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Archive for the ‘Who Are We?’ Category

What does play mean to me? It’s the moment I forget my body has limits, my life has a beginning and end, my world is fraught with problems. It’s the moment I remember the beauty of breathing, the joy of blood coursing through my veins, pounding in my ears. I love to jump off docks, surf the waves, gallop through fields on the back of a horse with my daughter, climb mountains and overlook the valleys and whoop and yell while i skip down the other side.

I played soccer, basket, softball, gymnastics. I skied, rode horse back, figure skated, and danced as a child. It was still unusual to have girls teams in my area and the coaching was barely non existent. Our coaches didn’t really want to be coaching a bunch of girls and they let us know it by not showing up or leaving during games. It was hard to play games against boys teams when we were still trying to figure out the rules but it made us feel like rebels and badasses when we were having a good time. When I was a teenager I took up cross country running in order to try and balance the way ballet made me feel. I think I was trying to gain strength and appreciation for my body instead of constantly scrutinizing it’s shortcomings. I remember realizing while running trails that i was enjoying myself finally and especially on the hills.

Currently my play revolves around running. I play baseball with my kids and ski as much as possible as well. Nothing feels so good as looking out over a mountain and flying down it  or achieving that perfect feeling carve.  Usually when I am running the play feeling sets in around mile four. That’s when I have sorted the noise in my brain, and my body has gone into auto running mode.

The other day as I was running I was contemplating boredom when the snowfall suddenly got heavier. I was running under a snow laden tree and turned my face towards the ski and the snow was swirling everywhere. I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to cry with joy or yell from excitement.  That feeling of deep gratitude and physical pleasure comes most often for me when I am running.
Currently my stay motivated plan includes signing up for half marathons, marathons and challenging races.  I also try and remember that badass feeling I had as a girl and remember my time is limited on the planet so why waste it not having fun.

I also feel strongly about playing with my kids and in front of them. I want them to know they get to have fun all through life, it doesn’t end when you get a job.
There are many, many women athletes I admire, some of the most inspiring are those overcoming adversity like Sarah Story, or the myriad of disabled skiers who kick but on the mountains. I admire my friends who remain committed to enjoying themselves and using their bodies.  I ran a half marathon last week and felt I ran hard and well.  Right on my heels was a very pregnant woman who scooped her toddler up at the finish line she had it going on!

Primarily though I think my love of play comes from my father, a lifetime committed good time haver. I grew up watching him ski race and play with his friends and he is still at it just as strong today.  Thanks Dad for the great example!

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On more than one occasion people have congratulated me for breaking the disc golf world distance record in my age group.  I’d love to take credit but it’s not me. Would you believe that there is another Leslie Charles running around playing disc golf!? So I decided to interview her. This is the beginning of hopefully many inspirational/motivational stories celebrating the act of playing. Enjoy! (note: LAC is the author, me, Leslie Anne Charles)

“Play” is a recreational activity I do for diversion from work and life’s more “adult” concerns. I like the word “recreation” because it not only includes physical activity but a sense of self-renewal or re-creation of one’s mental self.

Disc golf is my current form of play. It’s a terrific little-known sport that you can either hack around at or concentrate on skill building. Some people are natural athletes, I am not. It’s rather humorous that I can love something I’m not all that great at, but I do. One aspect about disc golf I like a lot is that it’s played in parks and natural areas (it rather reminds me of trail riding on my  horse) and involves quite a bit of walking and moderate exercise. I mean hey, you’re outdoors, you get to walk around and throw things: what’s not to like?

LAC: Why did you start? After 30 years of owning horses, riding dressage and participating in shows, a series of unexpected converging forces necessitated my giving it the equestrian lifestyle. My partner in life has played disc golf for years and because my knees aren’t hardy enough for tennis or softball, I asked him to teach me how to throw. I was 63 years old at the time and had absolutely no natural ability for the game, but why let a little thing like that stop me?

In spring, summer, and fall I play several times a week. Unlike many women, I really enjoy playing alone, especially in the morning when almost no one is on the course. Being self-employed, I sneak out to one of the nearby courses when I can and because I enjoy playing solo I’m not tied to anyone else’s schedule. But there are a few local people I really enjoy playing with, including Rob. In addition to the many rounds I play per week I also spend time practicing on a soccer field near our home. And I love playing tournaments. Winter disc golf is a “different” experience and I enjoy it as long as it isn’t too cold or the snow too deep. Living in Michigan, it’s either get out there anyway or resign yourself to a long winter.

LAC: Why do you play? Mental and physical health. Disc golf is fun, challenging, and it gives me a chance to set some goals. Although I don’t get all hung up about “performance” I strive to do my best; sometimes I’m pretty good and other times I’m not. I enjoy being physically active, so getting exercise is a big reason I play (I also do additional working out to keep myself in shape for disc golf). And you never ever know what you’ll accomplish until you give it a shot! In 2008 I set a new world distance record for women in my age category and in 2009 I won the (first ever) Senior Grandmaster division championship. But I don’t really play to win. I play to play.

LAC: Any words of advice for someone who doesn’t play? Do something! Don’t sit around and make excuses about why you can’t or shouldn’t be doing something. With my knees, I should be doing scrapbooking, but I’ll throw discs as long as I can. If one activity doesn’t work for you, get out there and find something else that floats your boat!

When I play, I laugh a lot. I laugh at myself, at some of the funny places where my discs land, sometimes I at my body’s inability to do what I ask. And I learn. If you have any hesitation about playing, think about small children, their lives are filled with laughing and learning. What more could you ask for as an adult, than to laugh and learn like you did when you were a kid?

I’m a motivational speaker and I write self-help books. Play is a journey for me, not a destination. With the right attitude it can all be enjoyable. From my years in equestrian competition I learned that I am not my performance. I’m still wonderful, even when I suck. Mind you, I’m 67 now so I have a unique relationship with time: in four years, my game has improved a lot but at some point age can or will hinder my progress. Maybe it already has, but I still plan on improving.

I love affirmations and instead of telling myself how much I suck I tell myself, “My discs fly straight and far.” Right now I’m using the self-talk message that I have a 700 rating (my real rating is 666 so I have a way to go).

LAC: Do you have a mentor (hero or fearless leader)? Erin Oakley, our league leader, who has done so much for women disc golf players here in Michigan is my all-time mentor. She is so patient and encouraging; I’ve never seen anyone like her. And I admire Lisa Warner, from Ohio, who generously gave me some excellent tips the one time I got to play a round with her. Talk about women who know how to play; both Erin and Lisa are prime examples! I want to be like them when I grow up.

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