He felt awkward and self-conscious.
Everything in his brain was screaming at him to resist.
But he was surrounded.
He had two choices.
Join in or risk standing out.
Back in 2014, when I first started introducing the SMARTT® Methods to coaches, I was working from a CrossFit gym and experimenting with the idea of variety of movement in a warm up.
I asked the coaches of the gym if they’d mind testing some stuff out and they agreed.
Of course, I’d no idea at the time that the concept of varying movement was so far removed from what they knew, or that it would create such anxiety, so I launched straight into asking them to move in loads of unfamiliar ways…
Some of them really enjoyed it straight away, but some were really apprehensive – especially that one guy – but within a couple of minutes, the whole group (including him) were smiling and laughing.
When he came up to me afterwards and said how nervous he’d been about joining in because he was worried about looking silly – and how much he’d enjoyed it, I knew what a powerful impact PLAY has on our mental health.
And if I could share just one tip with you about how to make improvements quickly, PLAY would definitely be it!
But what does that look like when it comes to exercise?
Let’s take the simple, standard, boring warm up of jogging round the room (or down the street) for example.
A playful twist on this would be to turn the toes in and out alternately while jogging.
Then seeing if your participants can jog while doing huge circles with their arms, or waving them from side to side over their heads, or pretending they have a stone in their shoe, running over hot coals or through treacle.
The possibilities are endless – the only thing limiting how playful you can make it is your imagination!
Sure, people might feel a bit weird at the start, so start with something they’re familiar with and gently increase the playfulness (or ramping up the crazy as I call it!).
I can guarantee that within a few minutes, your group will have forgotten the worries of their day, the stresses of what’s happened or what’s waiting for them after your session.
And THAT simple ability to forget their worries for a few minutes – with a smile, is a powerful weapon in your arsenal.
But it doesn’t just help them…
After you’ve made them forget about everything outside of the session, you’ll actually help them to be MUCH more focused on the session itself – which means that YOU have their full attention.
Which, of course, increases the likelihood of a successful session – which makes them feel even better!
So you see, improving mental health doesn’t always need to be about creating safe spaces for people to talk about their problems (but of course, that’s super important), it can just as easily be about being a little bit playful – and what better way to do that than through movement?
Right now, it’s pretty safe to assume that EVERYONE has been more anxious than usual in one way or another over the last year or so, so it’s more important than ever that we begin to include this kind of thing into our sessions – not only to be more helpful to our participants, but because emotional stress is the #1 risk factor for injury.
So, give it a try!
Oh, and don’t forget to share your experiences with us over in the Injury Hackers Facebook group – your actions and stories might just inspire someone else to give it a try!