Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
8 Aug

15 Concrete Ways to Play


Picture yourself around 2:30 on a work day. The mid-afternoon lull settles in – the time when you reach for a cup of coffee, a distracting snack, Facebook updates, or the time you tend to get up and simply wander the halls as long as you think you can get away with it. Maybe you’re bored with what you’re doing. Maybe you’re feeling tired, frustrated, crabby, or just confined. You look out the window (if you’re fortunate enough to have one) and mentally wander into the land of 10,000 things you could be doing right now instead of work. Myriads of enjoyable and inspiring ideas lead you down tempting mental paths of play all in wondrous childhood proportion. Eventually, you come back to reality but vow to make your weeknight/weekend/coming vacation all about the visions you’ve just had. Problem is, when the time comes, it’s hard to recall the ideas let alone the enthusiasm.

Enter simple strategy… When the kids were little, we kept an idea jar – just some old container where we put slips of paper with good ideas – the ideas we knew we wanted to do with the kids but knew we would never remember in the usual haze of regular parenting days. How about we call this the beginnings of a Primal play receptacle? Be kind and add to it! (Hat tip to W.J. Purifoy for the inspiration for this post. Not knowing how to play is, unfortunately, a very common problem among us adult types!)

1. Create – and enjoy – a human agility course in your backyard.

Why should dogs have all the fun? “Collect” natural materials (e.g. boulders, logs) from gracious friends or neighbors (no late night yard robbing, please) as well as ropes, pulleys, tires, and whatever else suits your fancy.

2. Find mud.

There is no limit to what you can do with and in mud. The only rule is you must be dirty enough to make Mr. Clean cry.

3. Create music – your own – preferably with others.

Your guitar is sick of sitting in the case. The piano is dying a slow death of abandonment. Even your kids’ old recorders, harmonicas, and bongos are begging to be of use again. Round up the kids – even if they’re sullen teenagers at this point. Call the neighbors or your brother. March down the street with the little ones, or sign up for an open mic night. If you can’t play anything, sing or dance. Doesn’t matter. The idea is participation in something live and living.

4. Do a moonlight hike.

Why do we feel the need to flee indoors the minute the sun sets? Some of the best times I’ve spent outdoors have been at night. There’s something about night hikes (and night trail runs) that just leaves me energized. Call it the right blend of quiet and vigilance. A lot of local parks and outdoor clubs organize full moon hikes – especially in the summer. (Look for full moon snowshoeing come winter.)

5. Spend an entire afternoon in water.

Not an hour – an afternoon. Give your mind time to relax. Give your imagination time to reclaim its wild, Primal, kid depth and dimension. Swim, splash, float, explore, fish, chase, wade, paddle, revel. Be amphibious. I promise it’s fun.

6. Scout every park and preserve in your area for good tree climbing.

What are you favorite trees to climb? Can you answer this question? If not, consider it an invitation to get out more. Pick up an area map of nearby parks and preserves. Establish a weekly outing for just this purpose (with a Primal picnic afterward if you need extra incentive), and make the rounds.

7. Sign up for an art or craft class.

This could mean everything from pottery to carpentry. There’s just something therapeutic about absorbing yourself in an art or craft. One dear friend got through the first year after her husband’s death by learning to wood carve and chair weave.

8. Buy a bag of army men at the dollar store and place them in strategic spots throughout your work place (or roommate’s room).

Because why not.

9. Spend a day working with rocks and sand.

Make a labyrinth, a human-sized Zen garden or just funky rock configurations in your yard. Get a special delivery of from your favorite landscaping supply company, and go to town. Can you imagine a better Primal workout?

10. Go rock hunting.

I’m not suggesting pillaging fragile ecosystems. Follow laws and logic. Beyond that, consider it more cool stuff for your Zen garden!

11. Create your own Amazing Race style competition.

Do you have an adventurous group of friends and acquaintances? (If not, make a Meetup!) Whether you make it an urban challenge or a foray into the wilds of a larger park or preserve, you gotta love the head rush of a good competition.

