Exercise, or any type of movement, should be about enjoyment, exploration, and connection with yourself and your environment.
If you’ve followed GMB for a while, you’ve probably heard us talk about “play” quite a bit.
So, what is play exactly? And when was the last time you played? I mean really, truly played?
Scratching your head yet?
In this post I’m going to show you a few movements you can start playing with right away, so get ready to change that in just a few moments.
What Do We Mean By “Play”?
You may think of play as something reserved for people under the age of 10. If so, it’s probably been way too long since you let loose and gave yourself permission to play.
The key word when it comes to play is permission.
Play is all about allowing yourself to explore movement – not by following a set routine (though that, obviously, has its place), but by moving organically. And there’s no reason that has to stop at any age.
When you were a kid, you probably didn’t even think about the meaning of play, and when your parents told you to go play outside, you sure as hell didn’t say to yourself, “Okay, now I’m going to explore movement. Go.”
You just played, and movement happened naturally.
The Problem, and its Inadequate Solution
At some point in time, we all just stopped moving, and completely forgot what natural movement is all about.
Somewhere around middle school, along with recess, all movement went out the window. From then on, we’re expected to sit in a chair for eight hours a day, and somehow keep our legs from turning into pools of jelly.
So, a seemingly great solution to this problem (of utter lack of movement) was introduced – formal exercise.
Now, instead of just sitting for eight hours a day, waiting for complete muscle atrophy, people “workout” a few times a week and think that’s enough.
I’d argue, though, that something is missing when you teach your body to do just two types of “movement”:
- Following a narrow range of exercises within a set routine
And what’s missing is play.
Giving Yourself Permission to Play
“Play” is, of course, a pretty broad term, that can be defined in many ways.
One good way, though, is to define it as “unstructured practice.” We generally think of exercise as a structured practice of a set routine, but “play” brings a whole new element to the table.
In this video, I’ll explain a bit more about this concept, but I’ll also show you some examples of free play.
The movements I show you in this video should not be seen as exercises that you should practice for X number of reps or minutes a day.
They should be seen as a movement evolution. Each movement can evolve into the next as you please.
It’s all about giving yourself permission to play with the movements, and to feel your own body’s limitations and abilities.
Though I’ll give you some guidelines for each of these movements, don’t feel the need to mimic me exactly, unless that feels most natural to you. Remember, this is an “unstructured practice”, so don’t try to box yourself in to any particular way of doing things.
The purpose of moving in this way is to emphasize movement.
It’s not about making you stronger or more flexible – though those things will probably happen – it’s about allowing your body to move in the way it was made to.
Instructions (and How to Ignore Them)
Before diving into the movements I showed you in the above video, I want to reiterate that the whole idea behind these movements is exploration, so you should give yourself the time to explore the movements.
Don’t just blindly follow my instructions – really feel the movements and figure out the most comfortable way of approaching each one.
Generally, when we put tutorials up on the blog, we break down the movements we’re teaching in painstaking detail. I’m not going to do that this time, precisely because I want you to explore the details for yourself.
The pointers I’ll give you are just to give you a basic understanding of the movements, and to give you some tips for safety.
- Start with your hands and feet on the ground.
- You may straighten your arms and legs, or keep them bent – whatever feels most comfortable or challenging!
- As you move your right hand forward, move your left foot forward as well. Then switch.
- Play around with speed, hand and foot placement, and whatever else you’d like to work on.
- This movement is an evolution of movement #1 – the idea is the same, but you’ll bring your opposite arm and leg off the ground for a second or two before lowering and switching to the opposite side.
- Again, play with speed, height of your hands and feet, angle of your knees, etc.
- With the third variation, you will drop your hips lower to the ground.
- When you step your leg up along with the opposite arm, bring your knee as close to the same side arm as possible and drop your body down.
- This move will be almost like a push-up variation as well.
The Movement Exploration Prescription
These three movements are just a tiny glimpse into the world of movement exploration.
It’s not about doing a certain number of reps or sets of any exercise, and it’s not about increasing your workload over time.
It’s about allowing your body’s movements to evolve naturally and in ways that are comfortable and fun for you.
Yes, movements like these might be challenging – but challenge and punishment are two very different things.
Learn to see movement as a built-in way to challenge yourself in an enjoyable way, rather than seeing it as a by-product of whatever rigorous or unpleasant workout routines you may have followed in the past.
Take a look:
Movement Multivitamin is a 28-day introduction to learning how to move better.
Regardless of your current movement abilities, we can all benefit from moving better, and this course will get you there.