Making Lifting Weights Fun

On those mornings when my wife is up early enough to see me leave for the gym, she says, “Have fun.” Especially if it’s leg day, I don’t immediately think of weight training and then cardio as fun…

…but maybe I should.

sweat
Photo credit: Rebloggy.com

Actually, the more I’ve been thinking about it, the more I realize that I do have fun at the gym. No, it’s not the kind of fun you have watching your favorite sports team play or going to see a good movie, but it’s still fun.

Am I crazy?

I don’t think so. What I’m talking about is related to a few other blog posts I’ve written such as What’s Your Motivation and Habits and Riding Horses. Certainly if you find working out to be fun, that’s a powerful motivator. People will go through a lot in the pursuit of fun.

But what’s fun about lifting weights? I mean, after all, it hurts, not only when you’re actively lifting, but the next day when the DOMS kick in.

It’s difficult to articulate what’s fun about lifting. I guess for me, part of it is the sense of accomplishment when it’s over and having achieved or even exceeded my goals for that workout, but it’s also fun during exercise.

What’s fun about pain, grunting, and sweat?

The fun part for me is my ability to perform the exercises. Today, I increased the weight for my cable low rows to an all time high (for me) and was able to do reps in my target range for lifting heavy (between 6 to 12 reps for each of the three sets). It’s being able to lift heavier than I did the week before or doing more reps at the same weight I did last week. It’s the experience of knowing I’m getting better even while I’m lifting.

I decided to use Google to find out how other weight trainers put fun into their workouts.

Bodybuilding.com listed “Five Fun Workout Tips”:

  1. Workout with friends or family
  2. Expect plateaus
  3. Don’t get down
  4. Set goals
  5. Just do it!

Not all of those seem like techniques for making lifting more fun. Sure, having a workout partner and also setting and exceeding goals can be fun, but the others seem more like ways to keep from experiencing working out as a drag or hanging in there when it is a drag.

Suzanne Digre at Workout Nirvana seemed to have more practical and fun suggestions.

Music is certainly a must. I didn’t realize how much I missed it until one day, the music wasn’t turned on at the gym. It was almost eerie to lift with no music in the background. When it is playing, half the time I don’t notice it, but when it’s absent, some of the “punch” is taken out my lifts.

She also mentions finding the right environment. In a way, that’s why I like the free weight area of the gym. It’s a bit more “raw” than being surrounded by all those sleek LifeFitness and Nautilus-type machines. It’s fun to load up a barbell with plates and hear the satisfying sound of metal clank against metal.

Really, the perfect gym for me in terms of sheer atmosphere would be something old school, lots of old gray and black iron, concrete or cinder block walls, dark, muted colors, and you can lose the TVs, at least from the actual weight room.

That leads into what she says about “feeling like a bad ass.” At age 60 (I’ll be 61 in July), I feel like I’ve got added “cred” when I’m doing hack squats or deadlifts in the company of men and women who are at least a little (or a lot) younger than I am. That connects with what I said before about feeling yourself lift more weight than you have before or lift it for more reps than last week.

In some ways, there’s also the matter of control. I’ve mentioned before that I like to switch things up by changing from one exercise to another or adding a new element to my routine. I can choose to go lighter for more reps or heavier for fewer. I’ve mentioned adding supersets and drop sets before. I like to shake things up in my workout to keep from being bored. Trying new things can be fun, especially if you can succeed at them.

Photo credit: visionaryathletes.com
Photo credit: visionaryathletes.com

I almost didn’t succeed with Hack Squats because I got overeager and put on too much weight. But after I swallowed my pride, I lightened things up and managed to perform the lift.

The semi-social aspects of it are kind of fun. I don’t know if this is a “guy thing,” but I enjoy that nod of acknowledgement between me and another guy at the gym as one of us walks in. There’s not a lot of interaction during the workout because no one wants to be disturbed or distracted when they’re trying to hoist a heavy barbell or set of dumbbells, but it’s fun to be recognized as a fellow “gym rat” (and it’s not fun to have the training class hover around me or walk too close to me while I’m lifting — yes, I had another “encounter” with them this morning).

The discussion forum at Grasscity.com has a lot of different opinions about whether or not weight training is fun so this isn’t a case of “one size fits all” (Yeah, “grass city” as in the smoking stuff that’s legal in Colorado and Washington).

If working out isn’t fun, there’s probably more than a few ways you can inject some fun into it. Take a moment to comment and share your ideas.

And don’t forget to have fun.

Ultimately, the only power to which man should aspire is that which he exercise over himself.

Elie Wiesel

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8 thoughts on “Making Lifting Weights Fun

  1. Finding the right motivation day in day out is not easy.
    I don’t like sore muscles the day after a workout either. For me that is an indication that I waited too long to train that certain muscle group again after the last workout or I took just too much weight that time. But don’t let muscle soreness end your motivation.
    Maybe some of these tips could help you get motivated:

    – Create a workout log of how many weight, reps, sets you did with a certain exercise. that way you could motivate yourself getting the same goals as you did in your previous workout.
    – Create a list of goals you want to set (keep it realistic) and link a gift to each goal that you can by for yourself. For instance, if one of your goals is losing 5lb in 2 weeks and you reach that goal, buy yourself the gift that you linked to that goal. That way you have something to reward yourself each team you reach your goal.
    – Write down how you mentally feel after a workout and how you feel when you skipped a workout. The difference could give you a good motivation to start liking lifting weights more.

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    1. Thanks for the tips, Gilbert.

      Actually, I thought muscle soreness was just a natural consequence of working out. In any event, my motivation is pretty high, so I can’t imagine skipping a day at the gym.

      I do keep a log of my workouts and have for years. I’m really into quantification and charting progress. I put the data on Google calendar so I can go back months or even years and compare what I’m doing now to various points in the past.

      My goals are really simple: gain more lean muscle mass and lose nasty ol’ gut fat. I’m very close to getting under 200 pounds (I’m 6’3″ tall) when I haven’t been in about seven years. Ideally, I’d like to hit 185, but that’s down the road.

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