12. Spend the day with a shelter pet.

Some shelters allow people to volunteer as dog walkers. See if they’ll let you relax the rules and take the dog for a whole afternoon. Go to the beach, the local trails, your cousin’s farm – wherever fun and adventure can be had. You’ll benefit from the good you’re doing, and at the end of the day it will be a toss up who showed whom the better time.

13. Revisit Primal WOW workouts.

Primal Skirmish” or “Brave the Weather” anyone? Think fractal, intense, messy, taxing, exhilarating, and sometimes a wee bit competitive.

14. Perform stupid human tricks, deranged relay races, or mad feats of strength.

I’m sure everyone here could come up with enough ideas to stock a book in and of itself. Hmm…maybe something to that. Think farcical sprints like pushing a wheeled office chair down the street back and forth as fast as you can. If you can get friends who are up for a race (with riders in said seats – helmets, please), it would be so much better. See how high in trees or over roofs you can throw old shoes. Hurl tires in the yard (be sure to grunt). You get the idea. Nothing like keeping the neighbors guessing…

15. Take your kids – or friend’s/family member’s kids – on a nature day or (if you’re brave) a camping trip.

See a trail or open field through young eyes again. Sticks will quickly become swords. Mossy logs will turn into fairy houses. Streams and ponds will be inevitable afternoon detours. Many things will be “gross,” but just about everything will be endlessly fascinating. Trust me – you’ll all sleep well when the day is done.

Favorites – and additions to the list? How are you getting out and playing in new ways since going Primal (or going deeper)? Thanks for reading, everyone. Have a great end to the week.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. -Commit to keeping up with a 5 year old boy, doing everything he does/wants to do…for an hour.

    MattyT wrote on August 8th, 2013
    • Best workout idea yet, literally mimick every movement. Spin, laugh, fall, and jump. Keep up and you will be destroyed! Maybe il start a new bootcamp business led by 5 year olds! Possible future Olympic event even?

      Luke wrote on August 8th, 2013
    • Hecks yes! I tried this a couple months back…good night. What exhausting fun. It makes me kind of sad now to see parents lounging while kids play. (Famous last words, I know…)

      SayMoi wrote on August 8th, 2013
    • Just before I learned about PB, I watched a family in the park. The kids would try a handstand, then mom and dad would try a handstand. Dad was pretty good! Then they’d collapse in a big laughing ball before starting all over again. I thought it was beautiful…and now I know why!

      Shannon wrote on August 8th, 2013
  2. I love MDA but I’m just not feeling the topics lately. Perhaps Mark could sit down at the keyboard and bang out some less professional but more shoot-from-the-hip Markisms :)

    Groktimus Primal wrote on August 8th, 2013
    • I know what you mean about a few recent posts. Although after a while, it seems not repeating yourself would become difficult.

      Amy wrote on August 8th, 2013
      • Yeah, like a thousand posts!

        Animanarchy wrote on September 5th, 2013
    • I, for one, have become a boring adult and am struggling with play, so I am glad Mark has been consistently reminding me to make it a priority.

      FoCo wrote on August 9th, 2013
  3. I love this one “Sign up for an art or craft class.” over the winter i needed some art for my new apt- which was becoming stressful to look for- so my boyfriend and i just bought some canvasses and a bunch of paints and got to work :) it took all the stress out of finding artwork, we had a blast, and the stuff we made is now some of my favorite.

    Charlotte wrote on August 8th, 2013
  4. So true, our culture has forgotten how to play in a healthy and joyful way. To paraphrase Mike Dooley the motivational speaker, we are engineered to be the otters of the universe and we need to embrace that role.

    George wrote on August 8th, 2013
  5. I think joining a co-ed sport of aome kind is a good way to play

    Maria wrote on August 8th, 2013
    • +1! I play both coed volleyball and softball, and on all women’s teams as well. Nothing like some organized sports to get you moving and to get you in a fun social circle as well. Plus, for my more competitive leagues, it’s extra motivation to stay healthy and strong so we don’t lose!

