Putting Playfulness Back into Play


by Louise Wigg


Imagine how magnificent it would be if all of the messages around physical activity, eating and health read something like 'Play with Pleasure' 'Bike with Bounce', 'Walk with a Wiggle' and 'Life's a banquet – don't starve yourself' instead of 'Go Hard or Go Home', or 'No Pain, No Gain'.

The path to health and fitness doesn't have to be paved with punishment, pain and self-deprivation. It can be, and is most successful when it is filled with pleasure, silliness and play.

Have you ever watched a child play? They are so uninhibited and so imaginative. They love it when people watch them at play - the bigger the audience, the more animated they become.

When do we lose that? And isn't it a shame that we do?
I suspect it starts, when somewhere along the journey of life, we feel like we have to look like we have it all together and we are in control. Being in control is not very compatible with play and silliness.

This feeling of having to 'look good' stops us from doing so many things that we know that we would love to do and experience, if only we could risk not 'looking good'. This usually means we feel like we have to 'get it right' even on the first attempt.

When a child starts to walk, do we berate them for not getting it right the first time? No! We encourage them and love them for their attempts. Wouldn't it be lovely if we were more like that with ourselves?

I have been doing a stand up comedy course!! (What does this have to do with being physically active, I hear you ask?) Through this course I have had some spectacular training in looking silly and making a fool of myself in front of a group. As my comedy mentor, Pete Crofts says, 'The key to life is being embarrassed and enjoying it!'

The more I make a conscious effort to risk looking silly - the more fun I am having. I think a perfect example of this is Karaoke. I tried karaoke recently, and I have to say that I loved it! I was struck by something amazing - people applaud you for having a go! In fact the people who can sing are not applauded anywhere near as much as the person with the worst voice in the room who has a go and really risks something!

Through my comedy course I have realised how much fun I have missed out on through my fear of looking silly. The other funny revelation that I've had is that most of the time, when I am fearful of looking foolish - no one is watching me anyway!

So what about physical activity you might say. I believe it has a lot to do with this. The more I reflect on my own experiences and speak to people about body movement, the more I realise how much 'looking good' stops people from enjoying their bodies for all of the great things that they can do and the fun that can bring. Most of us feel like we have to do it perfectly the first time and we take it all so seriously! Try some of the following suggestions:

  • Put your favourite music on and dance while doing the housework
  • Wear a silly hat next time you walk down the street
  • Say 'hello' to everyone you walk past
  • Listen to funny tapes in your headphones as you enjoy a bike ride or a walk and laugh out loud
  • Make up silly walks
  • Try not to take it all too seriously
  • Dance like no one is watching


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