It may be hard for most fitness enthusiasts the fathom, but maybe grueling, intense, and pain-in-the-ass workouts aren’t the way to stay in shape over the long term. Just maybe having fun with your workouts is the way to go! See three reasons and examples of workout games that may change the way you think about training.
I used to workout all the time. I was a bona fide gym rat. Each afternoon I would rush to the gym after work and bang out sets and reps and routines for 2-3 hours. Eventually, over time, I got strong as well as stiff and achy (I suppose one positive out of three isn’t bad).
Then one day I got totally fed up, left the gym, quit working out and have not looked back since. I began to either play or practice in my pursuit of personal fitness and wellness. In this article I want to briefly explore the former of these two concepts, play. Here are three reasons to start playing today for a BETTER you!
1) Workouts Suck, Playing is Fun
When you were a kid, you played. Why? Because it was fun, that’s why! Somewhere along the way you became an adult and you forgot how to play. You forgot why we play. You forgot that it is okay to play.
I am here to assure it is not only okay; it’s necessary. One of the biggest goals I have for my students each session is that they have fun. These people pay me good money they worked hard for, and the last thing I want to do is bore them to death. To me, the monotony of sets and reps and the same old same sucks. (Note to the reader, I do still use sets and reps, they do have a purpose and a value and are important, just not every session, all the time and mostly with our bigger lifts such as deadlifts.) Wouldn’t you much rather run and jump and climb? Or throw and catch and wrestle? I enjoy hearing my students laugh while simultaneously exerting themselves. When you are having fun you forget how hard you are actually working. Playing is fun. That is the first and main reason we do it.
Workout Games: Plank Fights
One of my favorite examples is a game we play called “plank fights.” The set up is simple get in a high plank on your hands and toes facing your opponent. Next GO!, your goal it to get the other person’s knee or elbow to touch the ground, by attacking their arms and trying get them off balance. I really like how this game explores the concept of roughhousing as a critical part of play. In a way this is similar to kids wrestling of some other rough and tumble game we used to play but no longer do. Every time we play this game at Asylum Fitness there is copious laughter, friendly competition that builds camaraderie, and plenty of sweat.
2) Workouts Don’t Make You Learn, Playing Does
Kids learn through play. According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, play contributes to a child’s motivation for long-term goals, cognitive decentering, development of mental representations, the development of deliberate behaviors, and much more.
Adults really aren’t much different. Kinesthetic Learning is a learning style in which learning takes place by the students carrying out physical activities, rather than listening to a lecture or watching demonstrations. If I give you a kinesthetic riddle to solve you will work and work and work at it, and more than likely you will solve it. Your brain will try and fail, try and succeed, disregard what doesn’t lead you towards the desired outcome and assimilate what does. Once you find the solution you will remember it. However, if I just showed you the answer immediately then a few weeks later asked you the solution chances are you won’t remember it. The manner in which you solved the game allows you to own it and learn it, making the skill truly yours.
At Asylum Fitness we play lots of games that enable the students to retain the skills that I am teaching. I am also of the strong belief that when we play we become our own thinkers and increase cognitive function, creativity, and free the imagination. As a coach I want my students to think, not just mindlessly follow what I tell them. When we play we learn. We also go way beyond our comfort zone and rapidly acquire new skills and techniques. This is huge for fitness. So go out and start playing!
Workout Games: The Kinesthetic Riddle Pole
While I was in Ireland attending a Movement X seminar with Ido Portal I picked up the idea of kinesthetic riddles. One of my favorite riddles involved starting from a position laying on your back with your feet up, then placing a stick/pole about an inch in diameter and five feet long across the bottoms of your feet. From here your objective is to get to your stomach while the stick stays in contact with the feet, requiring you to avoid dropping or touching it. That is all I can give you; it’s a riddle and I can’t give you the solution, but I bet you will have fun trying it out and learn to move your body in some new ways.
3) Workouts May Keep You Fit, But Play Keeps You Young
I am a huge believer in fitness for the long haul. Playing keeps us young in body, mind, and spirit. I am sure that many of you have seen the viral video of a gentleman named Steve Jepson. Steve is 76 and is an amazing testimonial to his motto: “Never leave the playground.”
This is the kind of life I want for people. I wish we all could be so able. Steve never quit playing. He defies the standard conception of age. In my opinion he is more like what we are meant to be like when we get older; the problem isn’t age it is us. We don’t do anything to keep us youthful (not talking about botox) and continue to challenge our minds and bodies. Playing perpetually engages the brain which keeps the mind young and vibrant, the body will follow suit. There is a quote I use frequently by George Bernard Shaw, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” Playing is key to a long and fruitful life.
Workout Games: Tennis Ball Chaos
All you need is one or more tennis balls (3 is the most we use), then you need a group of 5 to 10 people. Start running around, weaving, changing direction, etc., but constantly running (essentially you are making lots of circles), then get one tennis ball in play. You are going to throw and catch the ball (whoever is closest needs to grab it) from all angles while still moving, then add in the next ball and the next.
Now you have controlled chaos; balls are flying everywhere and people running all over. Your heart rate should be way up, and more importantly you are working on hand-eye coordination, reflexes, vision (particularly the peripheral), exercising your non-dominant side as you will be forced to catch and throw with your off hand, and proprioception. This is a fantastic game that has massive benefits for keeping you young, and you can play it for 20 minutes without even noticing a minute has passed.
Play to have more fun, learn more, live longer and to be absolutely the fittest you can be!