5 fun, fringe-ish physical activities for all

winter beach walkThis post is inspired by two things. First is the fact that my Fitbit tells me I hardly moved for three days last week (it was freezing!). The second is the number of conversations I’m having with friends all round Australia about how cold/wet/windy the weather is. Yes, Winter has really hit us harder this year.

Exercise is an important aspect of a fun and healthy life, though some of us are challenged at the best of times in this area. Poor weather is all we need to shut ourselves inside with a nice cup of coffee or hot chocolate, a rug or fireplace or heater, and some form of passive entertainment.

An alternative to hitting the gym or the pavement for a walk or run (though both have their place) is to come up with some incidental activities to get you moving. The five that follow have the benefit of being social (you do them with others), cheap and potential good conversation/posting material. They’ll also build great memories, as well as possibly stretching you a little! Ready?

1. Go jump in the puddles!

We’ve got a bit soft in the last few decades – a little shower and we lock eveyone inside. When I was growing up, we played sport in the rain most of Winter. Given I was in Melbourne, it was either that or not play at all, I suppose. Now, even a bit of bad weather overnight seems to be enough to get sports games cancelled. Perhaps that’s just Brisbane? Anyway, the point is I used to quite like walking in the rain and kicking the water up and I think it’s an idea worth re-considering.

So, now it’s rainy, go jump in some puddles. Take your kids or your friends with you. There’s something very tactile about it that’s quite satisfying. We moved to Brisbane in the middle of a drought when the kids were little. For three years my children hardly saw rain. So one afternoon when the rains had come we put on our gumboots and went outside. They loved it! We stood in the gutter and let the water rush over our feet, jumped and made splashes, danced and sang. We even poked our tongues out and tasted it, just cos we could.

If that’s too extreme, a milder version might be to have twig races. Find some moving water. Then, each of you get to select your own ‘boat’ and race them to a pre-determined finish line. It really doesn’t matter if the water’s flowing fast or quite slowly, there’s sure to be random surprises on the way. Especially fun when a non-competitive child beats a more competitive player!

2. Take your dog for a walk on the beach.

Many beaches ban dogs from being on them in Summer, so this is a good chance to treat your dog to something he’ll probably love, and put you outside in a beautiful environment. If you have kids, take them too. Let them loose to run along the sand without worrying about everyone else’s eyes! Take a ball and kick or throw it.

Yes it’ll be cold and you’ll have to rug up. It might even ruin your hairstyle. Yes, probably everyone but you will end up wet. Take along changes of clothes and a few big towels and don’t stay too long. I guarantee faces will be smiling and toes will be tingling when you get back in the car.

3. Round up the other parents to give your kids a practice game in their current sport

I know, you could dash off to do your shopping or sit in your car and work or, heck, even just chat with other parents. But why not, just once, volunteer to the coach to organise to play a quick game against your kids during their netball/footy/soccer training? Not to thrash them, but for fun. It might bring back old memories or give you a new appreciation for their skill level.

It will certainly give your kids a buzz. Believe me, I used to organise this when I coached netball and it was the favourite practice session of the whole season! Work out in advance if your son/daughter wants to play against you or not, and temper your competitiveness. This is about fun, not victory!

4. Play a game of frisbee golf

Even if you don’t have one, a frisbee will only set you back a few dollars, so during a break in the weather round up your family or friends and head for a park of at least a medium size. There, challenge everyone to a round of frisbee golf.

Don’t remember how to play? It’s easy. You and the other competitors take it in turns to identify the next ‘hole’ (target) whether it be a tree, seat, post or something else stationary. Then you take it in turns to see how many throws it takes for you to hit the target. Count those up and write the score down. A game can be over after nine or 18 holes. Winner is the player who’s taken the least amount of throws.

This is fun because the nature of frisbees evens out some of the skill levels; after all, how can you tell a frisbee to land just there? It can also be adjusted for degrees of difficulty (branch of a tree, anyone?) and age.

5. Build your own obstacle course and race it

If the thought of engaging in a little silliness in public has been too much, this last activity can also be done in your house as well as just about anywhere else. I’ve even been known to do it in an office once! You and your co-competitors simply create a suitable obstacle course using whatever resources are available, agree on the rules and then say go! Or you can time each other with a stopwatch or your phone’s device. Adjustments can be made to allow for handicaps if necessary. The point is to make something high, something low, something squishy etc, or something with a spin, something with a jump and something with a roll etc.

Physical activity reminds us that we’re alive (even if not as fit as we used to be!). Going outside, even briefly, stimulates our senses. And hanging out with people doing something a bit different to what we’re used to builds stronger connections between us. These all contibute to us feeling happier and healthier. So beat off those Winter blues and try some of these alternative but fun, fringe-ish physical activities soon!