I was enjoying catching up over coffee with a former colleague the other day. She was excited to tell me that she recently started a sort of “Couch to 5K” running program. “That’s great”, I exclaimed. She was smiling widely and talking about enjoying it and then she started minimizing it and judging herself. “Not very far yet.” “I should probably be progressing faster.” “I don’t think my pace is very good.” I started with my usual comments about not thinking it’s a good idea to worry about stuff like that. I explained that she was clearly enjoying it and anything she is doing is more than she was doing before and just focus on the program and to focus on that happy feeling. She agreed and said “Oh yes, the Happy Factor!” We agreed it was best to focus on the Happy Factor.
Some of the shares, even on this blog recently, have titles such as “How Fast Should I Run as a Beginner“, “These 2-Minute Bursts May Be Better Than Your Regular Workout“, “How Exercise Preserves Physical Fitness During Aging (to which my mind responds, “Duh”)”. This type of advice all seems to be missing the point of exercise to me. If the point is to maintain a consistent exercise plan that lasts over the years, none of these things will help you develop such a plan, in my opinion, I have long believed and still do that the number one factor that has kept me coming back and keeping my regular fitness schedule over many years, is the Happy Factor. The factor is the way I feel during parts of my workout/run (not all of the workout, to be sure) and after the workout/run is done. That happiness factor, that clearing of the mind, and elevating of the mood, even if momentary, is the key factor to making my workout routine stick.
Some people are motivated by stats, competition and other variables. But, I am willing to bet that those people are also motivated by the Happy Factor and the importance of keeping that factor in mind cannot be minimized. I think we all do ourselves a disservice when we succumb to the over-analysis of our fitness programs. I think we do ourselves a disservice when we are enjoying something, such as a Couch to 5K program and, instead of focussing on the pleasure and the achievement from just doing it, we start scrutinizing our pace or how quickly we are accelerating through the process.
So here’s my wish for you. If you find a fitness routine that you enjoy, big or small, that you revel in the Happy Factor and focus on that rather than your inner critic or competitor.