Thursday, February 14, 2013

Playground Fitness (Plus Bonus Feature)

I was inspired to write a new article after watching my students play at recess. I present Playground Fitness: 6 Cross Training Games. Please check it out. And then get out there and have some fun.

Normally, my work gets edited when I send it in. I understand, that's their job, they need to make my words fit their website. But I think, especially for this one, it would be fun to see the differences between what I turn in and what goes up. Again, I want to stress I'm not complaining about the edit. What went up is fine and I appreciate running my stuff. But I think the original draft was a little funnier, a little looser. I think you'll agree that what my editor cut out should have been cut for mass consumption, especially if you're familiar with the rest of the site's content.  So read active's, then the original.
So here is my original version of Recess Cross Training.
Recess Cross-Training
By: Doug Robertson

Doing the same workouts over and over again is a quick path to burning out and losing interest in your sport. When you feel that heat on your toes it is time to switch it up. But how? By recapturing the essence of sport in it’s most simple form.
As a child.
Children exercise all the time without knowing it. Children at play don’t know about sets or reps or lactic acid thresholds or heart rate zones. They know they have twenty minutes before the recess bell rings and they need to get as much playing done as possible before the teacher makes them learn more math. Visit a school, watch a recess (Disclaimer Steps- Have a child at the school. Check in at the office. Don’t be the creepy guy/gal at the fence. will not bail you out.), and notice the joy and energy with which most children play. Realize that the stereotype of “this generation just sits and plays video games” is as true as any other stereotype. Then get some friends and steal those kids’ ideas.

Tag is the easiest childrens game to adapt for grown-up purposes. You need a group of friends and a field. That’s all. Tag takes less gear than soccer. The rules are as simple as you remember. Someone is It. It is not a desirable thing to be. Tag someone else, and make them It. Run away! Repeat.
The possible variations on this game are as endless as your creativity. Multiple Its are a nice change so that no one, you know who you are, can hang out on the perimeter of the play zone where it’s safe. Freeze Tag defeats the purpose of constant movement but does allow for a nice rest. Partner Tag, where everyone must hold hands with one other person, adds difficulty and teamwork. Line Tag is played on a basketball court, where all players must stay on the lines painted on the ground, so it turns into a live action Pac Man game. A personal favorite, and a great way to close out the game, is Kamakazi Tag. Kamakazi Tag is simple- Everyone is It. The logic loop this throws children into is beautiful to behold for a good two or three minutes.

Three Flys Up
Three Flys Up requires at least one ball and enough people for two teams of however many people you want. The teams stand on either side of the field, and the person(s) with the ball kick it at high as they can towards the other team. The goal is to catch the ball three times. The first person with three catches wins. As you can imagine, this easily can lead to full contact bloodsport. Adults will have no one equipped with yellow vest and whistle to hand out time-outs for rough play, so everyone will need to reach an agreement about the level and intensity of bump and run.
The more balls in the air, the more active and chaotic the game becomes. Kicking, sprinting short distances, catching, possibly tackling, and shouting the whole time use muscles in different ways sure to have you waking up the next day wondering what exactly you did to yourself.

Tetherball needs more specialized gear than the previous two, but it balances out by only taking two people to play. The joy in smacking a tetherball as hard as you can found only in wildly wailling on a speed bag in a boxing gym. It takes hand-eye coordination, fast twitch reactions, and core strength to show you’re the King or Queen of the circle. Making the choice between stopping the ball with your face or getting out of the way and being that much closer to the final wrap will raise anyone’s heart rate
From ducking to dodging to twisting up for an explosive effort, your obliques, thighs and lower back will be firing on all cylinders to keep up with demands. Reaching for high or low shots and blocks will have those shoulders burning before you can say, “Nuh uh, you grabbed it and threw it! Cheater!” Watch out for the metal ring at the top of the ball, nothing hurts worse than connecting with a knuckle at full speed.

Red Rover
Kidding! Don’t do this. You’re going to rip your arms clean off your body.

Sharks and Minnows
Two variations to this. The first is the original game, the one played in a pool. Everyone, the minnows, lines up on the wall. The shark stalks the center of the deep end. The minnows must get from one wall to the other without being tagged on the head above water by the shark. Like Three Flys Up, this can be as physical as your group of friends want. Strong swimmers beware of drowning your weaker swimmer friends. In direct dismissal of the food chain, tagged minnows become sharks until it’s everyone against one little last lonely minnow.
The Land-Based variant involves a court or field of some type with the same set up. Everyone on one border save for one person in the middle. It is basically tag but you have to run from Side A to Side B. Fun modifications are changing the gate of the players. For example- Zombie Sharks and Minnows means everyone must move like a zombie (agree if you’re talking Romero classic zombie or Fast zombie). Robot Sharks and Minnows, Skipping Sharks and Minnows, Dancing Sharks and Minnows, Crab Walking Sharks and Minnows, Backwards Sharks and Minnows. Creativity abounds, limited only by what you really don’t want your friends to see you do. With different modes and levels of movement, different muscle groups are engaged. Not to mention the diaphragm workout you’re going to get watching the guy who drops you on hill climbs struggle to do the Worm across the field.

Lava Monkey Bars
You have monkey bars. The ground is lava. You will burn and die if you fall. Who can complete the most back and forth treks before falling to their doom? Good natured mocking, taunting, and otherwise from those waiting encouraged.

Playground Madness
This is what happens when no teachers are around and the children have free reign of the playset. Who needs a Warrior Dash obstacle course when you have two slides, a fireman’s pole, a pull-up bar, stairs, a captain’s wheel, a spinning tic-tac-toe board, and monkey bars all in one place? Come up with the most complicated course possible, which of course must include going up at least one of the slides, preferably the one that’s a closed, twisting tube and the fireman’s pole. But don’t forget to slide back down the pole because how often can you be Batman, old chum? Time it, or not. Children wouldn’t time it, they would either all go at once or use their highly developed internal clocks to decide that they themselves were definitely the fastest because nuh uh, I was, duh, you’re mean, I’m telling mom.
Playgrounds allow for infinite variety of course and options, making you use different muscles in different ways all the time. You’ll also remember just how hot those plastic slides get on your bottom. How was that ever ok?

None of these things will get you ready for any real race. Even a 5k takes more training than daily Tag. But when the routine begins to grind you down and your energy is flagging, make training fun. Like a nanny I once had told me, “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. Find the fun and snap, the job’s a game.”
Play hard. Watch out for lava.

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