Playtime is Back. Act Accordingly!

Two Girls Playing Jump Rope, Exercising

I remember the good ole days like they were yesterday.

Climbing trees in the back yard.  Riding my bike to Matt’s house down the road.  Rolling down a massive hill just to see if I could make it all the way to the bottom.  Playing epic games of Capture the Flag at recess.  Battling with water guns and water balloons to fight off the summer heat.

Being a kid was freaking awesome.

Whenever I wasn’t running and jumping around I was watching shows like GUTS, Legends of the Hidden Temple, and Double Dare, yelling “where is your sense of urgency?! TRY HARDER!” at the my screen.

I know I’m not alone in reminiscing about the good ole days:  we never asked “when can I be done?” but rather “why is this so much fun?”

We lost track of time. We came home dirty and exhausted with big smiles on our faces.  We raced and our hearts raced faster, and we loved every minute of it.

What happened?

We grew up!  Are you ready to take a brisk stroll down memory lane and put a plan in place to return to your roots and have some fun this weekend? I am!

Why playing is good for us

Girl Playing Hopscotch

Everybody is so damn stressed out these days!

We have these things called “obligations” and “responsibilities” full of taxes, bills, and office drama. Instead of releasing stress by kicking a ball or kicking the can, we release stress by kicking our feet up, watching hours of TV or running around with a character in Diablo III. 

The thought of going outside and losing oneself in ANY physical activity is a foreign concept to most folks these days.  They spend their days stuck on treadmills or in boring classes that make them miserable; they assume if they’re unhappy and hating life while exercising, then it must be effective.

It’s easy to turn to happy hour to “forget about life for a while” (right, Billy Joel?), but PLAYING can have similar effects while also making you healthier.  From Mark’s Daily Apple:

Besides its stress-reducing, social qualities, play has other quantifiable benefits. A New Zealand study showed that workers were 82% more productive following a vacation, and their sleep habits were better. Australian researchers suggested that frequent breaks for sedentary workers results in better weight control and improved triglyceride and blood glucose numbers. The New York Times recently covered a study showing that increasing leisure activities improves immune function faster than stress can suppress it. It seems like the more you reduce stress, the more easily everything else falls into place.

On top of that, a recent study showed that compared with exercising indoors, exercising in a natural environment showed greater feelings of revitalization, energy, and positive engagement — not to mention seeing decreases in tension, confusion, anger, and depression.

Although I’m a huge fan of weight training and meticulous tracking of my workouts for leveling-up purposes, I also understand the importance of stress release and the pure joy that comes from getting lost in the moment.

Do you think Matt felt like he was exercising while dancing all over the world (again)?  Hell no, he was having too much fun!  

Do you think I felt like I was exercising while jumping and running like a fool around the world? Okay, maybe the handstand push ups.

Channel your inner child

Boy Running Through a Field Jumping and Having Fun

I want you to set aside at least an hour on Saturday or Sunday this weekend to play.

No seriously. Put it in your calendar.

I’ll wait.

You’re going to schedule “play outside for the fun of it!”

This weekend, bust out your play clothes, go outside, and don’t allow yourself back inside until you’re dirty. I want to see:

  • Grass stains on the knees of your old jeans
  • Mud under your fingernails
  • Dirt on your shirt
  • Leaves in your hair
That’s right, dirty!
If you have kids, cousins, nephews, nieces that are free that weekend, invite them to help you act like a kid!  They’ll know the rules and all of the games and make you feel more alive. Once you’ve committed yourself to at least an hour of childish fun this weekend, plan it out!

Pick your activity

Pick your activity.

Now, let’s figure out HOW you’re going to be acting like a kid this weekend!

Remember, it needs to be something that is completely out of the ordinary, that preferably exists as an activity solely for the fun of it. Go with your gut on this: hopefully one of these brings back a great childhood memory that you can recreate:

1) Run through a field -  Look at that pretty field above…don’t you wonder what’s on the other side of that hill!  Wouldn’t it be fun to just run, jump, sprint, and dash through it?

