I’d forgotten how liberating it is to go on the swings. My fourth grade classmates invited me to join them at recess, and I was more than happy to. I sat down on a swing and wrapped my fingers tightly around the chains suspending it. Pumping my legs to push me higher was tougher than it used to be, since the swing was designed for kids with legs half the length of mine. I had to tuck them under me so that my feet wouldn’t hit the ground every time I swung over it.

As I swung higher, I felt the breeze on my face, my heart pounding, and the exhilaration of building momentum as I rose into the air. As a kid, I remember wondering if I could swing over the top of the swingset if I tried hard enough, and sometimes it looked as if I was getting close. (I watched a Mythbusters episode that concluded: “Under normal pushing power, whether solo or being pushed by others, there cannot be enough force generated to achieve a full, chain straight 360.”) Being much heavier than I used to be, I didn’t get nearly as much air this time around.

My classmate suggested that I close my eyes and tilt my head back, letting the sun beat down on my face. Closing my eyes while swinging high made me lose connection with time and space for a few moments, as if in meditation. Disoriented, I gripped the chains more tightly so that I wouldn’t fall. After swinging for a few minutes with closed eyes, I began to get a little dizzy, so I stopped pumping my legs and let myself swing close enough to the ground that I could skid to a stop, spraying bark chips.

I walked back to class with aching hamstrings and rosy cheeks, feeling a little more alive. Next time you’re at a school or playground, go on the swings. Get someone to push you, or pump your legs to get some of the best exercise around. Even if you’re in a sour mood when you start, as you rise into the air you’re sure to break into a smile and feel like a kid again.

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When was the last time that you went on the swings? Do you have any specific memories of swinging as a child?

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