      Stacie wrote on August 8th, 2013
    • some*

      Maria wrote on August 8th, 2013
    • coed sports are not nearly as fun for the guys……

      jake wrote on August 8th, 2013
      • Coed bball is pretty fun. It changes the strategy of the game. Plus it’s a great way to socialize… not everything is primarily about winning

        Tao wrote on August 9th, 2013
  6. These are all great suggestions. My wife may hate me but making an agility course out of the back yard sounds grand. Ninja warrior here I come…well not that intense i guess.

    Tom T. wrote on August 8th, 2013
    • The other day I climbed a tree to access the underside of a bridge (which is graffiti-designated a ” /\/ / /\/ G /-\ chill spot” and tied up a 2 1/2 foot or so stuffed ninja turtle, to the backdrop of a silver marijuana leaf painting I did before.

      Animanarchy wrote on September 5th, 2013
  7. A moonlight hike…sign me up. I do sit in my back yard a lot and watch the Milky Way and dream.

    Nocona wrote on August 8th, 2013
    • Moonlight bike rides are amazing! There are all sorts of animal noises all around, and your imagination goes wild. The bike also feels insanely fast.

      David B wrote on August 8th, 2013
  8. I swear, I have all these play priorities. I thought I would age out the “see a jungle gym and go hang upside down or do back-hip-circles and penny-drops” urges. I do cartwheels and round-offs regularly and fool around whenever possible. Message to my peers: seriously, when it comes to play, grow-DOWN…

    Paula wrote on August 8th, 2013
  9. To expand on #15… I went with my neighbor’s young children on a nature walk and we collected small leaves and other fascinating stuff. Then each made their own “nature window” – I took clear contact paper, about 2′ long piece, had them put some of the small things they had collected on the lower half, then folded the top half of the contact paper over it to seal it. Punched a hole in the top, added a string hanger and they hung it up in their room. Especially nice to hang from a suction cup hanger attached to a window and look through it to the great outdoors. Even if you’re in the city, you will still see a bit of nature looking through the window and recall the fun you had collecting things. Note, we found fallen leaves, flower petals, etc that did not destroy the environment!

    Laurie wrote on August 8th, 2013
  10. My favorites are “find mud,” “create music,” and “scout for climbing trees.” But the shelter pet and army man ideas are great too (: I find concrete suggestions like this really helpful.

    Alyssa wrote on August 8th, 2013
  11. I am fortunate to live right by the beautiful mountains of Northern Utah. Unfortunately, I don’t take advantage enough of the hiking.

    Braden Talbot wrote on August 8th, 2013
  12. A bottle of vodka and a Twister mat? Not for the kids, of course!

    Wenchypoo wrote on August 8th, 2013
    • By yourself???

      Nocona wrote on August 8th, 2013
  13. Music is already a way of life and very cathartic. As a child, I spent many happy hours climbing trees with my sister. You’ve given me the idea to make a Zen garden. Maybe a tabletop size at first.

    gibson wrote on August 8th, 2013
  14. Love #8!

    Siobhan wrote on August 8th, 2013
    • Me too! I’m going to do this for sure. That’s actually a great idea :)

      Andy wrote on August 9th, 2013
  15. I’ll definitely have to take advantage of the moonlight activities since winter is fast approaching…I’m thinking some evening snowshoe hikes and evening cross country skiing! Pretty soon we’ll be getting dark early (in Alaska!) so I’ll have ample opportunities. Plus, it’s SO important for me to get out in the winter so I don’t get depressed (from lack of sunlight).

    I like these “play” posts. I’ve made a habit of doing little acts of play wherever I can, like balancing on raised curbs, doing cartwheels when I run to outfield in softball (it’s a team thing), or keeping up with my 8 year old cousin. Play is good for the soul.

    Stacie wrote on August 8th, 2013
  16. “Because why not” is the perfect answer for all of these!

    BonzoGal wrote on August 8th, 2013
  17. Have a friendly competition with friends – see who can deadlift (or pick up) the heaviest objects!!!!

    But make sure you don’t hurt your back! (hint: use your abs

    Mark P wrote on August 8th, 2013
  18. 2 words (1 word, actually): Geocaching.