2) Climb a tree - Depending on your particular level of physical fitness, this particular activity might not be an option.  If it is, find a tree with some low (and sturdy branches), jump and climb your way up.  It’s a great back, bicep, and core exercise :)

3) Roll down a hill and then sprinting back up - Find the biggest, greenest hill you can in your neighborhood.  Lie down at the top, and start rolling sideways.  At the bottom, jog your way back up, and repeat

4) Dig a hole - find a spot in your back yard where you won’t screw up your lawn, take a shovel, and just start digging. If anybody asks, tell them “you don’t want to know” and look at them with shifty eyes.  TOTALLY KIDDING.

5) Go exploring in the woods.  Kids might see a path, but they don’t really care about it. Find the other, way more interesting things off the path, and follow those.

6) Have a water balloon fight.  Go buy a bag of biodegradable water balloons, fill em up, and have a water balloon fight in your back yard.  If you have kids who have friends nearby, turn it into a neighborhood battle!

Let’s say you don’t happen to have a crew to go run around with this weekend; it doesn’t mean you can’t find one!  Ever heard of  You can use MeetUp to find hiking groups, dancing groups, even epic Capture the Flag games!

You can also find people that are interested in having fun through the Nerd Fitness Message Boards!  It’s free and people are organizing meetups all over the world!

Tag, you’re it!

Child Steve Thumbs Up Exercising and Play

Please listen to the 5-year old me (yes, that’s me): Life doesn’t need to be boring, routine, and mundane.  

Just because you’re 25, 35, 45, 55, or 65 doesn’t mean you need to act like it all of the time! It’s amazing what acting young and feeling young can do for you.

So please join me!  Make a pledge to yourself this summer to start enjoying yourself outdoors.

This was what life looked like for me as a six year old bobblehead:

I climbed trees because there were trees that needed climbing; I explored the cranberry bog by the railroad tracks and walked in one direction for no particular reason; I hiked through the “nature path” in the woods behind my house; I dug holes with my friends Cash and Seth because we had a shovel, and decided that the world needed another hole.  We built tree forts.  We had water gun wars around the neighborhood.  We captured the flag for hours upon hours.   We made bows and arrows and were characters in a video game.  We jumped, we ran, we swam, and we climbed.  

Why? because we wanted to!

What was a typical summer day like for you as a kid?  

And which of those activities will you be participating in this weekend?



photo source: hopscotch, office space, girls jumping rope, big field , kid jumping, dirty pants

Get The Rebel Starter Kit

Enter your email and we’ll send it right over.

  • The 15 mistakes you don’t want to make.
  • The most effective diet and why it works.
  • Complete your first workout today, no gym required.
  • These are the tools you need to start your quest.
  • Chad

    haha, i definitely  need to add this to my schedule. There is a bit of woods (or forest?) near my house, and I often steer clear of the path there, and am pretty much walking blindly into the woods, where all sorts of beasties can eat me :D. Climbing trees is a hobby for me, I always do it in my spare time. But rolling down a hill and sprinting back up? My co-workers would take pictures of my doing that and laugh at me

  • Barbara Clark

    Think Im gonna def try the rolling down the hill one, my back yard is one  huge hill :) and the digging hole one is just too tempting, lol! gotta give it a try (let’s see if the neighbor will ask whay Im doing….)  :P

  • angelcastaneda

    I look forward to this conversation with the Call Before You Dig office:
    - Hi, I’m wondering if I can dig a hole at such and such address.
    - What is the purpose?
    - None. I have a shovel, and I figured the world needs another hole.

  • Paul G Bailey

    I love this, great post! Does playing world of warcraft help, or does that just make me even more of a nerd?

  • Mily

    HAHAHA! That made me laugh so hard. 

    Would be so much fun to actually try this. (:

  • Sports Dad Hub

    Just last weekend my 3 boys and I created an awesome game with water balloons. We call it Water Balloon Ball. It combines Wiffle Ball & Water Balloons. Check out this video of our playtime: 
    It’s also a great way for kids (& adults who want to act like kids) to beat the heat while being active outside. 

    P.S. Double Dare freakin’ ruled. Take the “Physical Challenge” every time!

