Editors note – This is a guest post from Khaled Allen at Warrior Spirit.
Playing is a fun and engaging way to get a good workout. However, it can be difficult to figure out how to play if you haven’t done it since you were a kid. Playgrounds invite creative movement, but adults don’t have designated play-zones. Instead, we have to learn to see our everyday surroundings with new eyes. Also, most fitness programs emphasize narrowly defined movements, so spontaneous play might seem sloppy or uncomfortable at first.
There are a lot of benefits to playing: it encourages natural, coordinated movement of the whole body, gets us outdoors, is a lot of fun, stimulates the mind, and is social.
The point of playful exercise is to incorporate creativity into your movements by interacting with your environment in new ways. For any given obstacle, there is no right or wrong way to overcome it. Take a park bench for example. You could go around it, walk over it, crawl up and over it, jump on and off it, jump over it, vault or roll over it, crawl under it on your belly or your back, or pick it up and throw it aside.
You don’t have to be in great shape to enjoy playful exercise, but the more general fitness you have, the more options you’ll have and the longer you can go before getting tired out.
One thing to always keep in mind is safety. More than traditional workouts, you should only try something if you feel confident you can do it. Practice will help you feel safer over time, but always be conservative. Also, if you are using objects in the environment, make sure they are sturdy enough to hold your weight.
To give you some inspiration, here’s a video of me re-appropriating a skate park as a giant playground:
Some Pointers to Play
- Find an area with a lot of interesting objects – City parks, playgrounds, and skate parks are great locations. Picnic areas with trees, rocks and benches are good, too. Soft ground like grass, dirt, or rubber helps you feel safe, encouraging more creativity.
- Use your imagination –This may seem silly at first, but it provides lots of motivation and keeps you mentally engaged.
- A railroad tie fence or a curb becomes a narrow bridge over piranha-infested waters.
- A horizontal tree limb becomes a rope overhanging a chasm.
- A retaining wall is a ledge overhanging a pit of snakes.
- A saw horse becomes a razor blade blocking access to a treasure.
- Include everything – Try to find a way to interact with every object around you. Everything in your chosen environment can be used in a way it was not originally intended, even a simple wall: you can hang from it, climb over, crawl along the top, use it to change direction quickly, etc. Look for new ways to interact with everyday objects.
- Insist on high standards – It is fairly easy to go for an obstacle, fall off, and just write it off as too hard. Instead, stick with it for a while and try to figure out other ways to get through or over it. All movements should be controlled, so if you’re accumulating a lot of bruises, slow down and perfect your technique.
- Include others – Social play is an excellent way to make things more fun and engaging. Partners can provide competition, new ideas on how to approach an obstacle or movement, or they can become part of the workout as something to carry. Playing catch with heavy rocks or throwing sticks while running is another great way to add a social aspect to play and exercise.
- Don’t rush yourself – If you don’t give yourself enough time, you’ll feel pressured and won’t be able to explore creatively. Short, intense workouts are great, but for the art of play, less time pressure is better.
- Be consistent – The more you play, the more you’ll be able to elaborate on your movements. Artists don’t create paintings all at once; they paint a base layer of simple forms and guides, then come back and add more detail and complexity. In the same way, each time you come back to an area, you’ll be able to create more creative ways to move around it.
Hopefully, this helps you think of ways to incorporate more creative play into your plans for healthy, spontaneous movement, so you can continue to enjoy engaging exercise.
This guest post is thanks to Khaled at Warrior Spirit. Please check out his site and also have a look at the review he did of our e-Book……….