Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Unconventional Fitness

When I was a kid I didn't have any problems with keeping fit and active. Dinnertimes were full of running around, and I couldn't wait to go outside and play with my friends. We were lucky enough to have bikes, scooters and roller blades. Staying in was BORING, playing out was THE BEST TIME EVER!

As with most people, once you get a bit older exercise becomes less spontaneous and more of a planned activity. Sure I played a bit of netball and rounders at school, but I was always eager to just get up and do something rather than sit in front of the TV. You didn't need to pay for someone to show you how to exercise when you were a kid, not really, you just went outside and played. For me, the best keep-fit class would be a massive game of delivo (apparently this a northern term for it, but it's basically hide and seek where you have to race people to a 'base'). A lot of fitness/outdoors activities for adults seem to emulate childhood playground games, like paintballing or assault courses or zombie runs, as their basic element is that it's fun to run around and play a game. But as an adult you've now got to pay for that privilege, otherwise it's just a bit weird...

I guess what I'm saying is that exercise has to be fun for you to enjoy it. Even better if you don't even see it as exercise, but as a fun activity that you enjoy. I don't believe in dragging yourself to the gym and hating every god. damn. step on that treadmill just so you can fit into smaller clothes. You end up hating it and feeling like a failure, which isn't good for anyone's self esteem. I understand that some people enjoy exercising solo, and that running alone provides them with some literal and metaphorical breathing space, but I only like to run when I'm being chased by a giant PTERODACTYL THAT HAS MASSIVE LAZER CANNONS ON ITS WINGS AND BREATHES FIRE AND WE HAVE TO RUN ACROSS A MASSIVE ROPE BRIDGE BUT IT MIGHT BREAK AT ANY MOMENT AND FALL TO OUR DEATHS. You get the idea...

What I've found works best is finding a team sport that you really enjoy doing. Something where you work to get better at something and learn new skills, rather than increasing reps at the gym. Sure there's some skill and effort involved in press ups and lunges, but it's not that fun and I personally find it really dull.

I used to do majorettes for about six years when I was a teenager (I'm such a northerner). And it was the combination of some epic routines with camaraderie that made every training session and every competition fun and enjoyable. It wasn't about the exercise - it was about winning the next competition and getting better at our routines. When you take the focus off weight-loss, staying active becomes so much easier.
















(Circa 2002. I'm somewhere in this line...)

When I went to university, however, I seemed to forget my own advice. Exercise wasn't fun anymore. I joined the gym and went swimming twice a week like a real 'grown-up', but I inevitably got bored and gave up.

After graduating, I was on the hunt for something that combined exercise and having a pretty ace time. That's when I stumbled (appropriate choice of words) across roller derby. I've been training once a week for a few months now with the Rainy City Roller Girls in Oldham and I'm absolutely loving it. The sessions usually last two hours, and although I'm not skating constantly for those two hours, I feel like I'm getting a pretty good workout. What I also love about roller derby is that it seems to have adopted a mantra of 'health at any size', which is great. Roller derby girls come in all different shapes and sizes, but they can all kick your asses on the rink. Plus, you get to skate around and fall over, and have loads of fun and that's part of the game.

http://www.rcrg.co.uk/


There's a great sense of community as well, as many of the established skaters help to train us newbies :)

I've only missed one session since I first started, and although Mondays come around quick, I always look forward to the next time I can skate. Falling over isn't a big deal any more and I feel much more confident and less meek and mild - even in general life! It's really great seeing myself improve at something as well. Hopefully the next time I write an update I'll have improved even more.

For me, exercise needs to be fun (have I said that enough in this post?) and it also needs to have a community surrounding it. It's not just about the actual exercise, it's about everything that comes along with it - the other players, the training sessions, the friendships and the bruises... Why do you think slimming groups see the highest success rates when it comes to weight loss? It's because everything's a lot easier and definitely much more fun when you're not slogging away on your own.


This post is my entry into the Where Are My Knees competition in association with http://www.moneysupermarket.com

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