Playtime's last call

I was finishing up some work in the study — it’s actually a home office, but “study” sounds more homey, more ... Cleaveresque — when I became aware of the fading light. I glanced out the window: a rosy tint was kicking in, mixing it up with a yellowish glow that signaled the end of the day was imminent. I recognized the aura from childhood: It was last call for play.

“Basketball!” I yelled, and shortly the middle schoolers and I were in the cul-de-sac working out what energy we had left. We started with pedestrian jump shots, threw in some layups, then devolved into trick shots. “Midcourt baseball shot!” yelled one of the middle schoolers — and the ball sailed over the goal into a neighbor’s yard. “On my back,” he proclaimed, much like a pool shark calling a shot. It took a while, but he made it. Behind-the-back shots, behind-the-goal shots, fade-away-jumpers-landing-on-our-behinds shots. I was the first to run out of steam, surreptitiously collapsing on the lawn. “Dad! Get back out here.”

There’s a long-running debate over how smart it is to exercise before bed. For years, the health community believed that any activity before bed would make falling asleep difficult. Especially, they thought, of activities demanding that your brain get involved — paying close attention to a mountain bike trail, say, or concentrating on hitting a pitch in baseball. Today, the school of thought is shifting. It’s now thought that being active before bed may lessen the anxiety that keeps some people from getting to sleep. Exercise before bet, work out your demons, sleep in peace.

Now, among a lot of you — those of you who exercise before bed — there’s lots of eye-rolling going on. Of course you sleep better after a good workout. (My favorite observation on the topic is this comment posted to the story linked above: “I am flabbergasted every time I see an article about this. I mean, it's being discussed by many of the same people who complain about men falling asleep right after sex — rather strenuous exercise, don't you think?”)

Draining what remaining energy we have is the reason our parents used to shoo us out of the house and into the street after supper. And the reason I yelled “Basketball!” the other night.

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