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story.lead_photo.caption Maria Holee

Bases were loaded. My 5-year-old brother, Johnny, was up to kick the ball. Dad was pitching. Mom usually played second or third base. And potentially, she had a toddler on her hip while playing the game. The kickball game was full throttle. If it wasn't kickball, it was Wiffle ball, volleyball, two-square or badminton. With a large family, kickball was our "go to." He kicked the ball right to my oldest brother, Jason. He caught the ground ball and launched it so hard he wiped my younger brother's feet from under him. And he was out! When he cried walking off the field and threw a fit; nobody really paid mind to it. He had to get over it and then get ready for the next "at kick." One thing they always taught us: Sometimes you try really hard, sometimes you get out, but get over it and move on.

Work hard. Play hard.

Yes, outdoor play to be exact.

Here is your sign to play outdoor games with your children, grandchildren and friends, too. This health article of the month has me excited and reminiscing on all the outdoor play we got to do growing up. Read until the end and you will see all the benefits.

On to another day, another adventure. Dad inherited an old used oil barrel and cleaned it out. It would be used in the winter season as a firepit while we went sled riding down the long hills in the woods around our house. But for now, we could use it for other "play." Who knew you could actually balance on top of a rolling metal barrel down a hill? But how far could you go before wiping out and it rolling over you? So many options here, we could do it "for time" or "for distance" or maybe we could do it two at a time.

And yet another morning, and another adventure. This was before I was diagnosed with my bone disease in my left hip. I was around age 9 and my oldest sister, Anna, was 13. She decided to train for the upcoming high school cross country season going into her freshman year. We lived a little more than 2 miles from the grade school we all went to. During the school year, the bus would pick us up every morning at 6:50 a.m. to get us to school by 7:30 a.m. She decided she would run to school instead of taking the bus. One mile of gravel road and more than 1 mile of pavement. Why? Because she can. And one morning, I decided to run with her. I didn't really know what I got myself into, and I about killed myself trying to stay up with her. At that time, I was not going to let her beat me by that much. As we approached the last stretch toward school, our long-time bus driver would wave and honk as our bus that picked up the other siblings passed us by. This 4-foot, 10-inch sister of ours went on to run in the High School Cross Country State Championship and qualify for State Track and Field on 300-meter hurdles.

Why did we do all of these things? Well, for fun, actually. Our parents taught us to have fun by playing. Physical play. Yes, we all had jobs to do, too. Some of them were really hard jobs and physical tasks, but that was part of helping out the family to get things done — hanging and folding laundry, cutting grass, weed eating, loading the wood burning furnace and even scrubbing the toilets. And did we get paid for this? No, it was part of the given day's tasks.

But what about "play?" We were always coming up with a game. Travel through the woods in the snow or hiking to our favorite swimming hole at the creek and spending the afternoon jumping off the cliff side. We would be gone for hours "playing."

The point of all of this is to find the time to "play" with your family. It might start with walking and talking to getting together for a kickball or soccer game. Maybe a Wiffle ball tournament to fishing or hiking a trail. The possibilities are endless. Have you ever raced across the Missouri River bridge or gone to a playground and created an obstacle course? There is no age requirement for any of these activities.

Outdoor activity increases respiratory endurance and circulation. It promotes endorphin production and allows you to absorb some well needed vitamin D. You get fresh air and "play" disguised as exercise. And what else do you get? You get memories. You get laughter. Memories to share with your children, siblings and your grandchildren. You become grateful for all the time you spend with your family. And you can place no dollar sign on memories like these! Get moving! Invest in yourself; invest in your family.

Maria Holee and her husband, Jake Holee, own Jefferson City CrossFit, established in 2012. She is a Level 2 CrossFit Trainer, has conducted multiple seminars in weightlifting, was nominated for Zonta Women of Achievement in 2018, was fifth in nation in the 2016 U.S. Strongman, and is trained in CrossFit Gymnastics.

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