starts a couple of days before the race. On Thursday, I attended the expo to pick up my t-shirt, bib, and other materials, and I even shopped a bit (new running sunglasses!). This was the same day that I started my pre-race behaviors, including eating, exercising, and resting rituals. The goal was to be well rested, stretched and fueled by the time the race started.

The night before the race, I collected all of my gear in one spot to prepare for getting dressed in the morning. I made sure my phone was charging, set my alarm for six and went to bed early. That was followed by a night of restless sleep as my brain was subconsciously afraid of oversleeping.

I got up in the morning before my alarm. I went to the bathroom, brushed my teeth and put on my clothes. Then I ate my traditional pre-race meal of toast with peanut butter, a banana, coffee and lots of water. I quadruple-checked that I had everything, and I walked out the door about ninety minutes before race time to walk to the starting line. During the mile-and-a-half walk, I listened to music and reviewed my race plan in my head.

About thirty minutes before “go,” I was in my corral with ten thousand other people. While waiting for the race to start, I talked to a few people, listened to music, and ensured that my devices were syncing. Mostly I just continued thinking about the course ahead of me.

Special guests such as the mayor, all took turns speaking.

We sang the National Anthem.

Then the race director counted down: 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… GO!

We were off, and the race was moving. I spent the whole race paying attention to my running pace being tracked with a wearable fitness tracker. When I was running too fast, I slowed down and then sped up when needed. Occasionally I would skip a song that started playing because I just wasn’t feeling it. My eyes were constantly surveying the path ahead of me for obstacles, especially puddles, because I didn’t want to run six plus miles with wet feet. I also kept an eye on the other runners to avoid congestion and keep a clear path ahead of me.

I was in the game and focused on every step of what I was doing so I could perform my best. I was in my own head so much that I almost missed that two of my friends had come out, in the rain, to cheer me on.

When I crossed the finish line, I stopped my wearable tracker. I collected my medal and treats and headed for the finish line party. Then I stood at the party and started syncing all of my devices. I reviewed my results and the per mile breakdown. Using my phone, I went to look at the official race results to see how I did. Once I had all the data, I logged it into my run tracking apps.

Just then, it dawned on me… this is a finish-line party! There was a band, free pizza, and free cocktails (yes, at 9:30 in the morning). We were all there to have fun. But, there I was, like many others, embarking on an analysis effort to process my results.

Does that sound like fun to you?

Five Years of Work

I am knocking on the door of the fifth anniversary of starting my fitness journey. For five years, I have taken a disciplined approach to things that most people take for granted in their lives. I stopped allowing myself to operate on autopilot (see Discipline Not Default).

  • For nearly 1800 days, everything I have eaten or drank has been logged, tracked and evaluated in the context of the rest of my day. Then I evaluated each day to determine if it was a win or a loss.
  • For more than 43,000 hours, every walk or run has been tracked, pace monitored, calorie burn tracked and evaluated to determine if I am making progress.
  • For a large portion of these five years, I have closely monitored my weight, and every increase or decrease was evaluated to determine why.
Excerpt from my book, Operation Melt: How I Used Life-Changing Project Management to Lose Over 100 Pounds in Under a Year:

"I lost over one-hundred pounds in nine months. The best part is that I did this my way and was still able to maintain my lifestyle filled with fun and enjoyment."

Click here to read more.

I take running and these other things seriously, and I have gotten better at them. But, that also means that they can sometimes feel like work instead of a fun hobby.

Good Advice or Bad Advice?

When I was a kid, everybody was giving suggestions on choosing a career; I repeatedly heard one piece of advice. People said to look at your favorite hobbies and passions and then figure out how to make them into a career. This advice is really a double-edged sword!

Taking something you really love and turning it into your job risks wearing out your passion for this thing. Taking something more seriously might mean you won’t have as much fun doing it.

If you don’t want something to become less fun, you have to take deliberate (or disciplined) action. You must keep injecting fun into it to keep it fresh and attractive to you.

Hint: This same advice applies to your relationships with friends and spouses. When a relationship only feels like work, the passion can fade.

Remember to Have Fun

Hopefully, you agree with me that it is important to keep finding ways to have fun in everything you do, especially the things that feel most like work. Keeping it fun will prevent you from getting burnt out, giving up and dreading the activity. That’s not the destination we want for anything that is important to us.

Here are some ways I have tried to keep things fun that may work for you:

  • Don’t track every walk or run using your fitness tracker. Just go out, do it, have fun and don’t handle it as if it were a task on your to-do list.
  • Go have a fun walk / run with a friend. For example, my wife and I recently went for a walk in our neighborhood to look for a comet that was supposed to be in the sky. We never found the comet, but we did have to avoid both a raccoon and a skunk on our city streets.
  • Take an occasional break from tracking your food, or give yourself permission to go over your calorie target.
  • Go for a walk or run without using your earbuds to listen to anything. Just pay attention to nature and be present. Bonus points if you don’t use your phone.
  • Treat Yo Self! Seriously, don’t deprive yourself of the things you love in life to achieve your goals. Seek out ways to balance it all, so you stay happy.
  • Intentionally make yourself smile when running or doing other strenuous activities; it will help remind your brain to enjoy it.
  • Find other ways to gamify activities and laugh with others while engaging in activities that bring you closer to your goals.

I have done an ok job not getting burnt out with my journey, but I need to continue to remind myself to have fun. 

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am heading out for an un-tracked walk while eating a cookie before heading out for a beer later.

So What?

Do you have a hobby, passion or interest that you are getting better at and taking more seriously? As you have started taking it more seriously, is it starting to feel more like work? That might be a sign of danger, and some quick action may be needed to avoid burnout. What can you do today to inject a little fun back into your journey?

Need some ideas? I am here for you with a “Dad Joke” at the ready.

Click Here to learn more about my Operation Melt coaching services.

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Disclaimer: The Operation Melt website and blog does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The information provided on this website is intended for general consumer understanding and entertainment only. The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. As health and nutrition research continuously evolves, we do not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or timeliness of any information presented on this website.

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