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Remember When Exercise was FUN?

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Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Recently there has been a lot of nostalgia about our childhood foods particularly how companies have been using those memories to sell us those same “comfort foods” during the pandemic.

What I love most about Spark connections is realizing how different our childhoods were depending on where we lived while growing up. Yet here we are all together on the same journey, paying attention to our diet and exercise.

Regardless of our daily diet, there was no need to “track our steps” in childhood.
It wasn’t exercise. We were just having fun.

This photo wasn’t MY childhood. These are 3 of our 6 grandchildren some years ago.
They are now 23, 20 and 19.

So many Sparkers described their childhood family gardens and fruit trees, even orchards.
I saw that life only on TV. None of that was possible in our 3 room apartment in Brooklyn.
I did have a brief glimpse of it during the summer at Grandma’s house in a rural town in PA

The picture below is MY childhood. I remember a different kind of exercise “fun”
An older teenager would open the fire hydrants for us to cool off in the street.

We must have burned a lot of calories jumping around in the spray and getting out of the way of cars. Eventually the police would come and turn off the water.

Our children and grandchildren are all great swimmers because their childhoods allowed for lessons even swim teams. Not so in my childhood.

The few city pools were off limits because of the polio epidemic. By the time vaccines provided protection, I preferred to take the subway to the beach. Jumping through the waves was fun and unintended exercise, but it wasn’t possible to learn to swim in that environment.

Still, once upon a time movement was FUN. When did it change to something that is so often described as drudgery or something we hate to do? Can we recapture the spirit we once had as children?

How did you have FUN in childhood while getting your exercise?
Can you recapture any of that today?
Can we find some kind of movement that gives us joy?

As always, we learn most from each other’s comments.
There is a lot of wisdom is our shared Spark World.

Obviously, we expect age and life changes to set limits.
Unlikely former gymnasts are still taking a turn on the balance beam as senior citizens, but maybe still dancing?

Edit: In answer to OKM's question - I learned to swim at age 28 after I had 3 children.
I figured if I was MAKING them take swim lessons, I should model that behavior.
I joined a non-swimmers adult class. There were 16 of us and I was the only one who had never even tried to float or put my face in the water. Probably for the best I had no bad habits to unlearn so I did exactly as I was instructed and learned 3 strokes. (free, back and breast). Now I can swim nearly a continuous mile. At least I could pre-pandemic.
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    We made up all kinds of games, most of them including some part of exploring the woods behind our first house, or the empty lot (also wooded) behind our house. I wanted to be an archaeologist, so I did a lot of digging for, well, anything. And summers included running through the sprinklers Dad would put out for us in the yard.

    I learned to swim at our town's summer recreation program - once or twice a week they'd take us out to the Hudson River, and we had swimming lessons. Yup, the Hudson River in the mid 1960s - SO polluted! I'd develop conjunctivitis every summer, and my mother finally told me to please just swim on my back. That solved the whole problem, though I couldn't see where I was going. I finally learned to swim the crawl when I was in my 20s!!!!
    90 days ago
    You are right, this was not exercise, but just plain fun. I remember roller skating and riding my bike.
    90 days ago
    We played. Hopscotch can be a great exercise I feel cant hop any more. Thank you for bringing back my memories.
    90 days ago
  • JAMER123
    When one grows up on a family farm, the work doesn't stop. We would walk the fields in the spring to pick up rocks that would damage the farming equipment. After the bean fields were tall enough but not too tall, we walked the fields to cut out the weeds and volunteer corn. In the fall was harvest where we would go to the acre garden and harvest the produce and put it up for the winter.

    In the winter after school days, I was on the girls basketball team. We were good and went to state 12 yrs. in a row. Lots of practice, running and shooting. This is a snapshot of my fun times as I was growing up. I did have a horse I would ride when I had the time.
    90 days ago
    Great blog! Thank you for the memories! I was raise in New Your city and enjoyed all types sports, including competitive dancing. emoticon emoticon
    90 days ago
    I was born in The Bronx. My mother was fearful so my sister and I had to stay in front of our apartment building so she could watch us. Our friends joined us and we jumped rope, played ball against the stoop, hop scotch and Simon says. Our apartment was on the second floor so walking up and down those steps was more exercise. It was great times.
    90 days ago
    I remember standing in line in the gymnasium to get my Salk vaccine and being afraid as my mom wasn't there and some kids were screaming who got their shots.

