Childhood games get a fitness boost
“I loved Recess,” says Fit for Life columnist Nicole Tsong. “We had a blast playing games, and the extra tasks made it feel like a really intense workout.”
Special to The Seattle Times
TO GET GOING
510 E. Pine St., Seattle
TWO GAMES into the Recess class at Rival Fitness on Capitol Hill, I looked around. We were in the middle of a heated bout of a modified version of Four Square. The class was mostly guys. They were sweating and looked intensely focused as they batted at the ball.
I, on the other hand, realized that when it comes to childhood playground games, I prefer the less rough ’n’ tumble Red Light, Green Light.
Don’t get me wrong; Recess is ridiculously fun. The Friday-night class is a return to the childhood games we loved. It’s also a great way to blow off steam while combining intense cardio and strengthening. Teacher Jim Mahan, who also owns the club, ramps up the intensity with lots of extra lunges, squats and competition.
We started with a relay that included pushing a loaded barbell across the floor, rolling a balance ball, leapfrogging, using sliders on our feet to run like a spider, squatting with a medicine ball, spinning with a Vipr (a weighted, rubber tube) and jump rope. We slapped each other’s hands to hand off the relay.
It was hard; everyone was breathing fast and sweating right away.
Mahan timed us; my team lost. Then he declared we were going to do it again, and we beat our first time. But this was just the first game.
For the second round, we went into a modified version of Four Square using two squares and a large balance ball. Each time your team lost a point, the other team could order you to do something — the list included squats, burpees, push-ups and lunges.
I’m pretty sure I liked Four Square as a kid and felt confident hitting or kicking the big balance ball back to the other team. But, of course, I was always disappointed when our team lost and had to hit the floor for push-ups or burpees.
Red Light, Green Light was next. Yes! For this version, the person calling the light stayed in a squat. The rest of us took lunges forward when his or her back was turned. If we were caught moving when the leader spun around and called “red light,” we were sent back to the beginning.
I was eager to be the person calling the lights. But by the time I made it there, my legs were burning from freezing and holding lunges. They burned more from holding a squat and trying to trick the people behind me. Just when I thought my shaking legs could do no more, Mahan had us change from lunges to squats while holding a ball overhead. Green light! Green light!
Our final game was Dodgeball, using really soft balls. My brain still refused to compute that I wouldn’t get hurt if I got pelted. Ryan, a staff member on my team, advised us to let the other team throw first, then all of us throw at the same time. That strategy soon went out the window, and balls were flying in all directions. I forgot the hardest part of Dodgeball was not getting hit while trying to pick up a ball. Once out, there was no break; you had to cross the monkey bars.
Some people took Dodgeball more seriously than I did; I could live without Dodgeball in my life.
Still, I loved Recess. We had a blast playing games, and the extra tasks made it a really intense workout. It was fun to get to know people in class, too. Go to Recess and return to your childhood, the adult way.
Nicole Tsong teaches yoga at studios around Seattle. Check out her blog at papercraneyoga.com. Benjamin Benschneider is a Pacific NW magazine staff photographer.