  • Citabean

    I did this yesterday before even reading this!  I went to the beach with my son and nephew and we built a massive sand castle with nothing but our hands, the sand and water.  It was awesome!

  • Krista Stryker

    I love to play! We don’t do enough playing as adults. I’m going to try and find a tree to climb today (in San Francisco, hmm…)!

    Also, you were a really cute kid! 

  • Trista Diavolo

     LOL! I love it! It might be amusing to call your closest what I call “Burying body buddies” and say HEY I need a dig a hole. they show up = much fun!

  • Pingback: Learn how to Exercise from a kid » Weight Loss Hacked

  • FaceAK

    How about running around the yard with the sprinkler on? Or jumping on a trampoline? Or jumping on the trampoline with the sprinkler under it?? Add some dish soap for a sudsy time! Ahhhhhh, being a kid…the good ol’ days.

  • Melissa Hayden

    “We’re grown ups now, and it’s our turn to decide what that means.” (

    I’m definitely looking forward to acting like a kid & getting active this weekend!

  • Chris Butterworth

    So true – both the benefits of playing and the fact that we, as adults, don’t play enough. There’s a corollary too – the phrase you hear bandied about the web these days – “be there” with the people you’re with.  A couple years ago I made a conscious decision to “Be THERE” when I was with my kids – no more checking emails or thinking about my todo list while I was supposed to be playing with them.  And ya know what – I started PLAYING with them! Bike rides where we’re jumping over berms and curbs, full speed soccer, monkey bars – whatever they want, I’m on board.  It’s made me a better parent, a fitter parent, and a less-stressed out parent, too.

    Another great post – thanks.

  • Charlayna

    Well, walking off the path here in Alaska can actually get you killed, so I’ll not choose that one for this weekend!  But I think I’m going to go kayaking, potentially throw some rocks on the beach (skipping stones, anyone?), maybe fishing!  Also all the trees around here are spruces, which are not good for climbing. (Missouri definitely has much better trees for climbing!)

    Favorite playtime activities as a child:  football, kickball, dodgeball, fishing, building random stuff, wandering through the woods/field, catching lizards/insects/snakes/frogs/crayfish/tadpoles/turtles…  My brother was a fan of beating the crap out of trees–I’m still not sure why to this day.  I don’t think he knows either!

  • Jackie

    …..Not sure playing WoW meets the criteria. What about finding/starting a LARP one afternoon? Running around the woods beating your friends with foam weaponry? Super nerdy AND gets you out of the house!

  • Charlayna

    Oh–and I was freaking awesome at skip-it and jumping rope.  Those were definitely a huge part of my childhood.  Funny how I have a hard time jumping rope for extended periods of time (like more than 1 min and I need a break), and I used to jump rope for 5-10 minutes at a time and it not hurt/bother me.

  • Kathy Cutia

    totally love it

  • Charity Myhre

    When i was a wee sprog my friends and I would climb the cliffs at the top of the hill, search for mulberry trees and avoid the terrifying snake the end of the main path there was this AWESOME treehouse we would hang out in that was EPIC. As a grown-up I found out the treehouse is on an acquaintance’s property. I asked if I could climb it and he said no. I was sad. I might hit the cliff trails this weekend and climb it ANYWAY. :) 

  • Gavinr

    Yep, tree climbing is the way to go.  If you wear gloves you can do a few pull ups while there.  My mate has loads of trees, so I’m off over there and have sent him an invite to climb his own trees.  We may even do a bit of trimming and then have a big bonfire.  Who knows – the kids might even join in then!!

  • PattyRice

    Love this!

  • Debra

    I LOVE this idea, Steve! Thanks for posting this!

  • catherine marshall

    Awesomesauce. Will do.
    I go hiking every weekend and last Sunday I saw a frog and cased it through the undergrowth and caught it :) Good times!!
    If you’re on the coast, I *highly* recommend finding a rocky beach and scrambling over the rocks. Good for balance and really works out the legs!
    Random swimming is great too! Pack a bathing suit and head for a hike at a lake/beach and when you’re all hot a sweaty from the hike, hop in and splash around for a bit :)

  • steve ward

    I do this all the time

  • Khaled Allen

    I spent hours as a kid digging a hole to China in my school playground. We thought we were being sneaky by filling it in at the end of recess so the teachers wouldn’t notice…every day. Not surprisingly, we never escaped the school yard.

