This post is an introduction to a blog series I will be publishing over the next month called “This Is How I Play.” The inspiration for this comes from a book I'm reading, Exuberant Animal, by Frank Forencich. In one of his articles he claims that we “study and test, research and measure, drilling our knowledge down to the deepest levels, and then we wonder why people find exercise so dull and unattractive. We strip human movement down to the sterile elements of anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics and then complain that no one wants to participate.”
I don't agree with this quote 100%, especially for high level athletes, but I think that a lot of fitness programs (especially for school-aged children) should pay a lot of attention. If games were emphasized as the primary method of physical activity, it will not only be more effective but also will be a lot more enjoyable. And that's really the secret to a successful fitness program. If exercise can be made fun, then people will WANT to come back and participate again; they will enjoy and look forward to it.
I'm not talking about sports however – there's a huge difference between sports and games. Sports are fantastic – for athletes. But if you aren't an athlete, you probably aren't going to have many opportunities to play sport-games. Even when you do play a pickup game, there is often equipment, a large number of people, or a specific location necessary for that sport. In order for the game to be played all of these conditions must be met, and that is often very difficult to plan and organize. Then there's the potentially humiliating experience of picking teams and, once the game starts, not being passed to or truly included.
The kind of games I'm talking about are more free-form and creative. Things that really engage the imagination, and don't necessarily have a lot of rules. During this series, I'm going to be giving examples of a lot of different games. Some are games developed by the parkour community, some are games I've developed, and others are just random games that I've come across in my travels. For most of the games, I have also listed one or two variants or combinations, a way to develop a whole new game simply by changing the rules or mixing it with another game.
Creativity and imagination is fundamental to what makes us human, but many kids aren't given the opportunities to exercise their brains and their body together. Encourage your kids to create their own games to play, or you can use these games, or make up your own variations of these games to play! Most of these games can be played without any equipment and can be played by anyone, five to fifty five, skinny or heavy, male or female.