Tag Archives: playground

Challenging myself at the playground

In the post about my Kinda, sorta resolutions for 2019 I said I’d like to challenge myself intellectually and physically. I’m off to a good start on both endeavors and wanted to tell you just a bit about pushing myself physically. As I said previously I think many people increasingly limit themselves as they age in no small part because they’re afraid of getting hurt, leading to a long recovery time, if they ever fully recover at all. It’s a fine line to walk; challenging yourself beyond your comfort vs over-doing it and being very sorry.

For a long time there were a couple things I’d do at playgrounds when I’d be going by but due to either injuries or having taxed myself elsewhere, I hadn’t done any of them in years. With the passing of time, I wasn’t even sure if I could do them any more.

There’s a skinny pole leading to a platform at one playground and, if no one else was there, I used to climb the pole occasionally and step over to the platform. I can’t tell you I liked it but I did think it was good for me. It was kind of a point of pride that I could do it. (I’d never once seen anyone else climb it, not even kids, although that doesn’t mean no one did.)

The first time I (re)attempted the climb in January, I found, to my surprise, I went up fairly easily. The next time I went back, for whatever reason, it seemed harder. When I went last weekend I took along a tape measure so I could tell you how high the platform is (I could only guess). It’s 6.5 feet, so not all that high. I again climbed up the pole but I can’t tell you it’s easy for me; I have to psyche myself up a little: “C’mon, you can do this.”

At other playgrounds I had a few things I did on the bars that were fun for me. In January I went to one of these playgrounds and was again happy to find that I could still do them. On this day, after climbing the pole (and getting the photo) I went to another playground that has old-fashioned equipment and a couple sets of bars both of which I like.

The thing I always loved doing on a playground with similar bars was, on a low one, grabbing it with both hands and jumping up to where my mid-section hit the bar, and then, leaning forward, flipping my feet over my head, landing on my feet facing on forward on the other side of the bar, letting go of the bar as I did so.

Let me demonstrate with the help of my able assistant, Gumby.

Another woman blogger recently wrote about attempting a chin-up or pull-up. Her post made me wonder if I could do that. It wasn’t ever a feat I was in the habit of doing – had I done one ever? – so I had no idea if I was capable. I tried one on the highest bar of the trio above and no way, no how was it happening.😐 I tried once with my hands over the bar and once with them under and it made no difference. I was able to raise myself a little but nowhere near accomplishing a chin-up. I was disappointed; on the other hand, it’s not like a skill I knew I had and lost. I’m not sure what it would take to accomplish this but I tend to think it would be by first getting stronger doing other upper body exercise. That is, I don’t think merely trying repeatedly to do a chin-up would be enough.

I went to another low bar (one I think is just a tad lower) for this other trick, namely hanging by my knees only. I grabbed hold of the bar and kind of walked up the side pole in order to get my legs over the bar. What I particularly like to do is choose a bar at a height where I can hang by my knees and place my hands on the ground so that I can, with the help of gravity, swing my legs off the bar over my head ultimately landing on my feet, or more accurately, on my feet and hands before standing up straight. I have to say there’s a moment of fear when I let go of the bar, even knowing the ground is close.

Let’s bring Gumby back for a demo.

While I was there and had the place to myself, I tried one last thing on the monkey bars (do they still call them that?) The idea is to grab them with your hands and swing across, hand over hand. Well, on this set of 8 bars, I was able to go across but I didn’t swing madly and instead took them one by one. I think it’d be easier to swing hand over hand if the bars were higher off the ground and I had the space to get a “jump” start – that’s kind of how I remember doing it when I was a kid.

Candy Cane City and The Motorcycle Guy

I wrote recently about older guys. Specifically those I encountered when I was young. I’ve thought of two more related stories.

There was a candy-cane themed playground in my town. I really liked it, both for the red and white striped décor, and the equipment (I’ve always been fussy about playground equipment, having favorites, well, heck, to this day). It was fenced in and had a sign at the entrance bearing its name. However, and this may sound funny, it attracted a “bad” crowd. Not kids, i.e., bullies and other jerk-offs. No, the crowd that hung around by this playground and in the adjacent parking lot, was an older group, comprised of Vietnam vets and bikers. They were a rough-looking group, especially to a little girl. This was their spot, but it was an oddly public location for a daytime hangout and all the more peculiar for the backdrop of the cheery playground. A patch of woods sat beyond the playground which had a reputation for giving cover for private goings-on, but I don’t recall a steady stream of these guys moving in and out of the trees. I remember them staying in the open. I’m pretty sure they were drinking, but other than that, I couldn’t really say.

These hardened fellows never specifically bothered me or my friends – to my knowledge there weren’t leers or “I’d-like-to-get-me-some-of-that” comments. I don’t remember them paying us little kids any mind at all. Still, because of the guys, there came a point when my mother forbid us to go to the playground.  I was very sorry to have it become verboten and I’d look over forlornly when we passed by it. (The irony of being banned from a place called Candy Cane City…) Eventually the playground was torn down – to encourage the “element” to move along? – and the guys stopped hanging out there.

When we were 10, my best friend got a crush. We both had crushes all the time, so this wasn’t anything unusual. However, my friend set her sights on an older guy who rode a motorcycle. He may have even had facial hair. A mustache maybe? I thought she was out of her mind. This was a man! What was she thinking? Still, she was my friend and I’d support her. I went with her when she decided to leave a note on his parked motorcycle with her name, phone number and the message “call me up.” It felt very scandalous. That phone number, mind you, was the family phone number, for the only house phone (as was true for almost everybody back then). Like me, my friend lived with her parents and a mess of brothers and sisters. This wasn’t a covert operation.

A short while passed. My friend told me someone, a stranger, had called for her. When she came to the phone he asked only, “How old are you?” “Ten,” she truthfully said. That was the end of that call. But here’s the weird part. My friend did not believe the caller was the motorcycle guy. I was sure it was. How could it not be? And wasn’t his question, no doubt spurred by the hand-writing and syntax of a fifth-grader, an obvious clue? She wasn’t convinced. To this day, I’m certain it was him. I’ve sometimes wondered what he must have thought when he got that note and realized (confirmed?) he called a little girl.