by coach Mark Enstone
Hula-hoop, double-dutch jump rope, climb a tree, balance along a beam over a chasm filled with leaping fire and venomous snakes (or along a stripe in the road ;), play Ultimate Frisbee, play “follow-the-leader”, keep up with the kids all over the lawn playing “you’re it!”, clean-and-jerk a toddler, throw heavy things … then chase them and repeat. Play like a kid again. Instead of swimming laps at Barton Springs Pool, swim a width, haul yourself up and out, bear crawl up the grass bank, roll back down, jump in and swim back. SUP. Ride a unicycle. Hacky-sack. Kayak.
We run. A lot. Tens of miles per week; hours per week. Movement in one plane. We become extremely strong and mechanically efficient. In one plane.
We have become ridiculously well adept at running forwards, on streets.
We (might?) cross-train (but with the purpose of recovering from running). We (might?) strength-train (but that too may be limited in scope, repeating a favorite set of exercises, and, if using weight machines, working isolated muscles).
With our specificity, we’ve perhaps lost focus of our overall athleticism. We’ve built up parts of our body to do tremendous things, things that 99.9% of the population can’t do … and yet we aren’t balanced, can probably find a Jo/e Schmoe in any gym who can do more of their favorite exercise than we can…. we have a (or multiple) “weak links”
Short of getting hit by a bus or stepping off a curb wrong, our injuries are termed “overuse” injuries. Specifically, overuse of a “weak link”.
Play — physically active, unstructured, free-form, varied (outdoors?) play; not chess or Risk board-game play 🙂 — offers a wider range of activity, some of which will kick-your-butt, most of which is stealth-exercise, disguised as having fun. Play works all of you, including those “weak links.”
Play can be varied. One time play may include more jumping that you’ve done for eons; another time more throwing than you’ve done this year; another more handstands than you can do while giggling; another time more hand-eye-coordination than any other task done this week; another more balance than an adult should be required to demonstrate 🙂
Mentally, play doesn’t seem like training. It’s stealth training, if you will. Running barefoot across Zilker soccer fields, throwing your shoes as far away as you can, sprinting to them, squatting to pick them up, repeating that is fun! Running side-by-side rugby-passing a shoe to and fro is fun! Swinging arm-to-arm under a monkey-gym might be great fun if I could do it (!), it’s certainly fun trying to do it!
No, replacing your running with play won’t get you to the Finish-line of your marathon, but play will nicely complement your running, gain functional strength and provide a measure of injury-prevention.