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Have Ball, Will Travel

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Last summer, I took my two girls, ages eight and ten to meet some up with one of my best gal pals and her two daughters of the same age for a quick vacation in San Diego. It was our first day together, our girls were anxious to hit the waves together and we had been in the car all day. We threw our luggage quickly into the room, changed into our suits and drove a few miles away to Mission Bay Beach.

My friend and I share a number of interests and hobbies and even though our bodies are vastly different from one another (I outweigh her by probably more than sixty pounds), we have similar attitudes toward giving time to exercise. Hers manifests itself in running upwards of twenty or so miles per week while mine usually includes setting up a circuit for myself at home and getting out for a leisurely walk. We vowed, we’d help each other get our workouts in on this vacation.

Out on the beach, the sun was setting, and I contemplated asking her if I could get in a quick walk before we headed back to the hotel. I knew she would oblige but I felt guilty about the prospect of leaving her alone with the girls who would soon be coming out of the water to ask for more snacks. Too, we were pretty settled in; each of us had a book she was into wedged up in front of our faces and we had just spent a fair amount of time covering all of our picnic items to keep from being plucked up by seagulls. Getting back into them once the girls came out asking for them, would take some work.

All of a sudden I was struck by the sight of something I guess I had never let myself see before. All along the coast line, as far as my eye could see, were people playing games, volleyball, bocce ball, hand ball, lacrosse, soccer, badminton and football. It was a full line of perpetual motion along the shore, hundreds of people prompted into action by some of the tiniest of objects. Balls were flying everywhere, through the air, along the sand, in and among the masses of people, sometimes being caught and other times missing their target, sending the players in a variety of directions like bees swarming around honey.

I have a bad habit of compartmentalizing things and attaching labels to objects where they aren’t supposed to be. The red soccer ball just a few feet away which had now caught my eye was no exception, stamped by my subconscious with the title of “practice time” for my older daughter to practice soccer (ironically packed earlier in the car next to the dumbbells and weight training book I had packed just for use by me). Here she and I were though, in the midst of all of that action, in possession of a ball and me with a desire to get in a workout.

I stood up and announced I’d like to play. Being the faithful friend she is, my friend leapt up to join me. What then ensued was one of the most memorable workouts I’ve ever had as we gradually moved from simply passing the ball to a game of keep away from her older daughter who had been sent by the other girls to see what we were up to. This then led to her daughter to asking us if she could lead us through soccer drills and improvised training circuits. We lost ourselves in play, tripping over one another and laughing hysterically as oftentimes our feet would get stuck in the sand, causing our legs to all tangle and our bodies to collide. We cheered the times the moms were able to fetch the ball from underneath her daughter’s fast little legs. We made up fake names for our circuit training moves and flaunted the fact that we could care a less if anyone was watching. Soon the sun was nearly down and the three other girls emerged, wondering what we had planned for dinner.

I find it hard to believe that my family has spent hundreds if not thousands of hours over the past five to ten years involved in some type of activity surrounding a ball and it’s taken me this long to see it, a ball as a stand-alone piece of exercise equipment. I guess during all of the youth soccer and softball games we’ve sat through I’ve never said to myself, “Wow, look at all the fuss that little round yellow object is causing” or “Look at the stir being created by that round thing covered in hexagon and pentagon-shaped stitches!” I know it’s not rocket science but sometimes in my quest to validate my workouts I tend to forget the simple things. Sometimes I don’t need those fancy dumbbells, bands, yoga mats or treadmills. Sometimes all I need is a ball.

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