Carrie Day and I joined 28 other fitness and movement specialists for an exuberant weekend workshop of play-based fitness and learning taught by Frank Forencich, fitness expert, human biologist and creator of "Exuberant Animal," and Dr. Kwame Brown, Executive Director of the International Youth Conditioning Association. Check out the introductory video on www.exuberantanimal.com
Frank Forencich, author of Play As If Your Life Depends On It and Exuberant Animal, made a clear case for play-based fitness, a form of "functional fitness" that is becoming quite popular. Play is the oldest form of "exercise" there is. Play has social, political, physical, cultural and cognitive aspects to it. It's profoundly important stuff. It's not jumping jacks and sit ups. If you want to know how to stay fit, just go to the playground and watch what kids do.
It was a weekend of vigorous, challenging play as we learned to appreciate play for its inherent structure and important lessons, both physical and cognitive. We participated in robust games, functional movement concepts, agility and balancing games, FUN core conditioning moves, partner resistance training, and outdoor group training with hula hoops, medicine balls, laughter, silliness and extreme amounts of camaraderie. I have never felt so fit, strong, and happy while working out. Carrie put it well when she said, "It's so amazing to me how profound play and the connection play creates with others can affect every single aspect of life."
I noticed a connection between Hanna Somatics and Exuberant Animal: I had to take what I've learned through Somatics and put it into play, literally and figuratively. Somatics is all about proprioception, and remembering movement patterns we'd forgotten how to do. So is play. Playing dictates that you stay present and somatically aware of what you're doing with your partner or group, with the ball or the hula hoop. You can't daydream while you're balancing on one foot, or running and tossing a medicine ball back and forth. Exuberant play is on your feet, vigorous, challenging "Somatics in action!" Enlivening, stress relieving, and energizing. They complement each other beautifully.
I couldn't help but think of how much more fun I would have had in school if gym class had been taught like this. All gym teachers, school districts, and fitness trainers could stand to benefit from what Exuberant Animal is teaching. Movement and play makes us smarter, happier, healthier, more in touch with one another and with ourselves. If you haven't read Frank's books, do so. I'm sure you'll enjoy them.