By Merisa Sherman
As I moved forward, I could feel the wind nipping at my face. My hair went flying backward and I shook my long hair from the poor braid I had made that morning. I stretched my arms long as my legs extended straight forward, providing me the balance to lean so far back that perhaps the ends of my hair were dragging in the dirt. My body was like a knife, cutting through the air as I swung forward.
Then I reached the crux of the swing and drove my entire chest forward, my arms pulling the chains toward my chest as quickly as possible. My legs tucked under my butt as fast as they could move and I felt that perhaps I would just fall forward right onto the ground as I watched the earth glide underneath me. My hamstrings quickly engaged, pulling my feet higher up so they wouldn’t drag on the ground and send me flying flat onto my face.
I hung on to those chains for dear life as once again I uncurled my body from its ball shape into the arrow. I could feel the muscles around my knee caps (those vastus muscles) engaging as my legs extended and I was reminded of all those years using Nautilus equipment in the gym. I could feel the blood pumping in my knees and kind of smiled to myself as I began to lose myself in the movement. First out, then in. Over and over again, I let my torso fall backward before bringing it forward when I got to the front, my hair flopping over my face to the point where I could no longer see anyone around me.
I was swinging. Literally. I was at the playground with some little friends of mine enjoying an afternoon on the swing set. It certainly wasn’t where I thought I would end up that day, but here I was swinging back and forth, pumping my legs as hard as I could while simultaneously hoping that the frame of the set was securely in place. And I was laughing and swinging and I could feel myself getting younger and younger as I moved back and forth. I felt like that “Friends” episode where Phoebe teaches Rachel how to run like a kid again, waving their arms about as they perform their daily jog through Central Park.
My core was engaged, my quads were working and my hamstrings were on fire. I had no idea that spending time on a swing set could burn up to 200 calories an hour. Not sure I could stay on a swing that long, but I am definitely feeling all those unused adult muscles this morning. Even my arms are a little tired from holding onto that silly chain – which I discovered are now covered in some silicone rubber to prevent your fingers from getting pinched. Whatever person discovered that was a genius!
And I made new friends. Some 4 year old came over and asked if he could push me. A two year old showed us how to swing on our tummies instead of using the seat. An older boy was instructing his sister on how not to push him crooked, using both hands equally balanced. I didn’t think it was a good idea to teach them how to play Frogger, but I did specifically heckle some kids into giving each other an under-dog. Not even sure how I remembered either of those, but there it was.
I had forgotten just how wonderful it was to sit on a swing. To just pass the time away, swinging back and forth, without a care in the world except getting lost in the movement. I felt almost at peace with everything around me. Like I was being rocked into a sense of calm and relaxation. Perhaps every spa should have a swing set, and I don’t mean one of those rocking chairs where your feet never leave the ground or a fancy swing bed. I am talking about a real swing set, with chains and a simple black rubber seat that burns your butt if it’s too hot. A swing where you practically levitate for a moment at the very top, your butt almost popping out of the seat before you tuck your legs under.
In the midst of this past weekend’s chaos, I think I found my new moment of zen. Maybe I should even time my breathing to the leg pumping and do a swinging meditation? Do they have that? Maybe chairlifts are so relaxing because they are simply big swings in the sky and we’re all just getting lulled to sleep in between runs. Or maybe it’s the pumping motion of swinging that so resembles the extension and flexion leg movements of skiing that makes these two sports so weirdly similar. No matter what, I think I’ll be adding swinging into my weekly mental health routine. See you all on the playground!