Just Play Outside

It’s #MovementMonday! This post, part of our special series on the Coronavirus outbreak, was written by Michelle McQuiston, BGCA Director of Youth Development Editorial Projects.

It started so innocently, with a delightful-sounding daily Lunchtime Doodle with Mo Willems … and progressed … to a !!SEVEN-DAY FREE TRIAL!! of a streaming yoga service, which I’ve used zero times. And now have exactly 18 hours to figure out how to cancel before my credit card gets charged $200 for an annual subscription!

And somewhere in that blur, I sat at my desk one day, shoulders in knots, chest tight. I wanted to get up, to go outside, but I was rooted in place. There were so many options. Which one was the optimal way to spend an hour? Some yoga to begin unwinding the muscles in my neck and shoulders? Perhaps I should focus on my core instead. On the other hand, walking always helps my anxiety. But the kids would love it if I biked with them.

I finally put on my tennis shoes, and with no plan, went out in the yard where my kids and husband were already playing. I started with a good stretch, in case I decided after all to hop on my bike, take that walk or do anything rigorous. According to my chiropractor, at my age, I need to start pretty much everything with a good stretch.

In the end, I basically just played. I wandered from the front yard to the back. I helped the kids put up a tent. I raked this weird patio in the middle of our backyard next to the 1940s-ish brick barbeque. I shoveled some stuff. I helped my daughter find tools she could use to disengage the vines (and one small tree) currently flourishing in the brick and detritus of said barbeque.

We figure, if we can return it to an operational state, and Amazon ever clears its backlog of vegan marshmallows, we can make s’mores in the backyard! Nutritious? No. But SO good for the soul. (Why a global pandemic would cause a run on vegan marshmallows – it’s a puzzle I cannot solve.)

But the paralysis that had me lodged in my desk chair? That one I figured out. Five minutes after the stay-at-home orders were issued, my well-meaning family, friends, colleagues, fellow parents  started posting and sharing unending lists of free-ish activities, lessons, classes, courses, art projects, STEM experiments, workouts, meditations, chants, motivational activities, and suggestions for every sort of thing I might want to do on my own, with my kids, as some sort of technology-based equivalent for something I used to do, or maybe never tried, but now definitely should.

It’s all JUST. TOO. MUCH. And my brain reacted to the overwhelm by switching into survival mode.

I’ve spent most of my recent days rooted to my computer, because that’s the kind of work I do. Soon, my husband will start digital teaching, and I’ll have half the childcare on my plate, too. I imagine many of you are similarly throwing yourselves into the new and varied and constantly evolving tasks that allow you to continue serving young people in our alleged “new normal.”

Overheard last week, echoing the [virtual] halls of BGCA: “It turns out ALL time is out-of-school time!”

I mean, yes, it’s great that this alleged “new normal” has brought some recognition of the rigor and value of youth development work. (I’m going to keep writing “alleged ‘new normal’” until I see anything that’s arguably normal, new or otherwise.) But the work is HARD. And right now, many of you are being asked to do tons of new things professionally, while you also take on new responsibilities at home. If you’re like me, all of THAT comes before the new workouts and free DIY Ph.D. programs. And the recipes! Don’t even get me started on the recipes.

It was getting outdoors that finally allowed me to breathe when I needed it. Not going out for a structured workout. Not with a new podcast to try during my run. (Let me be clear: I do not run, have never run and don’t plan to start. I’m just trying to be inclusive here, because we’re youth development professionals and that’s what we do.) I did not go outside with a new game to help me bond with my offspring. Or with a chant to help me better embrace the over-flowing fullness of the nurture of our beautiful Mother Earth. I went out, looked around me and did … whatever. It might work for you too.

In all fairness, today’s theme is #MovementMonday, and it’s possible you really are looking for workouts and other outdoor activities. So, here are some things you can do, with kids or on your own. An esteemed colleague shared these with me, and they sound like a lot of fun. So much fun that I plan to try some of them. Next week.

  • Liven up a walk around the neighborhood with scavenger hunts – find an object that begins with each letter of alphabet, keep an eye out for new plants and flowers blooming, or count the squirrels you pass. Vary your route to keep to keep it fresh, or follow the same path every day so you can challenge yourself to faster times.
  • Build an obstacle course. The possibilities are endless.
  • Pull together whatever equipment you have at home and invent a new sport. Don’t forget to write the rules and give it a name.
  • Put your sidewalk chalk to work. In addition to hopscotch, you can draw targets to throw objects into, lines to walk on like balance beams, “lily pads” to hop betwixt like frogs.

Do some research before you head to the park or a trail. Depending on the orders issued in your state, public parks near you may be closed, and even if they’re open, there are some things to keep in mind to keep you and your family safe. Understandably, parks are attracting high volumes of folks trying to escape cabin fever, and some are simply too crowded for visitors to maintain safe social distance. Check with the experts: be sure to review the National Recreation and Park Association’s advice on physical distancing in parks and on trails. Their infographic explains what to expect and how to reduce your chance of spreading or being exposed to the virus if you do go to a park.

One last thought: We do not share equal access to the outdoors, nor equal ability to move around in it. But if you’re reading this, you have a device and an internet connection, which means you can check out some of my favorite virtual tours and hikes. Safe social distancing built in.

And most importantly, HAVE FUN!

Check back in with the ClubX Blog often for more ideas and resources on how to maintain your mental and emotional well-being during this challenging time.  Stay safe.  Wash your hands.  Take care of yourself.  We are in this together! 

Get the latest updates from BGCA at BGCA.net/Coronavirus, find programming ideas at MyFuture.net, like the BGCA Youth Development on Facebook for YD updates including video from Sarah, and join the brand new BGCA Youth Development Community also on Facebook to connect with other Club staff on programming through coronavirus.



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