By Ryan McGowan – Warwick, RI
Indeed! If you are reading this, then chances are you have a solid “fitness base.” However, fitness is just one component of physical competence. How do athletes get better at their sport? Yes they workout, but they also do drills and practice techniques relevant to their game.
As normal folk, we still need to be competent at natural movements. Lots of people get hurt shoveling snow (yes that’s a natural movement in New England), being active on vacation, or doing basic household tasks. Furthermore, (in my opinion) adults should strive to keep up with kids for as long as possible! To accomplish this, we need to train skills like crawling, jumping, climbing, balancing, lifting/carrying/throwing, etc. I believe this is a better and more enjoyable use of time than monotonous fitness routines where we operate machinery in zoo-like gyms that (somewhat) simulate these movements. Besides, in this crazy world of limited, precious free time, why spend it doing anything that we don’t truly enjoy? This ain’t no dress rehearsal!
Here are 5 reasons to practice playing instead of doing your workout chores:
- Fun! Look around – how many people at the gym are smiling? Compare that to kids on the playground or at recess. If we find movement fun, we are more likely to be consistent with it rather than doing it because we’re “supposed to.”
- Usefulness! Whether you’re a parent, a stunt double, or a retired jetsetter; these skills apply to real life demands. Also, having knowledge of many techniques may be called upon in times of emergency; and you are less likely to panic if you have a plan.
- Fitness is a side benefit! Practicing these moves will definitely improve conditioning. This provides a great ROI as we develop strength, endurance, and skill at the same time!
- Brain power! Mindful practice forces us to think about how we move; always a good thing! We also improve coordination when establishing movement patterns. Additionally, playing boosts creativity!
- Reward! I hear it all the time: “I feel like a kid again!” I believe that’s our brain giving us positive feedback for going back to innate movements. If it feels good, keep doing it (responsibly)!
So how do you get started?
- Check out MovNat and Animal Flow; both have free material on their websites, social media and YouTube channels.
- Begin with the basics – lift, crawl, and balance in a controlled setting. Increase intensity and/or contextual demands as your comfort with these movements grow. Don’t worry, you will be climbing 25’ coconut trees in no time!
- Don’t go crazy! Aim to learn 2-3 new moves per skill session. That’s it!
- Emulate kids. Take them somewhere and try to keep up with them. Good luck!
- Sign up for an obstacle course race. These events demand more than moving nominal weights in a straight line and will likely highlight some “missed spots” in your training.
Enjoy the journey to physical competence folks!
Ryan McGowan is a former engineer and ironman who left the commercial construction industry to pursue his passion of helping people become healthier and more adventurous. His company, Laid-back Fitness, is located in Warwick and is a combination of a fitness center and playground.