It’s Wednesday morning as I write this. I love Wednesday, because on Wednesday I play!
Sure, I play a lot. I am a playful person, but on Wednesdays I meet with a performance coach to work on my agility and athletic skills. On Wednesday I shuffle, switch directions, skip, hop, catch and throw. I practice moving quickly. I work on rebuilding my proprioception and my trusting my vision system - both compromised by trauma. I am learning to trust that my body can move in bigger and faster ways. I am learning that it is now safe to move, to be seen, and to be heard. And it is unbelievably fun to boot!
Sometimes, when we are doing something new, we really need to contain it to make it feel doable. Even though I am playful, this is a new sort of play for me. As such, I have given myself this set time on Wednesdays to play. My coach, has given me the space and structure I need to finish building that container.
I have never played a sport that involved others or the passing, catching, and hitting of objects. Growing up I relegated playing team sports and using sports equipment to the domain of other children and teens - the kids who got picked first, second, and third in gym class. I however, got picked on and picked last. I was a bookish, artsy kid. I was not cool by my classmates’ standards. Nor did I demonstrate much skill in gym class. Some kids are born with talent that teachers love to nourish. Other kids are provided the opportunity to work on athletic skills despite not having shown an innate talent. I was neither of these kids. I fell through the phys ed cracks.
But if you are reading this, you likely know the ending to this story: I found my inner athlete as a middle-aged woman. I became curious about my body through strength training and then through strength sports. Now I am exploring activities that ask me to move around bigger spaces and to integrate equipment. I am learning to respond to others whom I am now engaging with because playing in the gym is not a solo activity for me anymore. And guess what: through practice in the form of play, I have become more athletic.
In the sort of work I do, sometimes feeling free to play is important. Also important are the restoration of interoception, exteroception, and proprioception, the rebuilding an oftentimes lost sense of trust in our sensory systems, and creating a sense of progress. I believe we can use the gym to help heal trauma and set the conditions for healing because we can use the gym to practice playing even if we never practiced playing in the gym before.