When my brother moved back home from college, he kept pushing me to work out with him. He’s basically Andy Dwyer from Parks and Recreation IRL, but with twice the amount of energy, so sitting around watching Netflix as quality time wasn’t going to work. However, I complained to him that exercising is so much harder as an adult. I played outside for hours every day as a kid, and I never imagined a day would come when I couldn’t turn a cartwheel or race my bike up a steep hill. I had completely taken my strength and stamina for granted. Now, after years of sitting in a cubicle most of the day, I’d gotten soft. I had just started Kayla Itsines’s Bikini Body Guide, and it calls for days of cardio throughout the week. I was not looking forward to it.
My brother and I reminisced about long Summer days as kids. When we were younger, there was no better feeling than having a hard-earned popsicle after playing really hard outside. Exhausted and panting, we’d animatedly strategize about what game to play next. We’d cool down for only a moment before racing back out into the sticky Southern heat. We never dreaded those hours of “cardio.” It wasn’t another box to check on a to-do list. It was just fun. I’ve noticed as an adult that walks with friends can easily turn into vent sessions, treadmills get monotonous, and solo cardio sessions can feel grueling. Maybe children are lighter because they make time for simply playing.
Being the master of simple solutions that he is, my brother suggested we just exercise like kids. And guess what? It worked. I look forward to our cardio sessions now, my anxiety has been way less intense, and my relationship with my brother has never been better. I feel happy. Here are some ways you can reconnect with your inner child and lose some of that adult stress (while also getting in a little outdoor cardio this Summer).
If it’s climbable, climb it
The first thing I had to get over was being embarrassed. Kids don’t even think about what adults think while they’re playing — they just play. Good thing my brother has zero shame and has the energy of a golden retriever. We were walking around the local lake, and he just said, “Hey, bet you can’t climb that.” Next thing you know, we were scaling a huge boulder, trying to beat each other to the top. Then we jumped off and ran to find something else to climb.
Play a discreet (or not discreet) game of tag
This is going to look silly, but you have some options. Sure, you could play the traditional running way, but remember when you’d make up ridiculous rules to tag? Just tap back into that imagination. You could speed walk to be more low-key, or go even bigger. Jump, do high knees, skip. If it gets you moving and is still competitive, go for it!
Make a scavenger hunt
This can be as informal or formal as you want. I think it’d be really fun to do with a large group of friends with official rules, but my brother and I tend to keep it simple. We live in an area with tons of hiking spots, so we get off the trail to look for different animals, bugs, plants (or less-scientific stuff, like a person wearing a fanny pack or sweatbands), and I have to tell you, this has done more for my anxiety than anything else. There is a reason forest bathing is having a moment (that hopefully will never end). Spending time appreciating nature slowly is so good for the soul.
Play the “When you get to . . . ” game
When you get to a trashcan, long-jump until the next tree. When you hit the next tree, sprint to the next boulder. At the boulder, crab-walk till you hit a mile marker. You get the idea. Make up some rules for your next walk, and if you mess up, you lose a life. Winner is first to the end of the trail, or whoever didn’t lose all three lives (whichever comes first).
Play a little 1:1
Basketball, volleyball, soccer, flag football — whatever is in your area, do it. If you were a kid and passed a court, you’d probably stop and play. For some reason as adults, it seems we rarely do that. Next time, start a game. Before you know it, an hour will have gone by, and if you played hard, you’ll have some major calorie burn to show for it.
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