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Categories of Fun

Updated: Jan 9, 2020

I enjoy finding patterns in things. It’s part of how I understand the world. I mean, it’s also an evolutionary advantage of being human, but sometimes I take it a bit too far. A while ago, I got caught up in thinking about fun, in possibly the most unfun way imaginable. Much like explaining a joke rarely improves the punchline, a taxonomy of fun isn’t really that fun, in and of itself. But bear with me a while - my central thesis here, though, is that all types of fun are valid, useful, and well, fun. And that you should get as much of it as can into your training.

So, what are the categories of fun?

A white wall with a square window in the centre. The sky behing is clear and blue. A man stands in the window and reaching up to find a handhol on the wall.

Category 1 Fun

This is the type of fun that is fun while you’re doing the thing that is fun.

Playing games. Dancing to your favourite song. Laughing. Whatever comes to your mind first when you think of fun, is probably Category 1.

Category 2 Fun

This is the type of fun that isn’t fun while you’re doing the thing, but is fun as soon as it’s over.

Marathon runners and endurance athletes will know exactly what I mean. Ever felt sore and tired and wanted desperately to give up while you’re in the middle of a strength and conditioning challenge/ long distance race/ testing your one-rep maxes, then as soon as you catch your breath, you look around for where to sign up for the next one? That’s Category 2.

Category 3 Fun

This is the type of fun you have while preparing for another thing that is fun.

Category 3 is often a bit subtler, and you may only think of it as fun-adjacent. Ever thought about what you’ll do at your next training session/ class/ adventure and smiled? Ever visualised yourself achieving a training goal and got a little rush of excitement? Ever looked forward to something? Category 3, baby.

But which fun is the funnest?

Clearly a subjective experience and impossible to answer, buuuuuut…… I think each of us needs a balance of all of these categories, in our training and in our life. Everyone’s balance will be slightly different, and calibrated to their own goals and experiences. What I want to suggest is that making sure you’re including all types of fun in your training will bring you more fun, total. And more fun = gooder.

So what if there’s too much or not enough of any given category, you ask?

Category 1 fun is clearly the most immediate of the funs. It’s a playful, joyful and exploratory experience of this weird universe. It’s hard to say you can get ‘too much’ Category 1 fun, but it is very susceptible to diminishing returns; you need new and different experiences to keep having Category 1 fun. And so, you’ll often need a bit of Categories 2 and 3 to find new ways forward. You’ll never experience the Category 1 fun of your first climb up/ muscle up/ insert training goal here without some forward planning and a bit of elbow grease to get there.

Category 2 can become addictive, and can be the quickest route to progressing in strength and fitness. But too much of this, without proper preparation and planning from Category 3 can put you at risk of overtraining or injury, or a scattershot approach that doesn’t get you closer to your goals. And too much at the expense of Category 1 can mean training becomes a chore.

Category 3 is not something people are that attracted too, but too much or not enough can both mean less fun for you, total. Not enough Category 3, and it can take far longer to achieve your goals, or to strengthen the parts of your body you need to protect. It can also mean you’re not dreaming big enough! Too much, and it can be used but can be a kind of procrasiti-fun, or a way to avoid taking a leap into something intimidating.

Aren’t you missing something?

All that said, there is another category I haven’t mentioned. We could call it Category 4 in this schema. It’s the type of fun you have when someone else achieves something you know they’ve worked for, or is important or fun for them. Kind of like fun once-removed. It’s what makes the communities we form around training (or anything) so vital to our lives. It’s also often what people love about making the shift to become a coach, or a teacher, or a carer.

Play. Effort. Thought. Love.

Have fun.

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