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 MeetUp.com?  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?

-Steve

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

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