Do you ever think “wouldn’t it be nice to be a kid again?” My husband fondly remembers his childhood and thinks adulthood isn’t quite as fun because of the responsibilities. I stand somewhere in the middle as I like both. Maybe it is because I don’t see anything wrong in forgetting about responsibilities for a while and acting like a kid again, but it wasn’t until recently that I showed it outside the four walls of my home.
I used to go to the playground with my kids, and while they would run around, I would sit down, keep an eye on them, chat with other parents and from time to time check for messages on my iPhone. Then one of our weekend warriors asked me to create a fun workout for her, because she loves being active, but detests ‘working out’. I pondered about the word ‘fun’. What exactly makes a workout fun? I mean, I love working out, but I’m not exactly laughing all the way through it.
Going to the playground with my kids, I started paying closer attention to their play (and not just whether they were in any immediate danger) and noticed how they were laughing while running and goofing around. Needless to say, I began to see the playground in a different light, but how do you, as an adult, run around a playground without being viewed as a freak – especially if you don’t have a kid with you?
Obviously, seeking out the playground during “off hours” where there are no others is a good first step.
Next question was what on earth do you do there, once you have actually shown up?
Kids are so free and creative in their play, but as an adult who hasn’t played on a playground for a long time, it can be quite intimidating standing there looking at the whole spectacle not knowing where to start.
So I took a picture of the playground to give me a visual I could go back to when in the process of designing the ‘fun workout’. After coming up with a few exercises, I went back to the playground in the ‘off hours’ with my youngest and played around. Just having those few exercises planned beforehand helped reduce any hesitations and restrictions I might have felt. Soon I was off script and running around the playground; up the climbing wall, over the hanging bridge, doing the monkey-bars, seeking out the balance beam to walk on, squat on, jump over, on to and down from, and running up the slide. And I was actually smiling while doing it, and even laughing when I failed to accomplish what I wanted (that hasn’t happened in a long time).
I met her at the playground early Saturday morning, when no one was out. I had designed a circuit workout – so I knew exactly what she would be doing for the hour. The workout included the climbing wall, the rails, a bench, the hanging bridge, the balance beam, and jump ropes. I decided to join her in the workout – because it was more fun to participate than to just watch. After the workout, she told me that this break from a more traditional workout session was fun and a good way to keep training new and fresh – just what she was looking for. Now, she is always on the lookout for a good playground to do workouts – and is hoping to start parkour (which is beyond my expertise…but I have to admit I’m drawn to the same idea).
Once you have opened up the portal to your childhood, who knows what comes next? Recently, I was doing a picture session at Half Moon Beach and was asked to climb up a tree, where I was supposed to sit and smile. By the time I had climbed up the tree, I really didn’t feel like sitting still and smiling for the photographer. So instead of planting my butt where I was supposed to I jumped from one tree to another and back again, and although there was no sitting still in those shots, I couldn’t stop smiling. Not only is climbing trees fun, it is also a perfect functional full-body workout.
It doesn’t have to be super structured like doing 2 sets of 12 reps to be good for you. Simply running around like the kids do or chasing your kid around the playground, instead of planting your butt on the bench with the only movement happening is at your thumb, makes a good workout too. We tend to get so hung up on “the healthy side of movement and exercise” that we often forget it is OK to enjoy and feel good about being physically active, instead of literally just going through the motions because we feel we should.
Just remember that if you haven’t run around a playground or climbed a tree for a while, be careful and go easy when you start – AND even when playing, form is important! Now get on out there and have fun!