    All you need is a GPS, otherwise it costs nothing. (You can buy all kinds of toys/gadgets/doodads if you want.) It’s sure motivated me to go do something, especially when I find myself in a place I’ve never been before.

    I’ve been absolutely surprised at the places it’s taken me.

    And it’s totally family-friendly!

    Tom wrote on August 8th, 2013
    • No GPS needed if you have a smartphone! C:Geo is free, or the official app is $9.95 and well worth it! Been a ‘cacher for years. It has taken me on the most exciting outdoor, off-the-beaten-path adventures you can imagine!!! And kids LOVE it!!! It’s a treasure hunt, too!

      Lora wrote on August 8th, 2013
      • Thanks for the tips, Tom and Lora. This will certainly spice up my next hiking destination.

        I also found that there are some nice pre-made hiking trips you can download from websites to your smartphone or GPS device. What’s best about this for me is that I can go on alternate routes as opposed to the few standard ones available only from sign-postings.

        Let the hiking begin!

        Stefan wrote on August 9th, 2013
    • It’s a cool idea. But I found myself so frustrated in finding the actual caches. (Yes, I know, it’s supposed to be the fun part.) I enjoy the navigation to places. We like easy orienteering as a family. But find those needles in haystack, not so much.

      Amy wrote on August 8th, 2013
    • Thanks for this! Someone mentioned it to me once but I forgot all about it. Soon as I fight this cold off I’m going to find some caches! Lol

      Brianne wrote on August 9th, 2013
  19. Go to for great craft ideas!
    You will be so boggled by the choices of cool things to make!
    I was!

    Hilda wrote on August 8th, 2013
  20. Here’s a suggestion for music that I have used throughout my life: look for open musical groups you can join, such as church handbell choirs or singing choirs or other ensembles, something called “shape notes”, open old-time, blue-grass or Irish jam sessions in parks or pubs, dulcimer or fiddle circles, adult education music classes or orchestras. And barring all that, you could busk or just play in the park or out somewhere in nature by yourself.

    Diane wrote on August 8th, 2013
  21. Slackline! I love setting mine up in a neighborhood park where I can talk with lots of people and invite them to try something new. It’s equal parts social and playful.

    SayMoi wrote on August 8th, 2013
    • this. set it up somewhere public and you will have people flock to you. people love the slackline

      jake wrote on August 8th, 2013
  22. I love just doing random movements. Hiking is fantastic fun for me. Every time I get a chance to jump or climb up on a boulder or jump from rock to rock trying not to touch the ground I get a great feeling of…well I am not really sure how to describe the feeling, in tune, in touch, able, an understanding of a simpler time, something like that I guess. Always in my vibrams too!

    Also, anytime I am hanging out around a park or beach, I can’t resist trying to do my best handstand ever, or my best cartwheel or one handed cartwheel. And I tell you what, once I start doing those things, everyone else joins in. Great fun!

    I have to climb more trees!!

    Andy wrote on August 8th, 2013
  23. Answer to #6 In Texas – Oak, In Tropics – Ausubo! I looooove climbing trees!

    Christin wrote on August 8th, 2013
  24. Hello fellow Grokers,
    Would somebody/anybody be willing to provide me with example Primal HIIT workouts? This is the only thing I don’t know how to do and incorporate into my weekly workouts. I want Primal HIIT workouts. Obviously, I can google HIIT workouts but I want to make sure they are “primal certified!” I have tried asking Mark and Vanessa to no avail. I will pay somebody if they can provide me with these type of workouts. Thank you! I hope to hear from someone. Keeping my fingers crossed.

    Brian Smith wrote on August 8th, 2013
    • There is a great book out called Paleo Fitness by Jason Warner that shows you all kinds of primal exercises. He has a schedule of workouts you can go from that included Tabata (which is HIIT) workouts. I’ve been doing this for a couple weeks, always outdoors, and absolutely love it. Maybe this would fit into what you’re looking for.

