Fitness goals are more achievable when their pursuit is injected with fun.

Earlier this year I struggled with my fitness/sports/lifestyle choices. For several years my cycling season dominated my entire periodized year of training. For a few seasons I piled on the miles and the hours and over the course of a few years completed 15 centuries. Then last summer I chose to focus on shorter distances and participated in a Time Trial series that made me the strongest and fastest I have ever been. (Mind you, I am NOT an ace athlete! I am a fitness professional who thrives on putting into practice the techniques and strengths I both learn and teach. So zero bragging rights here!)

Bottom line: I have been, for about 6 years, a serious if not gifted road cyclist glued to my heart rate monitor, power meter and gps.

So it has been stunning for me to decide to give it a break this year. In doing so I have battled many varieties of guilt.

But here’s the thing – this year I have a dog. My chocolate Lab is starting her 9th month, weighs 61 pounds and is possibly all muscle. She and I have made it outdoors every day since she came home with me at 7 weeks, and she has achieved exactly what I had hoped she would do for me – led me into new avenues of exercise and injected my fitness life with that elusive but oh so important quality of PLAY.

Now I must do the same for her and provide her daily opportunities for adventures in the woods and on the trails (not to mention in the ponds!) Since I also work full-time, there are limits on the hours I can spend in pursuit of strength, balance, coordination and aerobic conditioning. This year I choose to spend them with my dog.

Are these hours different? Yes. Will I become as fit as I was last year? No. And do I question my plans? Yes. But I’m just having so much fun hiking with my dog!

A few days ago, a trusted cycling partner and friend reminded me of the “F Rules”. (Thank you Frank – another FJ)

Here’s how it goes. For several of my most intense training years I had the privilege of working with Joey Adams, a metabolic specialist and coach whose theme is “Getting workouts on target and making your time count,” and who signs off with “Miles of Smiles.” Joey’s expertise is equally teamed with compassion, skill and humor. He has that unique ability to bring out the best in his athletes while keeping everything real.

Below is what Joey has to say about his “F RULES.”

“The pursuit of fitness has varying “rules”. Do this, try this, don’t do this, eat this, not this. Yet, where is the fun in any of that – in following someone’s dogma? So, without being dogmatic, I’d like to start with the concept of FUN in re-defining the pursuit of fitness.

.When I think of the concept of fun, and the creation of my F rules (Fun-Focus-Flow-Fit-Form-Fuel-Fitness to avoid Fooey!) in pursuing fitness, I always use fun as the litmus test. As a true Vermonter, I think of Ben and Jerry and their famous quote, “if it is not fun, why do it?”

I then immediately think of the experience of watching my own children at play and now pursuing their own fitness passions. I’m captivated by their total immersion in their sports. It LOOKS like fun. You can see it on their faces and in their bodies’ expression.

So I offer you this, when it stops being fun, when you don’t look forward to your wellness pursuit in whatever form, it is time to stop and change course, shake it up, try something new. Get outside, try a new sport, take a new class, dance, move, play, create!”

Joey goes on to discuss other Fs (FOCUS, FLOW, FIT, FORM, FUEL), but ends with: Your F rules are in line. You’ve mastered and embraced FUN. You’ve discovered FOCUS that led to FLOW. Your gear finally FITS because of the guiding hands and eyes of a specialist. Your FORM is impeccably evolving and you are continually vigilant. You honor your FUEL needs. You have created a deeper FITNESS FOUNDATION.

The other choice, when any F gets out of balance is to just say Fooey (you could put in your favorite F word), but there’s good news. You then go back to FUN and start again, maybe in a new direction. When I was out of balance, I found yoga and meditation in my arsenal and I’m sure I will discover other fun things in my future.

Wishing you miles of smiles down your personal road to wellness, balance and peace…and as always, lots of fun!”

So, yes, I will suffer pangs of guilt and a bit of loss. I will ride the short rides but hike the long hikes this year. I will enjoy the growth, development and companionship of my pup, and I will see Vermont’s hills and trails with new eyes. I will learn to balance the outdoors with the studio, intensity with ease, and sound with silence. I will trade in workouts for wanderings, groups for solitude shared with my dog, and lean energy for solid endurance.

I will seek fun and play and find what I find. After all, fun is where you find it.