Wednesday, 11 January 2012

my problem with the Olympics....

I've never considered myself sporty.

My Dad was quite sporty.  I remember a few occasions in my childhood when he 'coached' me in the art of athletics.  These occasions were infrequent and shortlived.  Our first session on running was followed by my falling over in the semi-final of the under 11s 100 yards dash on a chilly field somehwere near Garswood, Lancashire.  The other session that springs to mind is the time I was 'chosen' to do the javelin - I was chosen because I was sensible and gentle enough not to poke any other child with the javelin and I was rubbish at running.  Dad & I spent a pleasant afternoon in our usefully elongated backgarden throwing a broom handle.  I have a feeling he even sharpened one end.

The day of the athletics competition came and I threw my javelin about 150cm.  Not good.  This would have been in Bedfordshire, possibly at middle school.  By the time I reached secondary school proper, all sporting aptitudes had been thoroughly assessed and I was lacking in all of them.  My talent lay in being able to wear the most number of layers before waddling out to stand in the same rectangle as the hockey players and, of course, being able to roll my school socks down short enough so that I could get a proper tan on my legs during the hour or so tennis practice we had each week in the summer.

Since leaving school I've had a penchant for exercise classes and DVDs.  Step was a bit of a challenge.  I would take myself off to a hall in Forest Hill on Sunday mornings and come home with an injury from slipping off the step or being hit in the face as I was on the wrong side of mine as everyone was on the other side of theirs.

Bodycombat was a disaster - all that yelping.  I quite like Bodybalance - stretching, a few situps.  Bodypump is OK as long as you use little weights.  Spinning was a total nightmare - our local gym has the bikes arranged in a circle.  Why would I want to see anyone exercise, least of all have them see me?!  I think Spinning was my least favourite class - I went twice.  You  know I love Zumba.  Probably the best exercise class of all.  Organised dancing, good music and, crucially, no getting on a dirty, dusty floor to do horrible crunches.

I had one of the original Jane Fonda tapes.  I was very partial to Lorraine Kelly's  DVDs after I had the kids.  She had a South African trainer and I still do some of the arm exercises.  The music was pants though.  I've got Tracey Anderson on the DVD shelf.  She's fierce and I find her humourless and as for Davina - love the exercises but it gets to a point where I start pulling her faces and doing her little one-liners as well as the squats and lunges.

Since living in the country, I've walked a bit, cycled a bit.  Did a triathlon (badly) once.  There are a few useful loops - a walking one round the river and a couple of loops out to neighbouring villages and back which are good for bike riding.  A woman can get into quite a routine for a few weeks.

So you see, it's not as if I don't try.  I try lots of things.  I know I'm supposed to.  I enjoy my tries.  I get quite enthusiastic for a few weeks and then I get bored.  Deeply bored.  I also become slightly resentful and insubordinate.  A little voice starts in my head - "why should I involve myself in this exercise malarkey, yes I know I'll feel better and I might get a little slimmer but it makes me ache and I really couldn't bear to become some kind of exercise evangelist.  They're all scary and a little suspicious."

So - my problem with the Olympics is that for the best part of this year, we're all going to be subjected to incessant sportiness to, I think, the expense of all the other things that Britain and Britishers are great at.  Yes, we give sport a good go and yes, most of the Olympic facilities seem to be coming on very nicely and aren't we great at putting on a show but, really, does it all have to be about the fastest, the strongest, the highest, the longest, the biggest, the best?

What about the rest of us who just go about trying a few things and moving ourselves around a bit?  Isn't that good enough?  Apparently there are targets to inspire us all to take up sport.  If all we see all year are individuals who spend their entire lives moving about and running around so that they can be the best, some of us might be inspired NOT to take up sport.  If we're constantly celebrating the best - perhaps the rest of us will just think, what's the point, I won't be getting a medal?

I hope somewhere in this Olympic PR juggernaut are a few reminders that, actually, it's OK to do a bit of exercise.  That it doesn't have to be about winning or competing or shaving all your hair off so that you can go a bit faster.  Exercise is good for you and if you can swap some of your telly and pizza eating time for a few hours a week of running about or doing a class or walking to work or taking your kids to the park for a kick about, you'll feel a lot better.

My running?  I've become an addict.  I have a spreadsheet.  I've run for 68 minutes in 5 sessions over 9 days.  I have a horrible feeling that this is probably more than I've run (ever) in my entire adult life.  Why has this addiction suddenly gripped me?  My body aches and my knees feel dodgy already but it makes me feel fantastic for the rest of the day.  Why does no-one tell you this?  I feel as if someone has been keeping a very big secret from me and I'm very pleased to have been let in on it.


marigold jam said...

Very true! Like you I was rubbish at sport although I enjoyed playing games for the fun of it and could never see why winning was so important! I love yoga for that very reason - it is all about me and what I can do and nothing about what anyone else can do - brilliant! Must admit it isn't aerobic though.

Karen Pine said...

What a great post, Janice. I couldn't agree more about the running, it's the quickest and healthiest way to get a legal high. And I can totally relate to the spreadsheet, I also feel the need to log everything I do and am currently wearing a pedometer to count every step and get in my 10,000 a day.
I'm way behind at the moment so had better get moving....;)

Sarah said...

I had a Jane Fonda tape too, did it regularly for ages! It got me pretty fit, I must say.

Now I like walking, jumping on my mini trampoline and joining in on my sons' XBox Dance Central dances. They are fun for the moment, but I know I'm going to get bored as I don't really like the music - it's all a bit electronic.

I can't agree with you on jogging though. I hate it, always have always will. I didn't get any high ever, just got incredibly bored while I jogged and just hated it from start to finish.

As for the Olympics, we are always hearing about the importance of exercise and keeping fit, and it's nice to celebrate excellence in sport for a few months. It's not the same thing at all as keeping fit and doesn't apply to most of the population, but it's great to see these dedicated athletes, hear about their training and see them in action.

Only Me said...

I have to say, I'm not a runner but the idea of stepping out your front door and starting your excercise is very appealing - the fact that you don't have to book your class or get in a car and it's in the great (most of the time)outdoors. Have to say though I do love my zumba class, and totally agree that the fact that you don't have to lie on the floor and do ridiculous and painful stomach toning exercises is bloomin' great.

hausfrau said...

I'm sure a little light excercise is all any of us need, I can't see the attraction of making it your life's work - though I guess it beats working for a living? I lie on a nice mat for Pilates and avoid the floor, and I do find it makes me feel better on the day... it's the aching stomach two days later that tells me perhaps I ought to do it more than once a week in term time!
I shall be unable to avoid the Olympics because Husband will need to watch, but I plan to find other things to do

Sue Gee said...

I see that you are a late starter! run now why you still have a strong bladder! I love activity but am not particularly sporty - brisk walking is about my limit these days and a bit of aqua aerobics !!! Enjoy your youth!!!

Young at Heart said...

that's probably more than I've run in my entire life.....bravo......I think I'll stick to the yoga!!