Joy Motivates: My Journey in Joy & Why Playful Fitness Exists

My journey to joy-why Playful Fitness exists

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After starting this project months ago with one little post, life and teaching 4th grade full time has gotten the better part of my time. Plus I started believing the lie that this website/idea/dream of mine was dumb and probably just noise in a very large, loud crowd.

But after a conversation with one of my best friends this weekend, I feel re-inspired to rev-up and pursue Playful Fitness. It's amazing what good questions asked by good friends who love you can do!

The question my friend asked me was simple: "tell me about "Playful Fitness," what is it? and Why?”

This is my answer.

I see 99% of the motivation for the health/fitness industry as falling somewhere on a spectrum. On one side of the spectrum, motivation is based solely on body image, vanity and what media tells we should look like (“work out so you’ll look like this and then you’ll be happy”). On the other side, motivation comes from a desire for health, both physical and mental. Most fitness programs fall somewhere in-between, calling people to buy a product because it will either make them healthier or because it will make them look better. (Now I say 99% of the fitness industry because I am not talking about real-competitive athletes. I’m talking about the majority of the people you see at the gym, outside running or taking group fitness classes. I am talking about the 99% of us who are average people who show up to work out to get looks, health or some of both).

While I’ve seen a few friends successfully find (and maintain) health on both sides of this spectrum, more often than not I see friends/have conversations with coworkers who bail on their fitness plans relatively quickly because life catches up. In the majority of people I’ve known/talked to, neither body image nor long-term health is a strong enough motivator to keep them choosing health, choosing movement, choosing to eat kale when they are tired, stressed-out or busy—in most cases when time gets squeezed they usually ditch the gym and grab chips.

So, a few years ago I started asking myself why I continue to choose to workout and eat clean no matter what my circumstances look like—in fact why do I to choose to workout more and eat cleaner when the shit hits the fan in my day-to-day life? Am I abnormal or is there something to that?

The first answer I came up with was, “well I’ve been an athlete my whole life and I was raised with good food so it’s been trained into me since I was a kid.” This is true of my life, but among that list of friends who don't choose a workout when things get hard are many of my former college teammates who have very similar athletic/family/food backgrounds to me. So can’t simply be my upbringing.

My second answer was, “well maybe I’m just different. Maybe I like to challenge myself and sweat more than the normal person does, so I just keep doing it.” There might be a shred of truth in that (I do really like to sweat) but I’m really a very normal person who has sort of run the gambit of the health and fitness spectrum I mentioned earlier. I started in competitive sports. Then hit a very long lull in working-out after I graduated from college and had absolutely no clue how to work out if I wasn’t training/competing or on a team. I also went through an undiagnosed eating disorder that nobody knew about and accompanied that after-college lull (my parents will read that and get nervous--guys I'm fine! And I love you!). Then I started working out again because I figured out I was unhealthy. Went through another lull. So it’s not that I’m somehow immune to the spectrum or some kind of workout junkie.

The third answer is where Playful Fitness was born. The answer: JOY!!!

Somehow (I’d say by the Grace of God) I’ve gotten off the typical spectrum of image vs. health and jumped on the path of joy. Moving my body gives me the same kind of exuberant JOY that causes my 4th graders to sprint, full speed, gravel flying, to be the first one down the slide at recess. It may sound wacky but that’s how it feels! When I get home from a long day teaching, am totally exhausted and have aching feet, most days I throw on my shoes and run out the door with that same, “WHOOP! IT’S PLAYTIME” delight that I see in my 9-year old students. And, some days I pour a glass of wine, plop down on the couch and watch a movie with my husband and dog… and I don’t feel guilty about it because my motivation is JOY!

The beautiful piece of the joy I’ve found is that, because of my journey to find it, I really do believe it is available to anyone and everyone who wants it because I’ve spent a LOT of my life on the “health/fitness spectrum.” I’ve spent time on both sides and somewhere in-between. I know it, I get it, I’ve been there and I got off! So Playful Fitness is my way of offering a hand to anyone else who wants to get off too and find that 9-year old sprinting out to recess JOY in their lives!

I don’t know totally what offering that hand is going to look like or how to do it well. I know that this website is a start and I hope it will grow. My only idea right now is to think through some of the mindsets that I have about my workouts. Mindsets that help me get off the spectrum and into joy, and share those. So that’s what the next series of posts will be about: mindsets that lead to joy! And then hope that something in my journey is helpful to someone somewhere.

Until next time,