Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Power of Playing (and "CAN")

My 5 year old nephew asked his 3 year old cousin if she wanted to know the three most important parts to staying healthy. "No." she responded. She's 3. But my nephew proceeded to tell her anyway. "First, you have to make sure you get enough sleep. Second, you have to eat healthy foods like vegetables. And third, you have to exercise, which is just another word for "playing"." My nephew, at 5 years old, is very, very wise.

I have been "playing" my entire life. I am fortunate to have been raised in a household where sports, exercise, and health were high priority. "Playing" meant running one-mile fun runs at age 5, hiking the Grand Canyon at age eleven, camping, rockclimbing (which involved NO ropes, by the way), body surfing, name it! Vacations, in my family, involved road trips to places where we could hike, climb, jump, swim, run, and test ourselves out in the wild. My father, the ultimate guide in survival, would lead us up cliffs, through narrow caves, down rushing white water, and back to camp without a scratch or broken bone on us. Yes, my parents are the kind of people who work hard, play hard, and enjoy life's adventures!

And me? I am one who gets bored very easily with a world that isn't challenging or CHANGING on a daily basis. It must have been why I was drawn to gymnastics at such a young age--a sport that involves everything BUT the mundane. And so I flipped, jumped, turned upside-down, walked on my hands, swung on bars, tumbled on a 4 inch beam, and catapulted myself off equipment twice my size. The ultimate form of has become my career as well. Twenty years later, I am coaching the sport and running a gym. And my "play " has since included a large array of colorful athletic endeavors...rowing, triathlon, trail running, surfing, fastpacking and ultrarunning.

I consider myself very , VERY fortunate to have a life that involves, well...ALL play. While so many adults my age are working jobs at desks that involve hours upon hours of communicating with a computer screen or phone, barely able to squeeze in an hour to head to the gym and jump on a treadmill and then head home with some takeout or fast food and sit in front of a TV to zone out a little more before catching a few minutes of sleep and starting all over again the next day, I get to play ALL day. I get to train and take care of my body with lots of different types of exercise and good, nutritious food, I get to sleep a full 8 hours every night, and I get to go to my gym and teach kids how to play hard too. Yes, I am very lucky.

But here's the thing...I have met a lot of people along the way who have diligently created, for themselves, a piece of what I have been given. Whether big or small, this piece, they know, is the secret to youth, and health, and happiness. These are the people who work HARD to balance their lives between work, family, responsibilities, AND their play time, their health, their fitness. These are the people I truly admire. The people who can BALANCE. These people are some of the happiest people on earth and I like to surround myself with these amazing people, because I learn a lot. And what I've learned most? The world "CAN" is their favorite word. It's mine too. But I'm a little different because "CAN" was a word I've always known and believed. Most people don't know about "CAN". They can't imagine even fitting "CAN" into their busy lives. Or, they're afraid of "CAN". And the truth is, "I CAN'T" is so much easier. Especially when you're too busy, or too tired, or too fearful.

So, with my first, official blog post, I want to get on my soapbox and challenge you to take a look around at the people you know. The people you love, the people you work with, the people you see out there and wonder "what makes them so happy?" Ask them. I'll bet those are the "CAN" people who have found the secret of BALANCE. And then ask yourself, can you carve out a little piece of that?


  1. Dang girl! I am so inspired. You've motivated me to realize my dream of no longer coaching Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3PM to 4PM. Now I CAN play. Thank You.

  2. Oh Jaime.... I'm so glad you realized that I'm not advocating that people should quit their jobs in order to find playtime!

  3. I sit in an office full of CAN'T people. I have just returned to my old office (I was at another office for two years) the first thing the people asked me when I got back was - Are you going to bring back Friday afternoon soccer? The answer is YES, there is also lunch time handball. :)

    My question to them is 'Why couldn't you do this yourself, why do you need me?'

    Why are people so afraid of doing fun stuff, yes you are at work but you do get time for lunch, why not make it fun.

  4. Exactly Marnie! I think there are a lot of different types of fear that motivate or un-motivate people to stay in the CAN'T mode. I think the biggest fear, in most cases, is fear of change. When I ask people why they don't just DO IT...this, along with fear of failure, is the most common answer. People get in a routine, a rut..yes, but the routine just completely immobilizes. I think it's great you are the one your office colleagues go to for inspiration...though you're right, it's sad that they can't inspire themselves. I think my next post topic might need to address FEAR.

  5. Erica, this is awesome and so inspiring! I have a challenge in front of me, and I CAN do it and I will make the choices to "play" more and be more in "balance"
    THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!! :) I'm so proud of you, and I will totally be following you on this one, and yes, I will share my adventures too!!! Love ya cousin!!!

  6. KATH!!!! I'm SO excited you're following me! And yes, I can't WAIT to hear about your CAN adventures! You're AWESOME!