Exercise Like You Play

Leslie Garrett by Leslie Garrett | September 1st, 2009 | 2 Comments
topic: Fitness

playphotoI hate fitness clubs. I hate the smell. I hate the zillion television sets. I hate the cost.

However, I love exercise. Not the 12-sets-of-10-reps kind of exercise, but the kind that makes me feel like a kid again. Riding my bike through the woods. Running along a river. Kicking a ball around in a field. Diving into a lake.

There’s a purity of mind and soul when I whack a tennis ball across the net to the sweet sound of that perfect “poing.” There’s a freedom of spirit that comes with furiously pedaling downhill, hair (even under a helmet) flying out behind. There’s a sense of well-being that joins me on a hike through the woods. There’s a joy that bubbles up when I play soccer with my kids or join them on the swings. I’ve never felt any of that on the stair master (not that there’s anything wrong with stair machines).

Exercise shouldn’t feel like exercise

For many, exercise has become synonymous with puritanical exertion. Gone are the days when the notion of exercise was foreign — after all, once you had walked a mile or two to town, or worked a field of crops, or churned cream into butter, official “exercise” was redundant. These days, exercise has become another less-than-appealing item on our to-do lists — along with “clean behind the fridge” and “organize photos, 1985 through present.”

I, for one, say exercise shouldn’t feel like … exercise. We’re looking at it backwards. Rather than making us feel old (“ouch, my knees,” “ohhh, my back”), it should make us feel young. Rather than simply alleviating the guilt of NOT doing it, it should awaken an innocence. Rather than foster a disappointment in our bodies, it should nurture an appreciation.

Pretend you’re at a playground

Where can we learn to exercise like this? Look no further than your local playground. Children don’t “exercise,” they play. And therein lies the key.

Some ways to exercise cost money (for the right shoes, the right clothes, the gym membership), play is frequently free … and freeing. Play doesn’t just get your muscles moving and your heart beating faster. Play stirs your soul.


  1. What a great philosophy! I too was feeling the burden of exercise when tried the ‘Playful Practice’ in Rodney Yee’s “Yoga the Poetry of the Body”. That day, I felt more light-hearted and relaxed. Now it’s one of my favorite practices when I’m feeling a little down.

    Cyndi | September 1st, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  2. I LOVE ‘Poetry of the Body’ … thanks for your comment, Cyndi!

    Mary Jo Cameron | September 2nd, 2009 | Comment Permalink

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