    We played outside - considered it punishment to have to stay indoors. If your parents saw you then would notice you were filthy and insist you come inside to have a bath or put you to work so we drank out of the hose, ate berries and nuts that we cracked with a hammer from the garage which was always open if we were home. We rode bikes a lot. Played with the hose. Played games, like tag, softball, volleyball, badmitten, croquet, hide and seek, used the gym set. Skated. Caught lightening bugs. Played with flashlights. Played under the street light. Found soda bottles to remit for money to get penny candy at the local market. Dad would whistle for me to come home and I hated it. We did not want to quit playing ever.

    We had a speed boat and went to the lake a lot. I was on the water ski team. The swim team at the pool. Girl Scouts. I played a lot of sports and was on a lot of teams - track and field, gymnastics, softball, volleyball, girls basketball, cheer leading, bowling. Horseback riding as we had horses. We were always busy.

    I taught both of my parents to swim in adult swimming classes when I was a junior lifeguard at the city pool. They were terrible! LOL.
    90 days ago
    We did have fun. You stirred up memories of some of the things we did.
    90 days ago
    I loved your blog and the comments.It bought back some good memories. Playing in an open fire hydrant must have been pretty exciting! You're right--living was just fun when we were little. We didn't think about steps or calories, but just roamed the neighborhood, biking, skating, swimming, playing softball and hide and seek. We were just really free, and it was super fun!
    91 days ago
    LOTS of fun memories when growing up. Outdoors from morning ti supper during the summer.

    91 days ago
    I loved playing outside. We would walk over to the playground and play dodgeball, four square, and tag. I started hiking with the girl scouts in 3rd grade, and hiking remains my first love. I am glad we were taught how to swim. My sister remains a competitive masters swimmer; I enjoy paddling leisurely in warm weather.
    91 days ago
    My brother and I rode our bikes everywhere. It was a different time then. I learned to swim and tread water while we were stationed in Spain. There was a public pool within walking distance of housing. When youngest daughter took lessons at age 8, the pool would open for dependents when lessons were finished and she taught me. Many eons ago. emoticon emoticon
    91 days ago
    I agree with Watermelon! As usual, haha!
    Just today I went walking in 'our' park & swang on the swings! About 1/2 of reaching for the sky! When I was a child I would put on 'shows' for the neighborhood. I served Fizzes & cheese puffs. I mostly performed 'circus' shows. Since I stared working with our family marionette theater, when I was 6 years, this was much later. These were MY produced shows. Funny! I am still producing & performing them! emoticon The Circus theme is still my favorite! Anyone see the movie, JUMBO? Most of the music from that movie, was in our marionette theater shows.. ALL the marionettes from the first 1 in 1968 are still in my storage units, 5 hours away. They have been in hundreds of performances. Yep! I'm living a fun life, why not, it helps me to have fun, than to be grumpy! emoticon emoticon
    91 days ago
    I rode my bike after my Dad managed to acquire me one, by trading his prized shotgun, the only gun
    he had.....a lot of times I grab a book, an apple and swing up into my favorite hiding place in a tree in
    the front yard. It was so thick she couldn't find me, should she be angry and looking for me.
    I never was a swimmer, although when I spent a couple weeks with my Aunt we would go to the lake, she
    just gave me a inner tube and I played quite happily...still can only dog
    91 days ago
    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    91 days ago
    I never thought about exercise -- not at all. We were all pretty active for sure: biking, roller skating, swimming, stilt walking and pogo stick jumping and baseball. And in winter, skating, sledding, skiing.

    But there was also plenty of time to daydream, cloud watch, bird watch: do absolutely nothing. And to read read read read read.

    The pursuit of fun wasn't top of mind: just the freedom, once chores were done, to do pretty much whatever we felt like doing with almost no supervision and very few adult-organized events of any kind. Events were far more likely to be kid-organized: including lemonade stands and bake sales to raise money for Red Cross, or Christmas pageants or Olympic games.