  • Khaled Allen

    I especially liked your comment about the idea that we think exercise is only effective if it sucks. I push the opposite: exercise should be fun! After two years injuring myself on CrossFit (my own extremism, not my gym’s), I made a commitment that I would do no more fitness programs unless they were fun. The result has been pretty great: gymnastics, parkour, climbing trees, rolling around in the dirt, commandeering playgrounds. I still lift weights and sprint, but it’s on my own terms and only if I’m enjoying it. People will smile at me to see how much joy I’m having while they stick to their dignified, non-playful hikes or workouts.

  • Angelblaidd

    Challenge accepted! But of course I am spending the day with my nephews and it’s never quiet! Despite the rain we’d probably still be throwing muddies at each other while running around the garden. I’ve also bought the oldest nephew a bike for his bday (yesterday) so he will be learning to ride! It’s dirty business spending time with them but I’m a kid at heart so I don’t mind being sticky and dirty and silly.

  • Amber Bosch

     Charlayna! I’m from Anchorage too! Good to see a fellow Alaska/Anchorage rebel!

  • Amber Bosch

    When I was a kid, all the neighborhood kids would get together in my neighbor’s lawn (they were very friendly) and play red light green light, Simon says, freeze tag, tag,etc. My neighbors and I from across the street would play with squirt guns, play cops and robbers, cowboys and indians, WWF (back when it was WWF) by lining a room with mattresses and battling it out, hold elaborate pine cone battles in the woods surrounding our house, play Bear and Deer (kind of like Sharks and Minnows) throughout the entire town, walk/bike/run the few miles to the old cannery and spend the day on the beach, jumping off abandon boats into the water or off “the tunnels” (area of craggy rock on one side of the road with a cliff on the other, blast rock area) into the sea,  pick more berries than our stomachs could handle and come home covered in dirt. It was awesome!

    For this weekend, if I have time (getting ready to go to Juneau AND trying to get my goals for the week done), I think I’m going to invite a bunch of friends to play tag in a park and then have food afterward or something. I’ve been wanting to do this for a while anyway.

  • Ryan Stephens

    I decided today to run through the halls of my work like I used to in school as a kid. I got to the end of the hall in record time and I didn’t have to worry about a teacher catching me. :-)

  • Annika S

    I went out for a walk/workout today with this in mind. What started off as interval sprints with some bodyweights thrown in between ended up as a game across 3 fields and two canals, then up a hill to the road on the other side (the tractor nearby wasn’t allowed to see me or I’d be ‘caught’, the birds were flying off to get the farmer, and ankle-high grass had to be sprinted across or else I’d be seen.) I was muddy and sweaty at the end, thoroughly tired out! It was fun and somewhat nostalgic, the last time I did this was 10 years ago, and the tall grass went to my chest, not my thighs!
    Thanks for the post, would probably have just been a boring old walk/run otherwise! 

  • Wild angell

    The kid in me just says do it now, I’ve been selecting trees on my way to work I can’t wait for Sunday.

  • Anthony Nicolaus Kates

    You now Steve, this post really hits home for me.

    I find myself telling my wife all the time that we should just let our son (he is 4 years old) just run around the backyard and have fun… himself.

    What I should have been saying is, WE should run around the backyard with him for hours.Which really isn’t that bad, as we do do that from time to time (playing baseball or football, making up super hero problems or playing pirates in his play house)….but I always find an excuse to cut our timeshort (the heat, being tired because I am out of shape, etc.)

    I think will be taking you up on this post and setting aside an entire hour to play with my son outside tomorrow. I would do it today, but work will keep me away from my backyard until late at night.

    Thanks for always having the right post at the right time (as for what we will do, I think an hour long tag/soccer/pirate/super hero game isa right up our alley).

