Friday, October 16, 2009

Too long shoe laces

Earlier in the week I was walking at a local park. We've had an extended period of rainy, overcast days in East Tennessee and I felt the need to get out and get some fresh air, despite the drizzle. The park I chose has a pretty loop that covers a good amount of acreage and has a soccer and baseball field in the center of the walking track. I will digress for a moment and ask this important question - why did shoestring manufacturers decide that shoestrings for tennis shoes must be long enough to lace all the way up your calf to your knee, gladiator style??? My laces are always dragging the ground when I exercise, even if I double bow and double knot them.

This same thing occurred while I was walking in the park, so I made a pitstop. Rather than stopping in the middle of the track and getting in the way of other walkers, or stepping off the track to deal with the ornery shoe laces in the mud, I went over to the swings and sat down. After attending to the shoe laces, I sat there for a minute and did the inevitable....I gave myself a gentle push. I sat there for a good ten minutes, just slowly swaying on the swing, the only inhabitant of the playground area. I had forgotten the simple peacefulness that can be derived from sitting on a swing and just contemplating the scenery around you. Porch swings can provide a similar simple comfort to the soul, and I already have a porch swing blog in the works. Stay tuned for that installment!

After maybe fifteen minutes of quiet swing contemplation, another walker stopped and smiled at me. "You look like you're enjoying that much more than I'm enjoying walking - care if I join you?" This happy woman stepped over and sat in the swing next to mine and we chatted for a few moments. Then we started to swing in earnest. It was wonderful! I am happy to report that should you find yourself in a gloomy mood that nothing seems to make better, scope out a local playground and hop on a swing. I can promise, if you swing for even five minutes, you're going to feel better. We were both laughing within seconds, swinging higher and higher. The exhilaration of swooping back and forth, seeing your feet touching the sky, laughing breathlessly with a newfound friend...I had honestly forgotten the pure and simple fun of swinging.

Another surprising fact - swinging works your abdominal and lower back muscles! Plus, the motion of swinging and laughing at the same time proved to be a really good cardio workout. In fact, the very next day, I could feel a whole slew of sore muscles....arms, stomach, lower back, quads. No wonder kids are always so skinny. Playing can be hard work! The beauty of this whole experience was that it didn't feel like work, or exercise at all. I think I'm going to become a big proponent of visiting the park to use the swings in addition to walking.

That moment with this new friend had us both musing about other childhood play that can translate to an adult body and we started talking about Hula Hoops. When I got home, I typed in a search for Hula Hoops and sure enough, there are weighted hoops and exercise DVD's out there. Who knew?!? I think that my impromptu visit to the park has helped me stumble upon a great new approach to exercise. I know many people love the process of a hard workout, getting sweaty and feeling exhausted at the end. I'm not in that category. If I'm going to get exercise, I want it to be something I enjoy, rather than endless reps on a machine, or plodding along on a walking track for hours.

It was a happy, joyful interlude on a soft, misty, gray day in Tennessee. We all tend to forget the inner child we carry inside ourselves. Give this a try yourselves - embrace a simple moment of play in the coming days and concentrate on the way it makes you feel. I have too long shoe laces to thank for this rediscovery, and a new friendship to boot!

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