When Krystal Quagliara taught dance to children years ago, she noticed they were willing to try anything.

“They felt completely free to move, dance, learn and play,” the Hammond resident recalled. “I would then see my adults in my classes and realized that somewhere in life, adults are discouraged from play and wonderment.”

That lack of play or having fun when participating in a physical activity inhibits adults from letting go of any self image issues, Quagliara said.

Then, she had an idea.

“I would think, ‘How could I teach adults to think and act more like children to encourage them to move more freely?’” she said. “That sparked my interest in coaching fitness in a playful manner.”

Quagliara, who is a certified personal trainer and health and life coach, recently released a book called “The Playful Journal.”

As a coach at the CLASS UFC Gym in Munster and as a personal trainer, her book began as part of the curriculum for her clients and online coaching programs as a way to help move them along a path to playfulness and to encourage an overall lifestyle change.

After a business coach suggested reaching out to a wider audience, Quagliara decided to publish a book. She says “The Playful Journal,” which is available on Amazon, is a 12-week guided journal that takes readers on a journey from past to future to rediscover their inner playfulness, and apply that mindset to living a healthy lifestyle.

“The book has reflection on how the reader played as a child, what their playful interactions were like, and what feelings those memories invoke,” said Quagliara, who is also known as “The Playful Trainer.”

The journal helps readers define clear goals and how to attain those goals through a playful mindset, she said.

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“I believe playfulness opens our hearts to wonderment and love, in turn bringing new opportunities into our lives,” Quagliara said.

Although as children, playing outside is an easy way to exercise and have fun, as adults, life is much different.

“As adults, we tend to get bogged down with the next thing we need to do,” she said. “We struggle to be fully present in our activities.”

The mindset of “playfulness” encourages immersion into what is happening in the moment — playing a game of tag with friends or relatives, throwing a frisbee with someone at the park or dancing to favorite music.

During her training sessions, Quagliara may play a game with her client or meet at the park instead of the gym.

“For the holiday season, going shopping at the store instead of online shopping, putting up outside decorations, or getting a neighborhood caroling group together can add activity to your day,” Quagliara said.

For those who only have time to jump on the treadmill or take a walk for 20 minutes, she suggests cuing up favorite feel-good music or asking a friend to come along.

“Add a destination to your walk,” she said. “Perhaps you could drop off a small gift to an elderly neighbor or stop in for a quick visit at a local shop?”

By applying a playful mindset to daily activities and fitness routines, Quagliara says fitness will begin to feel less like a chore and feel more like an experience that brings happiness.

“When we play and have fun when learning a new healthy lifestyle, those ideas and habits are so much more likely to stick,” she said. “Over the years, I have seen that the people who truly engage in the community and playfulness have not only the best results, but the long lasting changes to their health and wellness. It is human nature to want to repeat the experiences that bring us joy.”

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