  • Avi

    LOVED!!! Kickball!!!!

  • Charlayna

    I ended up hiking most of the weekend–around town, browsing through shops for random stuff.  I bought a ton of board games, that’s playing, right?  Then I ended up hanging out in the yard with the dogs I was housesitting for a while.  Definitely not the play I was hoping for, but I am taking a day off work this week for a camping/kayaking 3-4 day weekend!  I’ll be getting in tons of fun activities during that time (as well as some research for the State Parks, too).

  • Kn21043

    i remember trying that in pre k with the plastic spoon that me and my friends got from lunch sadly we barely even made a hole but it was great progress then. Oh yeah and i remember taking all the locust and putting them in a bucket for no reason… good times :)

  • Graham

    Loving this idea!!!

  • Pingback: A Life Less Sedentary: CG Artist Health | The Infusion Studios Visualization Blog with Samuel Conlogue

  • psyfi

    Hula hooping!!! Which has become it’s own ‘adulted’ version with large hoops and complex tricks…  Also dancing.  It used to be totally lame tap and jazz crap, but then i’d go home at night, dress myself in a ridiculous outfit, and dance to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme song.  Yeah, that happened. And might have to happen again.. soon… Awesome post!! 

  • Phalakone Mysay

    I personally try to switch activities: soccer, swimming, tennis or doing my own crossfit in order to stay in shape.

    This is also the name of a new blog I just started using the Paleo Diet.

    Great post again Steve.

    See ya.


  • Bryan Akers

    Great post! I used to ride horses as a kid so I’d go out to the barn and just spend hours riding, cleaning stalls (a pretty good workout…), lifting haybales… Really miss all of that now. Thanks for the reminder that fitness doesn’t need to be strict and regimented. Going to take my kids outside and get in some quality play time (and exercise)!

  • Matt @ Share It Fitness

    Good points…people get their blinders on and automatically assume exercise/being healthy HAS to take place in a gym or other fitness facility.

    Personally, I love outdoor workouts.  Find a nice long set of stairs or hill…run sprints up and down, knock out push ups, body weight squats, jumping jacks, etc at the top of every run….boom, 45 minutes later you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck (but in a good way of course). 

    I’m currently training for a half iron man, and love doing my training definitely get that extra boost that being inside lacks.

  • Pingback: Links We Love – 07.13.12 | The Best Life Blog: Fitness, Weight-Loss and Health Advice from Bob Greene and His Best Life Experts

  • Infoadamsshoesva

    when play time is back.. we normally play different games accordingly but depending on the time we should choose proper games where we can play good way and spend more time on that

  • Pingback: Weekend Reading. Funtastic! | A & L Systems

  • Melodie Of Movement

    I love this. I started hula hooping in order to bring back to child side in me. Kids are good at hula hooping because they are not so much in their heads as we are. Kids that have trouble are often seen as “little adults”. When we get out of our heads and into our bodies that’s when hula hooping just works and comes naturally. It’s helped me connect with my body again. 

    Now I can do shit like this

    Great article. 

  • Melissa Hayden

    I went geocaching for the first time last weekend, and it definitely made me feel like a kid again, in the best way!  I came home that night exhausted, dirty, and with nothing really to show for the day but some awesome memories with my friends (and a pretty decent workout!).  Geocaching is definitely going to be working it’s way into more of my weekends.

  • Pingback: Embrace the Weird | Nerd Fitness

  • otter905

    I take every chance I get to play in puddles.  There’s nothing like jumping in a puddle and watching/hearing the splash and coming home from a walk soaked up to your knees.  I often get my nephew “in trouble” from his mom for doing things like this.

  • Pingback: The Amazing Spider-Man Workout Plan | Nerd Fitness

  • deepforest

    Rainstorms, at least when it wasn’t freezing out-me and my siblings would go outside in the pouring rain and run around, sit in the puddle made by the low spot in the road, play in the water running into the drain by the driveway, etc. We’d come back in completely soaking wet, having had a fantastic time.
    There’s also a creek at the bottom of our backyard that we’d go and explore.