My 9yo son loves to swim. Loves all four strokes, even butterfly! And now that summer is upon us, it’s time to join the YMCA summer swim team. My 11yo daughter is all over it. Can’t wait for the practices, the meets, the whole bit. My son? So far, not convinced. Does he want to swim? Yes. Does he want to join the swim team? He’s not sure. What is the difference? 

Frank Forencich notes in his book, Exuberant Animal, that
“When we exercise, we place ourselves in the ranks of modern athletes and fitness buffs, but when we do movement, we join forces with the entire animal kingdom and participate in an activity that is as old as animal life itself. Movement is primordial. Movement is obviously essential for health, exercise is optional.”

My son loves the movement of swimming, but it seems that something is lost when that same movement is turned into exercise. When he is moving in he pool, he tells me how he feels – bouncy, light, like a fish. When he is exercising, he tells me how far he swam – 200 yards freestyle, 100 individual medley, 300 kick set. I think most people would agree that feeling like a fish is way more fun that a 300 yard kick set. Movement is mandatory.

So he can join the swim team or not. His choice. He definitely wants to move. He’s not sure if he wants to exercise. And who can blame him? He is 9 years old. I don’t have dreams of him being the next Michael Phelps. I have dreams of him enjoying being in the water, being a confident swimmer, and remembering, when he is elderly and frail, that he can be light and move like a fish.

If you don’t remember how good the movement or your sport feels; if you have forgotten the difference between feeling the air rush past you and running a 400 yard dash, I urge you to play more, exercise less.