What the heck kind of a title is that to a Blog Post? Well…..let me explain. I have been practicing trying to hang with one hand from a pull up bar for quite a while now. I can do pullups and lift up heavy objects, but trying to hold all 250 pounds of my frame from one hand, well it last less than a second. I practice at random times and whenever I walk by the pull up bar in the garage or the one we have in the backyard. One day my seven year old son is with me and he says “what cha doing dad?” “Well trying to hang from one hand” I respond. Next thing you know he climbs up the post and grabs the pull up bar with both hands. Then let’s go with one hand…..and hangs…..and hangs…..for over 30 seconds with just his left hand! (did i mention he is right handed?) My jaw just dropped as he gracefully drops to the ground. “Dad you wanna play tag?” he says as he sprints off.
How can this 7 year old kid, who has never done traditional exercise, doesn’t follow a weight training program, and doesn’t sweat it out in the gym do something that I am struggling with and training for? At first I thought, well he weighs less than me so that has to be why, but the fact is I weigh more and lift heavy things, so I should theoretically be stronger, but that is not the case. I just chalked it up as a mystery.
About a week later, our kids had some friends over and they were playing out in the garage with all the home gym equipment. I watched our youngest daughter, at only 4 years old and 32 pounds, lift up a 10 pound medicine ball and carry it a couple yards like it was nothing. Her arms can barely go around the med ball! So again, to put it in perspective, she is lifting something with ease that is 1/3 her body weight, and it is large and oddly shaped. That is equivalent to me lifting a huge stone that weighs 82 pounds! I can do it, but it wears me out much faster than it wears her out, and it is not something she practices….she just does it.
We have covered lifting and climbing, but another one that has amazed me is jumping down from a height. During the summer, our four year old was playing by the front steps. Then she started to jump down from the first step. As she became more comfortable with it, she went to the 2nd step and tried that. Then finally to the 3rd step and from the porch. If she is standing at the ground, the porch was at her eye level! So given her height, and I compare it to my height of 6’2”, I would have to jump from a height of about 5’11”. That is a pretty tall height to be jumping from over and over!
I discussed this phenomenon with a fellow “MovNat trainer to be” at the Level 1 certification course in Louisville. Her and her husband, had 3 kids, just like my wife and I. They were the same ages of 9, 7, and 4. We talked about how these kids just play outside and build up confidence, strength, agility, mobility, and movement skills through play. When they are tired, they rest, catch their breath and just go back to it! They can sit in deep squats to rest, they climb and balance with very little instruction, and they allow their imaginations to guide them….all through unstructured play!
The interesting part of it all, is this is all done during play. There is no structure, just free time play. Find something you enjoy and practice it until you don’t feel like practicing any more. I took a valuable lesson from our kids and started to incorporate play into training. Due to an office job, I have to restrict my play time to a certain window, but I have nothing planned and just do movements that I enjoy. One of the movements I am working on is the front vault. Because I practice it as a part of “play” it doesn’t feel like training. I enjoy the progress. There are no set reps, and I can take a break when I am tired, or keep trying. It is fun. (It brings me back to my younger days when I practiced skateboarding for hours just trying to land 1 trick!) Time disappears and your skills start to appear with play! As I am standing here typing this, I can not wait until the next time that I get to practice the front vault in one of my play sessions!
I think it is time to step out of our comfort zones. Occasionally get away from the sets/reps scheme. Don’t just check a box of a workout completed, but start to have fun. Do something different. Go climb a tree, crawl in a stream, chase your kids in the yard, slide down a muddy hill, and just enjoy life a little more. Try getting away from the structure and see what freedom feels like. I think you will like it, and if you play enough, you might even become as strong as your kids! You can also check out our instagram post “Dad vs. Kids” for some insight on how Natural, natural movement is for kids!