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It's Not Always About the Goal
On finding fitness bliss and reconnecting with the joy of exercise...
The past few months, I’ve felt increasingly cooped up thanks to the unpredictable North Texas weather—between the blustery winds, random cold snaps and rain, it felt like I’d barely been able to ride my road bike outdoors. With all the damp weather, trail runs have been off limits, too—our local trails have been closed quite often in recent months.
Admittedly, this sounds a bit whiny. Compared to other parts of the United States where it gets truly, bitterly cold during the winter, we’ve got it easy in the South. But still, the weather’s been a deterrent this year, and as much as I enjoy virtual bike rides and competing with random people from around the world on Zwift, nothing beats the feeling of getting outdoors.
With all the indoor bike rides and monotonous road runs, my cardio routine was starting to feel a bit stale. In fact, I felt downright bored. When it comes to reaching your fitness goals, boredom can be dangerous.
As luck would have it, about two weeks ago on a Sunday, the weather gods finally gifted us a nice day in Texas: (mostly) light winds, mild temperatures and a sun obscured by a thin layer of high clouds. I had to ride outdoors.
Since I broke my leg last summer, I’d felt a lack of confidence on my road bike. The balance of my rides, even before the weird winter weather, had been indoors. Road riding isn’t the safest endeavor in Texas, asand I discussed previously on the podcast. In particular, long solo rides felt daunting to me, even though I’d done them many times in the past.
On this Sunday, my wife stayed at home with the kids, so I was all alone. I chose a fairly safe, 33-mile route, out and back to the nearby Lake Lavon. Living in the Dallas suburbs, it’s about as close as I can get to “riding in the country” from my house, without going over the 40-mile mark.
As I rode toward the lake, and the route transitioned from the cookie-cutter subdivisions to the quieter, country lanes, it happened—I slowly began to get that feeling that only a long, quiet road ride can give me. It’s something like cycling bliss.
And with that, I’d reconnected with the joy I find in one of my favorite activities. It wasn’t about staring at an iPad and competing with people on a virtual sprint with other virtual avatars in virtual London. It wasn’t about reaching a certain number of miles on my bike. It was about having fun, enjoying the scenery and connecting with nature.
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If you’re serious about your health and fitness, you may spend a lot of time thinking about your fitness goals. Personally, I believe it’s important to set goals and measure your progress as a motivator to stay consistent with your exercise routine.
But often, we focus too much on the goal itself. Accumulating miles on the bike or on foot. Increasing the amount of weight we can lift. Getting deeper into that yoga pose each time we’re on the mat. This can be a path to boredom, as I learned this winter.
Just as important is the way exercise feels, and making sure you’re achieving fitness through activities you love. Science has shown that finding joy in activity is intrinsically motivating, which is a key ingredient for long-term fitness success.
Since my bike ride a few weeks ago, that’s what I’ve done. I realized my boredom wasn’t just confined to indoor bike rides and road running. I’ve reassessed my strength workouts, too, which I also realized were feeling stale. I’ve decided to work in more bodyweight training, which I find challenging in a different way than traditional weights.
If you find yourself in a similar rut, take some time to reflect on your current fitness goals. Ask yourself this question: Am I enjoying the activity? If not, maybe it’s time to reassess your plan, and find a way to reconnect with your fitness joy.