When I was a kid, I hated sports. Really hated them. All sports were about standing around shivering miserably in shorts while an irate PE teacher whacked a number of round objects at you, or made you run somewhere you didn’t want to go.
I liked books, and learning about things. Besides, I didn’t need sports. I spent all my out of school hours charging around our village on my bike, or pretending to be Ricky Villa with a sponge football. And I did that with children I knew and liked, rather than with the big boys from the other form who’d chase you all the way round a frozen rugby pitch just so they could (so it seemed at the time anyway) sit on your head.
Then I got older, and discovered there were other things in life. Girls, for example. Also pubs. The sponge football rotted away in the garage, my bike got too small and gathered rust.
Of course we danced every Friday and Saturday night at the local clubs and we still played football at lunchtimes. So I still didn’t need sports.
Then I went to University, went wandering around the USA for a bit, came home and got ill. I was supposed to be starting a job in an office but instead I spent the next three months lying in bed. I came home from America at the beginning of October and got up just in time for New Year. I was weak. I couldn’t get to the end of the road without sitting down.
Now, I needed sports.
I didn’t realise it at first. I just thought that was it. I was doomed to hobble around the village for months, slowly getting my energy back, never quite returning to all that youthful zip (which, truth be told, combined with the interest in girls, was what got me into trouble in the first place!).
After a few days of hobbling, though, I got seriously fed up. Which was when I remembered – hadn’t I heard somewhere – that if you run, your body makes its own energy…?
So I ran. About 10 metres. And fell over. Then the next day I ran 12 metres. And so on.
A year later I was charging all over the countryside in a pair of battered trainers, doing my best impersonation of the bloke that beat the four minute mile. Or Alan Turing. The point is, I had my energy back and then some. I had vim and vigour coming out of my ears.
Years later, and with some allowances made for grey hair, I still do. The sports I’ve done have changed dramatically over the years: running; swimming; surfing; even a brief period of weightlifting (it hurts and you have to eat too much). But I have never, since that first run, been inactive except through injury.
I’ve made a discovery, through all the different games I’ve played. Outdoor activities are fun, sport is fun, and it doesn’t even have to hurt that much. The key is to find a game you really like, something that feels more like a treat than a chore. It could be swimming (which is ideal, because it’s zero impact so you can even do it if you have mild arthritic problems) it could be running (start slow and see how you go). Whatever it is, you’ll know it when you find it – because you’ll start looking forward to the next time you get to do it. Do it in a club, do it on your own. Do it in the sea, where you’re on your own but in a crowd.
Whatever it is, do it a lot. You’ll be amazed at where it might take you.
If you’re interested in starting a sport, have a look at these links:
Peak Performance – an interesting article on rowing as a sport for older participants.
Retirement Expert – all about team sports for older people.