Invest Your Summer in Play and Skill Building

There’s never a better time of year to get out of your routine and enjoy your fitness.

Summer means something different to everyone. Whether you shift your hours to be more available for the kids, or it’s business as usual, there is still a different feel in the air. Grills are going, music is blasting by pools, and the weather begs you to have a swim or just change that old routine. Everywhere you look are those markers of summer that take you back to a simpler time, when summer meant roaming freely, exploring, and playing.

Why not get back to that? I suggest that you use this summer to break your routine, embrace your environment, and reconnect with that competitive spirit of play that once directed your life.

Remember when you’d play pickup basketball, then tennis, and then head to the pool all in one day? We didn’t have to be “a football player” to get together with friends for a lively game of two-hand touch. We’d head from there to our friend’s house, and weren’t afraid to learn how to play ping-pong, even if our friends were way better, at the moment. Each day, we exposed ourselves to a tapestry of new stimuli and embraced the challenges.

What happened? When did we stop exploring the world? When did we become afraid to do anything that we initially sucked at? When did we decide that the only path to health, fitness, and happiness was within the confines of a gym? With those questions in your mind, here are some thoughts to consider as you look forward to the summer.

On Vacation

I have a fairly methodical daily physical practice. I typically program workouts for myself, and include some sort of movement each day. I’m headed to Hawaii this summer, and have had no shortage of people mockingly mention that I won’t get to work out for over a week.

First, regardless of your level of obsession to your fitness, please allow yourself to enjoy vacations and not feel a compulsion to find a gym to continue your current regimen. Second, are you kidding? I’m going to hike, swim, run the hills, and jump into Hawaii with my body and soul. I’ll chase frisbees on the beach and play pool volleyball any chance I get. If there is an opportunity for this pale, freckled, Midwestern-raised kid to learn to surf, I’m taking it! Your relationship with health and fitness improves exponentially when you remember that you love to move and embrace new things.

In Your Community

You can’t help but notice that the world around you has a different energy during the summer. Lean into that energy. Does the local high school offer camps that you can help out with? Maybe playing dodgeball with some middle-schoolers is the shot of life you need. Are you a former athlete missing those summer workouts and that deep morning sweat? Immerse yourself in it! Make it a weekly ritual to run bleachers in the morning, and add a couple each week. If a local team does this, maybe you can reach out and join. They’ll be flattered and motivated by the competitive geezer pushing them.

Perhaps there is a community sand volleyball leagues. I haven’t played soccer since fifth grade, but am pumped to be playing in a weekly men’s league. I’m terrible, but who cares? Maybe you are one of those crazy Americans who reside north of the 33rd parallel. If so, I implore you, get outside! You only have like two more months of good weather! Run, bike, hit up a lake and learn to stand-up paddle board. Just go.

Invest Your Time, Don’t Just Spend It

Is there anything you always sucked at and just accepted? For me it’s swimming. I can swim well enough but tend to drink the pool when I go for a breath. Not anymore. I’ve made a plan, and my wife has made it clear to me that she’s snorkeling in Hawaii with or without me. Challenge accepted.

To really find fun in your training, add some physical skills and challenges. Learn to do a handstand or a cartwheel. Both are great challenges with huge physical benefits. The Turkish get up is considered by many to be the king of exercises, and it takes some practice. Make it a goal this summer to learn it, if you haven’t before. Maybe you want to start small. I learned to hula hoop between sets last week and now have begun the challenge of juggling.

Sure, you’ll burn calories practicing, but what’s more, you’ll add to your athleticism by creating greater physical literacy. All this will help you maintain and grow your ability to move freely and move better. This is the difference between spending your time and investing it. When you build mental and physical skills, you are investing in yourself and will get to utilize all those new skills in your future. Skills compound upon themselves and allow a world of new opportunities.

Trying these new tasks will get you out of your comfort zone even more in the future. Most importantly, whether you’re a coach or just a thoughtful person, it will enhance your sense of empathy for newbies, as you are reminded of the awkwardness of trying new things. So whether you’re just dusting off those New Year’s resolutions, or exploring a completely new set of possibilities, take a second to appreciate all the opportunity summer has to offer.