      Casey wrote on August 8th, 2013
  25. Mark
    Your blog is always an inspiration. I am a rice eater and it does pain me to not be able to eat rice and that too white rice ( southern part of india….our genes just crave rice ) but I suppose starting by decreasing quantities would not break my heart so much
    I was wondering if tabata sprints can be done with a jump rope session. And maybe some pushups could be thrown in in the 10 sec rest period.
    Thankyou for helping people in big and small ways

    shilpa wrote on August 8th, 2013
  26. Being a stay-at-home mom of two, I play everyday (whether I want to or not). My three year old likes to order me around. “Mommy slide!” “Mommy climb!” “Mommy swing!” It’s hard to tell her no when she cheers me on. “Good job, Mommy!” Ha, I think I play harder at the playground than she does some days!

    Casey wrote on August 8th, 2013
    • Cutest thing ever!

      Brianne wrote on August 9th, 2013
  27. Make a couple good hula hoops

    Decorate them with sparkly tap found at any decent crafts store. i hoop with my daughter to good music outside.

    Great fun and good exercise!

    Mojowrkn wrote on August 8th, 2013
    • YES!!! Hoop dance is my obsession. Never-ending fun! Even better if you can find a local Hoop Jam.

      Paleo-curious wrote on August 9th, 2013
  28. Climb a tree and hide army guys around the office!! Man, these made me smile! I forget how awesome climbing trees can be. You can put a whole workout together with simply a tree!! Great stuff Mark.

    P.S I saw a guy rockin one of your black and red primal man shirts in Yorktown, Virginia!! I wanted to run out and get a pic but I missed the opportunity.

    William wrote on August 8th, 2013
  29. You forgot the best type of play…”FOREplay”! An afternoon of fun sexual activity between consenting adults is a very good way to release all sorts of feel good chemicals, burn calories, and relieve stress :-)

    Smileyprimal wrote on August 8th, 2013
    • *grin* Unfortunately, this one requires an available partner and none of the natural results of all that activity. Hubby and I “play” *ahem* this way, but a whole afternoon was only possible Before Kids (BK).

      Amy wrote on August 8th, 2013
  30. Nothing says “enthusiasm” like a terrier on a mouse-hunt. Even if your pampered pet has never hunted, find an old shed full of junk and start hunting. Lift, dig, chase, share the intensity and the triumph of a succesful catch. Return filthy and boasting of your prowess as a succesful hunting pack….

    Peter W. wrote on August 8th, 2013
  31. making midnight music in the moonlight mighty nice

    Weedon wrote on August 8th, 2013
  32. When I take my 8 year old for a nature walk/ hike he is like a mountain goat hopping and climbing all over the place and doing what comes instinctively. I make a point of jumping every rock and climbing every branch or slope or following every meandering path he wants to follow. It’s a great work out, encourages him and strengthens our relationship by letting him know that his choices are important to me.

    Kikiperpie wrote on August 8th, 2013
  33. Favorite trees to climb? Magnolias for sure. Nashville’s “Centennial park” has some great ones. I hear that security will run you off…if they catch you 😉

    Chad wrote on August 8th, 2013
  34. When I turned 10 I used to climb a tree and walk around our place

    Airi wrote on August 8th, 2013
  35. Outdoor play has taken on new meaning! I recently ventured out for a playground workout that kicked my butt, literally!
    Had no idea it would be so fun and exhausting doing that and I was left wondering ‘how the heck do kids do this and not collapse in minutes!!’ :)
    keep the ideas coming! I’m a fan

    Cavegal wrote on August 8th, 2013
  36. Another take on play: as someone with an interior decorating bent, I find it incredibly fun and relaxing to have a whole afternoon to rearrange all the furniture in a room. Not a bad workout, either.

    Allison wrote on August 8th, 2013
  37. I’m combining two of my favorite things, knitting and hiking! Grab a goknits bag, favorite project, and get outside! Knitting does all kinds of interesting things to the brain and dexterity and the fresh air heightens the senses and creativity. Love this blog and the interesting comments!

    Tyna wrote on August 9th, 2013

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