    And, not to get TOO misty eyed: the lack of adult supervision did often entail considerable bullying and many injuries of the scabbed knee/elbow variety -- occasionally more serious than that!!
    91 days ago
    Fun times! emoticon
    91 days ago
    rode bikes hopscotch double dutch and jump rope , dodge ball , kick ball, tag , red rover wiffle ball, , touch football plus 5 brothers and sisters being the oldest i had to find. then summers one week at the beach long walks , amusement [arks, riding the waves swimming frisbee , volleyball , jarts , we rode to the park in the summer at home stayed all day swimming arts and crafts see saw swings races. srill love to be in motion Hugs
    91 days ago
    I rode bikes, jumped rope, hopscotch, splashing around in the lake, bodysurfing in Lake Michigan - still love that. We got a Sunfish when I was 12 & still have it. It's not much -exercise-, except when the wind is over 15 mph, & then mostly isometric, pulling against the main sheet. I start coughing as soon as I breathe hard, so running is something I've avoided my whole life.
    91 days ago
  • BJAEGER307
    I grew up in the city and tons of exercise back then. We rode bikes, played baseball, did hide and seek games, redrover, jumped rope, hopscotch, was out walking running, and just plain moving all the time, from early morning till dinner time. Then back out again until the street lights came home. In the summertime in my later years 12 to 16, I spent my summers at my aunt and uncle's dairy farm, helping out. There was also plenty to do, from milking cows, to tending the garden, or helping bring in the crops that were planted. We also did horseback riding, swimming, and a multitude of other fun things. Explored all the woods and built forts and such. There was never a dull moment. Then there was dinner and time to clean up for the night milking and so the days went on. Learn a lot of what it is to make a dairy farm work. Makes me really appreciative every time I go to the store and pick up milk or cheese.
    91 days ago

    Comment edited on: 5/4/2021 3:03:55 PM
    Every summer we went to the park in our small community. Every. day. I would join the park recreation softball league. I always got put out in the out field. I don't remember much more than that except I hated it. I dreaded it! I was the fat kid. And we had to go to the Park. Every. Single. Day. Ma was working.

    Today I enjoy exercise, love walking.
    91 days ago
    In my teens and twenties I did a lot of dancing to bands. What fun that exercise was! Good memories.
    91 days ago
    When I was young we had neighborhood friends. We played cops & robbers, climbed trees, had cats, dogs and a raccoon for pets. We would go out to our grandparents farm and would build tree forts that the cows would knock down. We would play in the creek, and help pick apples,peaches.pears,plums and grapes. We helped bale hay and would drag the bales in line so one of the older boys could walk on each side of the wagon and trow the bales up.
    We also picked fruit at Mr. Lippert's fruit farm which included red and black raspberries and strawberries.
    (He paid us w/coupons and at the end of the season we turned them in and that is what we used to buy clothes for school.) We were never in the house except on rainy days. We had bikes we rode everywhere and went sledding in the winter down the hill. We also had ice skates and roller skates. We were always busy doing something, weight was never an issue growing up. I guess that is why I love being outside and working in the garden, reminds me of the fun times as a kid. emoticon emoticon
    91 days ago
  • no profile photo GREYTDOLPHIN
    I lived in the City of St Louis until I was 7. I remember walking to school every day. That was my exercise, and playing with the neighbor kids. We moved to a suburb---still not too far from the actual city---but it had a crazy barricade across the street. It was a safe place to play in the street. I remember games played with the neighbor kids, dodge ball and silly games we made up. But I mainly was a reader, still have an award from the County Library for reading 200 books in the summer. At least I got exercise walking to the library..

    Enjoy your blogs. The nostalgia brings up so many long forgotten memories. Thanks.
    91 days ago
    There was no end of possibilities living on a farm; riding bareback, building a raft to navigate the springtime sloughs, swimming in the river, tobogganing in winter, even learning at age 8 to drive the tractor. Climbing up to the hayloft to find the latest batch of kittens and playing with the baby pigs. Eating fresh peas and carrots straight from the garden. The list could go on forever...
    91 days ago
    It is amazing how in our childhood we did everything! No pedometers, no tracking.

    We walked or biked to our friend's houses always playing outside with my sisters and neighborhood friends. Walking dogs, skating, scootering, chase you name it!

    Now in adulthood, we have to track and pay attention to EVERYTHING we put in our mouths.

    Working a desk job I had to on my breaks go outside and walk get my blood circulating. It also helped my mental state not listening to everybody's problem with the customers they were dealing with I had my own!

    This summer I bought a hula hoop and a jump rope. Not so good at the jump rope like I used to be (oh yeah at the bus stop as kids we did Chinese jump rope and hacky sacks). But the hula hoop I am doing great with.

