Play Yourself Fit
Here is another story that I did for Edge On The Net. Up first is the original writing; what follows is the edited version that appeared on the website.
I was walking in Central Park during the afternoon and saw some men playing football. I smiled. When I was a boy, after school, we played. As an adult, 3 pm to 7 pm is that last mad push to get it all done before the day ends; but back then it was enough time for hide and seek, red light green light, tag, ball, chase, touch football and a handful of other games that left us grass-stained, sweaty and smelling like wet dog but happy. I stood, watching the game and wondered if everyone was like me, so busy with the grind of work and life that they have forgotten how to have fun. Have we forgotten how to play?
Everyone knows about the importance of exercise but not everyone does it. Those who do exercise either love it or tolerate it and those who don’t have an excuse for why they don’t. They hate gyms or they feel like exercise is a chore or, worse, boring. Yes, yes, they say, the cardiovascular activity is good for your heart and lungs and the effort spent burns calories and builds muscle – they all know that; they just don’t care enough to do it. What if, though, we replaced the word exercise with the word PLAY? What if, instead of thinking they need to go to the gym and walk on the treadmill or lift weight (which is, admittedly, FUN for some people), these detractors of such activities found a game to play or a group where they could be social and, without focusing on the fact that it IS exercise, become more physically active? That group of men playing football weren’t exercising, they were playing. They were engaged in a social activity that they found fun that happened to have a side effect of being healthy.
In every city, a person can research and join walking groups, soccer teams, baseball teams, crossfit clubs (perhaps a bit extreme for someone just getting started), dance schools. If they have friends with like minds, they can form their own groups. It doesn’t even have to be a group, officially; it could just be friends who get together on the weekends and play. The facts: 1) a little exercise is better than none. 2) People who already exercise are happy doing it. 3) People who do not exercise need to – even if it is just walking, which is a weight bearing exercise and helps build bones, tone muscle and strengthen internal organs. There are groups one can join that fit every season, too. Right now in New York City there is a gay rugby group called Gotham Knights https://gothamrfc.org/drupal/ but in the winter months one could join the gay ski club Ski Bums https://ski-bums.org/. Some of these groups involve outdoor activities but not all of them. At Big Apple Recreational Sports, there are a variety of indoor sports for the LGBT community that can be played year round without out of town travel. https://bigapplerecsports.com/ A little online research can turn up similar organizations in every part of the country that offer a variety of activities. A person can pick from among their interests and from their level of ability (it has to be said that consultation with a doctor beforehand is wise – nobody likes a sports injury, ok? Avoid them if you can.)
Exercise doesn’t have to be the enemy. It doesn’t have to be a task. If we all take a page from the book of our childhood, we can learn to play again. In the process, we will not only live inside healthier bodies, work less and relax more, we can relieve emotional and mental stress, participate in our personal relationships and smile more often.
My best friend recently said “Let’s go throw a Frisbee and a football”, something I had never done before. I wanted to spend time with him, so I said yes. He taught me how and, 2 hours later, I realized I was sweaty and breathing like I had run a race. I was also laughing. I didn’t know it was exercise – I was too busy having fun.