Saturday, January 29, 2011

Revelation: Exercise is good

Saturday morning, and both kids were up at 5:30AM. On the weekends we usually head out to the park right after having breakfast and getting dressed - today would be no exception, especially as the kids were already getting whiny.

So, I dragged them forcefully away from their slouchy chairs in front of their Diego DVD (Diego is the cousin of Dora the Explorer, and not only does he have equally exciting adventures, but he also insists on yelling at the screen in the manner of his well-traveled cousin and her monkey pal), piled them both in the car, and we headed to the park.

I wasn't sure how this morning was going to go, as Caden (our not-quite-2-yr-old) was already showing signs of a meltdown. Tantrum's a-comin', I thought to myself. Catagory 3. Medium intensity with sustained gustiness. I'd just have to keep a close eye on him, then call "time" when he started to get so tired he didn't know what to do with himself. 

At the park, we climbed out, and I was pleased to note that we were the first ones there. Having other kids to play with is fun, but it's also fun to have the whole place to yourself. Sevilla immediately ran over to the stairs and started climbing up to the highest levels of the play set... and Caden immediately started crying in frustration that he couldn't keep up. 

"AUUUGGHHH!" he screamed, and stamped his feet on the ground.

"Buddy! It's ok," I leaned over and grabbed him under the arm to support him as he started to throw himself in frustration on the padded floor. "C'mon, I'll help you. Let's go up." 

Together we climbed up the steps, then went down the slide. Sevilla darted here and there around the apparatus, but Caden was slower and feeling very impatient... tired kids have a short fuse, and this was definitely the case with our boy. When I refused to let him near the bigger kids' fireman's pole (and a sheer drop of over 10 feet that made my skin crawl), he again threatened a tantrum, but I managed to distract him away from it. 

On the ground again, Caden grabbed my legs, wearily. I checked my watch - only 9:09AM. I sighed. 

We had been planning on going to the toy store, but it didn't open until 10 and it was just 5 minutes away... still way too early. But, I had no idea how I was going to entertain this little guy for the next 45 minutes. 

Then, Caden pulled away, turned around, and started to run. He ran over to the wall at back of the park, about 15-20 meters from where I stood. At the wall he turned back around and looked at me mischievously. 

I narrowed my eyes and tipped my head to one side, teasingly, and we smiled at each other. Then, he began to run to me.

Caden loves to run. He's a little guy, so his spurts are short, but like most kids he takes joy in running around any open area. Caden runs with that instantly recognizable style of childhood, in uncoordinated motions with his hands flapping around at his sides, giggling and shrieking as he plods forward in random directions, with no apparent path or even purpose except to enjoy the activity.

He ran to me with a smile on his face, which grew wider as his neared. When he reached me, he opened his arms so I could catch him in a wide hug. We embraced for a quick cuddle, then he pulled back and ran back to the wall again. At the wall he stopped, turned, and ran to me again.

Over and over he ran, and over and over I caught him in my arms, then released him again. After about 6 times I started counting. He didn't stop for 17 laps.

I watched his face as he ran, feeling an increasing sense of wonder at his steady plodding. I was watching for signs of exhaustion - sometimes when Caden is tired he will begin acting randomly (like most kids) and do things like spin in circles or run into things... which might sound funny, but it's sad to watch when you realize he literally just doesn't know what to do with himself - but here, he looked... happy. He looked so happy.

When I caught him in my arms, I could feel his little heart pounding in his chest, and hear his heavy breathing, and after he stopped, he pointed toward the water fountain, then ran over in that direction.

At the water fountain I lifted him up to drink. The cold water ran down his face and soaked his shirt, but he drank deeply, stopping only to snort and snuffle as he got it in his nose. Then he'd go back to drink again.

Caden getting wet on a water break

After letting him drink for a while, I set him on the ground, where he stood for a few minutes and continued to play with the water fountain. Caden has always loved water too. I watched as he stood on his tip-toes, pushing hard against the post with one hand where you trigger the spout of water, then reaching up with the other hand to play with the water as it streamed out. The water ran down his hand and into his sleeve until the whole left side of his body was soaked. I started to stop him,then remembered I had a dry jacket in the car and thought better of it. I let him play.

Caden played for a few more minutes, then glanced at me and pointed back towards the park. "More," he said.

I tipped my head in a slight nod. "Ok," I said, and gave him a smile.

By this time Sevilla had found a friend to play with, and as the girls played tag and hide-and-go-seek, Caden continued to run from one end of the playground to the other. The three of them played like this, separately, for 15 more minutes.

I watched him, fascinated. He had such joy... but beside that, it was his stamina that astounded me. I've seen him run for certain periods of time but never like this. He had probably covered close to 1000 meters by now. I had no idea kids his size ran for this long, but wondered why not.

As I watched, also I noticed that his motions were more consistent, more smooth than they had been originally. He looked steady. He looked happy. He looked how I feel when I run.

With that, I pulled my thoughts away, realizing I was probably projecting way too much of my own feelings and experiences onto our little guy. He was just a kid running, and enjoying the endorphins, that was all.

But at the same time, it cannot be argued: the human body is designed for motion and exercise. We are supposed to walk, to run, to climb, move, dance, do whatever it takes to be active, if we are able. It makes us feel good. It makes us happier. It's good for adults, young and old, and it's good for kids too. It keeps us in balance. It helps us feel alive. It's our natural state of being.

Well-earned slumber in the car
As for Caden? He didn't have anymore tantrums, even at the toy store when I had to pry the Kit-Kat from his little hands while we were waiting in line and tell him no, we were not going to get any candy. There will be more tantrums, that's for sure, but for this morning they were displaced by something better.

Not surprisingly, when I put him in the car to go home, he was asleep before we even left the parking lot. I expect he'll sleep for some time. He's earned it.


  1. What an awesome really know how to get down to the nuts & bolts of it all...running for the pure pleasure of it! Thanks for sharing...
    P.S. I found your blog via the ultralist

  2. Thanks Georgia! Yeah, it was a good reminder that "endorphin therapy" does not just work for us adults... it gives kids that natural boost too. Makes sense!

  3. I agree with Georgia - awesome post! I also found your blog via the ultralist - is it okay to link to it on mine?

  4. Hi runsinthefamily... I feel funny not knowing your name but I don't see it on your blog! Yes, you can definitely link to it on yours, that's kind of you to ask.
    I really enjoyed reading yours also - I don't have a list here specifically for "Blogs I Read" but I think I'll start one - love to add yours to mine too. It's fun to discover new blogs, isn't it :)

  5. Hi Tiffany, thanks! I'd love to have you add mine! My name is Connie - I thought it was on there somewhere!