Friday, July 8, 2016

The Secret to Recess

In second grade I had a teacher who read a book to our class called The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles. Almost daily, in the middle of a sentence, the 11 o’clock bell would ring, thrusting our entire class up from our chairs as we bolted to the door. It was time for recess.

I don’t remember much from that class besides the Whangdoodles, but the activities and personalities from recess are still with me. I can hear the laughter as we raced to the swings, diving into the swirling energy of our classmates as we poured our hearts into a game of kickball or dodgeball. I can still feel my stomach rise as I launched into the air in a leap of faith from the swing set.

Last week, at the end of a long morning, I looked at the clock. With only 10 minutes until lunchtime (recess), I began to plan: throw on a pair of running shoes and run along the cliffs in La Jolla, or race to the Masters workout and flip around in the warm San Diego sunshine. Far better than wasting time in some restaurant waiting for a meal to only later regret. Under my desk, I began to stretch my calves. In that instant, I decided that the coolest thing about being an adult is planning our own recess and that our playground is: the entire world.

Why is it that so many of us use our recess to train? Why do we use our free time to move our bodies far and fast over running trails and cycling routes? Perhaps it’s because the experiences we have on our bike, grinding up a long climb and winding down a long descent, give us gifts of kinesthetic joy, discovery, and achievement — seasoned with a taste of our human potential.

Breathing deeply in training forces our bodies into a pattern of relaxation and it makes us wherever we are — kids on a playground. Psychologists have said that when people play they gain control over their world, and by manipulating their activities they can control the outcome of events.

How we play reveals the best in us — the stubborn immortality of the child inside. Playing as a triathlete is an exercise in pure possibility, of an unlimited potential to grow. There is something strikingly similar to the feeling of the starting cannon of the Ironman, and that bell we all thirsted for in second grade.

We are, through this sport, doing what we want to be doing every time that bell goes off.

Mitch Thrower is a Financier, Entrepreneur, Author and 22x Ironman Triathlete. More articles here.

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