Finding Joy: How to reignite your fitness spark
Your fitness journey is like a fire; sometimes it’s raging hot, and you’re diligently following a training plan. Sometimes it’s an out-of-control wildfire, and you’re overtraining. Other times, it’s a steady, soul-warming enduring fire with the right combination of flame and hot coals. But sometimes, it can be a cold, wet, mess of ash. I’ve experienced all of these, and I bet most of us have. What happens when you look around and realize that your fitness journey has stalled into a cold, wet, mess of ash? How do you reignite your fitness spark and become the fire you desire to be?
First, really dig deep and find the real reason your fire waned. To tell you the truth, I’ve been the doused spark now for a while. Yes, even as a personal trainer and “someone who knows better.” At the beginning of the year, I was a raging hot fire diligently following a six-month 50K training plan. I’ve run two 50Ks before so I was familiar with the plan, but there was a huge difference this time. I was doing it alone. In June 2021, I retired from the military and moved from Virginia back home to Montana, one of the meccas of trail running. The hardest part of moving was saying goodbye to my running buddy. We were perfect together – same pace, same goals, same sense of humor, and the ability to chat for hours and hours and hours. We were the reason we got out of bed in the wee-hours of the morning to run before work. I had more “run selfies” with her on my phone than I had pictures of my own family! Together, we were the soul-warming enduring fire for years. And then I left. Essentially, I’ve been mourning that loss for a year and a half and wallowing in the awesomeness of the past. I have an arm-length list of excuses that I have concocted in my head on why I let my spark die: renovating a house; kids out of school for the summer=mom guilt; fear of running back-country trails alone; too hot; too cold; blah, blah, blah. The real truth is that self-accountability is hard for me even with my color-coded training plan boxes to check (I love checking off boxes!). So now what? How do I rekindle a wet, soggy, used-to-be raging fire?
I gave it time to dry out. I walked away from my love of trail running in April after feeling like it was a chore that I had to drudge through so I could train for the three races I had already signed up for. I was training by myself, and honestly it was lonely on those long runs. I deferred those three races to next summer, and I turned to other fitness activities that brought me joy. I kayaked on the sparkly lake near our house with my daughters. I hiked the same trails I used to run, but this time there were no mile-splits, heart rate zones, or mandatory weekly miles. There was just sunshine, wildflowers, endless Montana skies, and mother-daughter bonding. I changed my mind set on how I was exercising. All of the cabinet hanging, painting, deck sanding, and millions of screws I’ve put into this endless house renovation is movement for my body, and that still counts as exercise even though I was using it as an excuse. This time away was good for me because now I’m ready to light the kindling and let the fire roar. But this time I’m doing it differently. I’ve started trail running with my oldest daughter one day a week; I’m taking my big goofy dog with me every once in a while. I plan to reach out to our local trail running group and join them for a run. All of those changes involve an external motivator, like oxygen needed to turn an ember into a fire, which is what I really need. I’m also going to look for the joy in all of my fitness endeavors and think of them as an opportunity to move my body instead of a chore to check off my to-do list.
If you need to reignite your dying fire, think of the fire triangle: fuel, air, spark. Your body is the fuel because it’s the energy source for your workouts. The air is your motivator. Is that an awesome running buddy, a daily box to check, a group to meet, or a personal trainer? Finally, your spark is your desire deep inside you to make the change and start being active or to be more consistent about intentional daily movement. When you put all three together and you add a mindset of looking for joy in your training, your fire becomes picture perfect. I hope you find your soul-warming enduring fire. When you do, it’s magic.
Kathy Linton is the owner of Fireweed Human Performance in Helena, MT. She is a NASM-certified Personal Trainer, Corrective Exercise Specialist, and Nutrition Coach. She helps others train and nourish their bodies so they can live their best lives.