    It makes me sad because we have a lot of kids in my neighborhood, but they are NEVER outside. We had video games growing up but my parents did not allow us to be "glued" to them nor the TV. I am grateful because like you said as a kid exercise was fun! We didn't know we were exercising then!

    Time for me to get my cardio always thank you for sharing in your blog!
    91 days ago
    I love swimming,I was a city girl but I swam in pools. .Though I do recognize the water hydrant scenario!
    91 days ago
    Before responding to your questions, I have always found physical movement fun. Although, I am keenly aware of many that have never found physical activity fun, even as children. So, I'm curious to see how many associate childhood fun with physical actiivty.

    How did you have FUN in childhood while getting your exercise? climbing trees, building tree forts, horseback riding, swimming in the reservoir (before it was forbidden) ... we found all manner of things to occupy our attention and imagination outside.

    Can you recapture any of that today? Unfortunately, no. Exercise tolerance was lost nearly 3 years ago due to a rare disease. Exercise (physical, mental, emotional exertion) is ill advised and detrimental to my health at this point. A very sad and painful state of affairs for someone that enjoyed physical activity so much. I've been grieving the loss.

    Can we find some kind of movement that gives us joy? My body is tolerating reading a blog and typing in response at this point!
    91 days ago
    It is so easy to forget how to have fun.

    91 days ago
    We lived in town. Lots of kids on the street. We climbed fences (against mother's wishes), biked over a mile, learned to swim early, played a lot of running games. I also did a lot of reading. The big boys climbed trees to get apricots for us. Walked lots of places. It was about 1/4 mile to 'Bill's Little Store' where we could buy candy.
    91 days ago
  • LORI-K
    I loved the pics you shared!
    I’m 53 and my entire childhood was spent outdoors, and mostly barefoot. I stayed active playing with critters, and exploring, and making things. There was fishing, gymnastics, neighborhood games, riding bikes, and swimming! I’m thankful my childhood was during simpler times before social media.
    My love of the outdoors has carried through to adulthood. I love exercise, and don’t consider it a chore or a bummer at all. Running, hiking, biking, walking, gardening. I find joy in them all. Lifting too.
    I truly feel it is a mindset. The older I get, the more I realize I need to keep moving.

    Thank you for sharing.
    91 days ago
    Well, we were poor but happy..lots of siblings, lots of neighborhood kids for outdoor games, a lake a 15 minute walk away with swimming and fishing with plenty of blueberry bushes on the way,
    We even had a huge glacial rock on our property that we all called Henley Mountain that we climbed and made up new games on, just a few shared bikes...gosh, you name it!
    My mom used to push us all out the back door after breakfast and sometimes even at lunchtime she would just hand pb&j sandwiches out the back door, using ‘the baby’s is sleeping’ or ‘the kitchen floor is wet’ excuse!
    Our water was from the hose, we peed in the woods...sort of feral children, now that I think of it.
    91 days ago
  • no profile photo CD14476702
    I remember my childhood where we ran and played and sweated yet it was all fun things, like swimming or tag or riding bicycles. Never a bad attitude about getting out and being active.. Time to return to being childlike in our activities rather than if I must I will. Great Blog!
    91 days ago
  • no profile photo CD11945874
    My brothers and I grew up exercising without realizing we were actually exercising! We knew how to put the fun into fitness! Never read an instruction book! We were just kids being kids! .. And the beauty of childhood is the spontaneity! We were like fish that took to water when our parents took us as small children to the swimming pool close to home And we learned to swim and dive. We took swim lessons when we were really little but then it was just natural. In other seasons we played outdoors until the dinner bell rang And we heard a parent calling. We had big uninhabited hills behind our house and my brothers and I and neighborhood friends chased each other up and down through those hills endlessly. We never ran out of fun things to do and had an abundance of energy! ....And either walked or rode our bikes everywhere. In those days I I would have never imagined tracking my daily foods or counting calories because our metabolism was constantly charged and we were slim kids! Would love to have eked that energy out to cover the senior years.
    91 days ago

    Comment edited on: 5/4/2021 10:24:56 AM
    Love the action pic of your grandchildren jumping into the water -- how joyful!

    91 days ago
    My childhood was busy. We had a small farm. We had two cows and chickens. There was a big garden. We each had our part to keep weeded and care for. My brother had the chicken. I had to get the eggs and check on them. Later we only had chickens. We walked a mile to school and back. To play with someone else our age we had to go to their home or they came to ours. Only one other family on the street had children our age. The snow plows would clear the road early. They were snow blowers and blew the snow off the road. There were no “snow days” when the school would close. I had a bike, outside type roller skates, and shoe type skates for the inside rink.

