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Boulder’s Favorite Pastime: Type 2 Fun

Have you ever done something that was hard, uncomfortable, or even painful in the moment, but rewarding and satisfying after? If you live in Boulder, you probably have. You might even be that person who wakes up before dawn to engage in some epic all-day (and sometimes all-night) climbing, skiing, running, or cycling adventure. You might also be familiar with the hipster term for this Boulder staple – “type 2 fun,” which refers to an activity that is fun only in retrospect, but hateful (and hurtful) while it’s happening.1

But why do Boulderites love type 2 fun so much, and what are the benefits of it? Exert a bit of type 2 fun right now — keep reading and find out!

person in orange jacket and blue pants standing on rocky hill during daytime   

What is Type 2 Fun?

According to Matt Samet’s Climbing Dictionary, “type 2 fun” derived from a “fun scale” coined in 1985 by the Fairbanks Alaska Geology professor Dr. Rainer Newberry during a field geology class as “an ironic way of rating [experiences] in terms of the fun actually had [based on a] fun-to-suffering ratio.”1 Newberry shared the term with student/geologist/climber Peter Haessler who passed it on to climber/writer Kelly Cordes, who used it in a piece submitted to Climbing Magazine, where Matt Same (editor) picked up and included it in the Climbing Dictionary.1  The term is now standard among climbers and Boulderites alike.

According to the Climbing Dictionary, the fun scale consists of three types of fun:1

Type 2 fun is often associated with outdoor adventures, such as the ultra-endurance hiking, climbing, skiing, or running that most Boulderites like to boast about. However, it can also apply to other domains, such as learning a new skill, overcoming a fear, or pursuing a goal.

Benefits Beyond the Bragging Rights 

Type 2 fun has many benefits for your personal growth, mental health, and social connection. Here are some of the reasons why type 2 fun is good for you:

  • Personal Growth: Type 2 fun pushes you out of your comfort zone and helps you discover new abilities, strengths, and limits.2 You can learn from your mistakes, failures, and successes, and become more confident, resilient, and adaptable.2 Type 2 fun also helps you develop a growth mindset, which is the belief that you can improve your skills and abilities through effort and feedback, rather than a fixed mindset, which is the belief that you are born with a certain level of talent and intelligence that cannot be changed. Moreover, practicing these skills in a controlled setting can enable you to apply them to real-life situations with greater ease.
  • Mental Health Type 2 fun can also improve your mood, reduce stress, and enhance your well-being. It can also increase your motivation, focus, and creativity, as you face new challenges and solve problems. Type 2 fun can also foster a sense of meaning, purpose, and achievement, as you pursue something that matters to you. Type 2 fun can also help you cope with negative emotions, such as fear, anxiety, or anger, by providing a healthy outlet and a positive distraction. Again, learning to cope with discomfort in a controlled setting provides great practice for coping in real life.
  • Social Connection and Team Building: Type 2 fun can strengthen your relationships with others who share your passion, interests, and values. You can bond over common experiences, support each other, and celebrate together. Type 2 fun can also inspire others to join you or try something new themselves. Type 2 fun can also enhance your communication, collaboration, and leadership skills, as you work together with others to achieve a common goal.2

 

Some research supports the value of type 2 fun. For example, Jonathan A. Kouwenberg, a Commander in the Royal Canadian Navy, emphasized the benefits of type 2 fun for leadership and team building alike, asserting that it builds the cohesiveness and resilience of a leader and a team and challenges both to learn from adversity.2 He emphasized the ability of type 2 fun to guide a team or individual into a situation that “is beyond what beneficially challenges them,” and at the same time engages an individual or team “in an effort that allows for feedback, learning, and growth.”2

grayscale photo of topless man with tattoo on his back man sitting on cliff grayscale photo of topless man with tattoo on his back

How to Find Type 2 Fun in Your Life?

So how can you find type 2 fun in your life? Here are some tips:

  • Choose something that sparks your curiosity, passion, or aspiration. Type 2 fun is not about suffering for the sake of suffering, but about pursuing something that you care about, enjoy, or want to achieve. Find something that aligns with your values, goals, and interests, and that positively challenges you.
  • Start small and gradually increase the difficulty. Type 2 fun is not about taking unnecessary risks, but about finding the optimal level of challenge for your current skills and abilities. Start with something that is slightly outside your comfort zone, but not too overwhelming or dangerous. Then, as you gain more experience and confidence, you can increase the difficulty, duration, or intensity of your activity.
  • Prepare yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally. Type 2 fun requires a lot of energy, effort, and endurance, so make sure you are in good shape, well-rested, and well-nourished before you start. Also, anticipate the potential challenges, obstacles, and setbacks that you might encounter, and plan how you will cope with them. Finally, cultivate a positive mindset, attitude, and outlook, and remind yourself of the reasons why you are doing this.
  • Have fun along the way and afterward. Type 2 fun does not mean that you have to be miserable or serious all the time. You can still find moments of joy, humor, and beauty in your activity, and appreciate the journey as well as the destination. You can also reward yourself for your efforts and celebrate your achievements with others. And don’t forget to reflect on your experience, and savor the memories, stories, and lessons that you gained from it.

Breaking Down Type 2 Fun in Boulder

A few examples local to Boulder (but easily adaptable for non-Boulder readers) include:

Type 2 fun is not for everyone, and it is not the only type of fun that you should have. But if you are looking for a way to spice up your life, challenge yourself, and grow as a person, then type 2 fun might be just what you need. So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and try something new, hard, or scary, and see what type 2 fun can do for you. You might be surprised by how much you enjoy it – later :).

References:

  1. Samet M. The Climbing Dictionary: Mountaineering Slang, Terms, Neologisms & Lingo: An Illustrated Reference. The Mountaineers Books; 2011.
  2. Kouwenberg JA. Authenticity, Adversity and Accountability in the Context of Uniformed Leadership. The Journal of Intelligence, Conflict, and Warfare. 2022;4(3):122-127.

Dr. Brenna Bray, a local health and wellness coach, stress researcher, associate professor, and avid ultra-marathon mountain runner, holds PhDs in Biomedical Science, Neuroscience, and Complementary and Integrative Health. Her journey through an eating disorder fuels her dedication to coaching, merging personal experiences with scientific expertise. Through her practice, Bray empowers clients to access and harness their innate healing abilities and achieve remarkable health and wellness transformations. Committed to community engagement and holistic well-being, Dr. Bray shapes a brighter, healthier future for all. Learn more about Dr. Bray at www.brennabray.com.

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