Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Single Best Exercise

Gretchen Reynolds recently posed the question, "What's the Single Best Exercise?" (New York Times, April 17, 2011). The article pieced together the expertise of many offering their opinion. The butterfly swim was suggested as were some old-fashioned calisthenics. Interval run/walking was proposed along with the squat life. All things considered, the author concluded that running up the stairs may just be the single best exercise.

My wife, two boys ages 4 and 6, and I packed up our vehicle and traveled to Family Camp 2011. This was our third Family Camp, the first without diapers. We braved the rain and joined a group of ten other families at Camp Thompson for a weekend of adventure.

Family Camp started off with a fun-filled game of adults versus kids dodgeball. The large field in front of Masland Hall set the stage for a showdown of this classic game among families. In the background, more families arrived and were checked into their cabins by Y staff. As one game finished and a new one started, two families introduced themselves, noting that they remembered meeting last year at Family Camp and recognizing how big the kids have grown since then. Off to the side, children who tired of dodgeball made their way over to the trampoline surrounded by parents with flashing cameras. The day unfolded with canoeing, archery, and lawn games.

Employed at the Y, I workout a few days a week. (I would not boast this as my motivated self will, but rather a complete lack of any excuse not to workout as I'm surrounded by opportunities for exercise). I've ran multiple distance races and even attempted a full marathon as well as a sprint triathlon). Overall, I'd consider myself in reasonable shape for my age (my age begins to show simply by using that phrase).

Even so, I was tiring at Family Camp. After dinner on Saturday, my friend and I braved the harsh elements (light drizzle), using our outdoor living skills to masterfully build (lighter and fire starter sticks) a campfire. Our village of cabins enjoyed Smores while the children played, explored, and imagined.

Our children are active. They play outside often, participate in community sports, and battle back the tired with everything that they have. My wife is high energy as well, working out often at the gym or with Billy Banks in the living room. I'd suggest that our family lives an active, healthy lifestyle.

Even so, we were tiring at Family Camp. On Sunday, we woke to homemade breakfast, crafts, lawn games, the Alpine Tower, and free choice. We chose to head out for a hike with our friends. The six adults and seven kids headed for the steep assent to Pole Steeple. It's about a mile up to the lookout. We decided to take a less steep route back down that was suggested by a friend who will remain nameless. The alternate route extended our mile decent three-fold. After a two-and-a-half-hour hike (which only by Divine Intervention included almost no whining and all children walking the entire way on their own), we returned to camp for lunch. Family Camp came to a close with children playing, the sun overpowering the rain, and friends new and old packing up their vehicles.

Both of our sons were asleep before we made it to the main road to return home. They slept as we unpacked the car. The older son slept for 2 hours immediately after school on Monday, passing up his snack and playtime. My legs were sore and my wife and I both fell asleep on the couch Sunday night and again on Monday night (my wife might argue that this is a regular occurrence for me, but I continue to contend it's due to physical exertion).

What's the single best exercise? Running up the stairs carries weight of a fine physical activity. However, I'd argue that for the best exercise that is relational, spiritual, physical, and emotional, pack up your vehicle and travel to a camp. Do it with others you know or meet others along the way. Exercise your mind, heart, body, and spirit while appreciating the beauty of Creation. Nature provides a better holistic exercise than any machine or routine can offer.