As many of you know, I am a massive Obstacle Course Racing nut and compete as often as time allows. So much so that when I recently stumbled on my village’s hidden gem of a playground I may have done a little dance. I am currently in talks to run a Kirby’s Personal Training and Fitness Port Talbot bootcamp at the playground. It really is THAT cool and being in the middle of the Afan Forest, it is prime territory for running jumping climbing trees.
For most of us, we more often than not appear to stop doing the activities that we seemed to do as children by the time we hit the late teens. Whether it is getting on a bike and just going for a cycle ride to a friend’s, or playing outdoors using walls and trees as natural obstacles, we seem to cease playing purely for the fun of it. I recently had a conversation with a friend about the importance of the handstand and cartwheel in aiding shoulder girdle and core stability and increasing flexibility, and while these are very true, I missed the main point of both these simple movements. They are fun.
Around 18 months ago I achieved my very first handstand against a wall, ever, and now I can stop doing them. While some may scoff that I’m not doing freestanding handstands, for me this achievement was nothing short of miraculous as I had never done them as a child. They have helped my pole technique, as I am more comfortable hanging from the pole by just my arms, they have also helped my deadlift, my kettlebell swing, my monkey bar technique and my ability to rope climb. I also got my first chin up a few months back, from a dead hang position, and I put much of that on the ability to hold my weight on my hands whilst upside down, engaging my back muscles as I attempt to do a beautifully extended cartwheel or a handstand press.
As children we think nothing about engaging our muscles in many planes of movement; of flinging ourselves upside down; of grabbing that tyre on the rope and swinging across the river. Because all of those things are fun. Why do we lose the play aspect as we grow up? The things we do as children are often functional movements. We squat naturally, and more often than not in nigh on perfect alignment, to pick things up. We tend to twist, bend and move in all directions, play various sports, run a lot more and generally be more active across all planes of movement. Then we stop, we simply spend far too much time sat at a desk or behind a computer screen exercising the brain (no bad thing in of itself), and very little time exercising the rest of the body. Yet studies have shown that students who are encouraged to play and move more tend to perform better in academic testing and not just at primary school. Perhaps we should be encouraging students of all ages to run, jump and climb trees for the hell of it. Not only for the fitness benefits, but for the physiological benefits. I dare you to climb up a muddy embankment and not grin like an idiot when, caked in mud, you reach the top. For some reason, it does make us think of being young again. And in my book that’s a good thing. It’s play for play’s sake and why do we stop? In that moment of reaching the top of the muddy embankment, you have probably only thought of getting to the top, you have switched off from everything else in your world that may cause you stress. You have played like a child, and why not?
I encourage you to join an outdoor bootcamp, get down in the dirt and find an obstacle/mud race that you feel you could easily complete or at least just try that cartwheel. I guarantee you will have a grin from ear to ear, probably laugh quite a bit and you’ll feel 10 years old again. I encourage you to play, plain and simple.
As always, be kind to yourself.