    91 days ago
    I love my Zumba, I remember being out all day as a child and could visit any neighbours ... we went to the beach, to the lakes, to visit relatives, bush walks... a wonderful childhood :)
    91 days ago
    I remember long summer days at the local pool and riding bikes just to ride with no where special to go. Then the roller rinks when the days were hot with no air conditioning in the house
    91 days ago
  • no profile photo CD18090386
    We walked emoticon all over the "down town" area of our small town. We lived close enough to the grammar school that we walked to and from school for the 8 years we attended. We would walk to the school in the summer, too for the town summer recreation program and to use the playground (swings, monkey bars and seesaw). Swim lessons from the Red Cross were at a lake in the next town over, but the rec bus took us. We rode bikes emoticon to places that were "too far to walk to".

    I was lucky enough to be able to own a horse from the time I was 12 until I was getting married. I rode emoticon almost daily and could be spotted just about anywhere in town. There was one trail that used to be the old railroad that could be ridden for MILES! Riding and barn chores took several hours a day, but man were those animals able to keep my deepest, darkest secrets!
    91 days ago
    My sister and I were the only girls in our neighborhood, so we learned to play football and baseball with the boys. We had the best climbing tree on tHe block and many times there would be 7 of us in that tree having a great chat.

    I remember bike riding, roller skating (the ones requiring a key), hopscotch, marbles. Lots of great memories!

    🛼 🚴🏻 🏈 ⚾️
    91 days ago
  • PHOENIX1949
    91 days ago
    So did you ever learn to swim? Maybe later in life? I know it's not as easy to learn as an adult, but it *is* possible!

    But the memory that triggered for me with this blog was something we called "poker for exercise"... we would bet things like a number of push-ups, or a run to the corner and back. Kept minds and bodies active! Of course that was in the era where we had NO television, and no A/C, and stayed outdoors under the willow tree for shade, dealing those cards.

    Ah, childhood is awesome, when lived with love, regardless of the setting. emoticon emoticon
    91 days ago
    I was a city girl with a couple of trees in our backyard. We did use the trees but the main exercise I always did and still had fun with it was walking forth and back to the city (about 5K each way). At 8 y.o. my mom used to send me to the 'city' to buy my school supplies. She used to give me money for the bus. In order to save it and have ice cream, I'd come and go on foot.
    91 days ago
    91 days ago
    I find joy in the simplest things, including exercise. I enjoyed your blog.
    91 days ago
    My Mom also grew up in Brooklyn but she is almost 90. She talks about rollerskating outside and long walks with her father.

    I grew up in the burbs and always had room to run and play. We had a lot of fun as kids because we had quite a few kids on our block!
    91 days ago
    I grew up on a farm some there were many ways to get exercise. For fun, we played baseball and basketball until it was too dark to see and rode our bikes everywhere.
    91 days ago
    Mostly biking and walking places. Mom was definely not the chauffer we see today!
    91 days ago
    We had an outdoor community pool. Every morning during summer break we went for swim lessons and then after lunch we would be back for public swimming for the rest of the afternoon. Mind you there were no parents or sitters there, just the life guards and it cost a quarter. Mom would drop us off (my friends and I) and would be back at 4 to pick us up. We road bikes all summer when we were a bit older until we were competing and it became work and no longer fun. Swimming was always fun but haven't enjoyed that in ages. emoticon
    91 days ago
    I remember playing kickball and baseball in the front yard with the neighborhood kids. Our yard was the best for it. I remember watergun wars, running around the outside of the house, hiding in the bushes and chasing each other around. Playing tag and games at night like "Ghost in the Graveyard" (one person hid while the others crept around, hunting for them, but hoping that they wouldn't find them!) The ghost would jump out at the lucky(?) person and we'd all run, screaming, for "home." If the ghost tagged someone, then they were the new ghost.

    One o'clock, the ghost ain't here... two o'clock, the ghost ain't here, three o'clock, the ghost ain't here... ... ten o'clock, he's drinkin' beer, eleven o'clock, he's ALMOST HERE... twelve o'clock MIDNIIIIIIIIIGHT!!!!! (let the hunt commence)
    91 days ago
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