Sport. It doesn’t sound much in English, but try it in French – ‘Le Sport’ – so much more glamourous. In France anyone can go out for a gentle jog and say they enjoy ‘Le Sport’. So let’s forget about ‘taking exercise’ and call it that instead. All we need now is to don some appropriate Lycra and off we go. Indeed it seems that many people are already out there, as we discovered from readers who reveal the joys of their sporting life …
I like the ‘me’ that runs, that stays strong enough to tackle obstacles and danger, that starts the day moving. I don’t like the world when I’m not moving through it. Running works for me. It’s rational. Needs minimal kit. It travels. It transports me to a place where ideas work their way into my consciousness. My pace has always been granny speed, but I call it Running. Jogging sounds like Slogging! Mrs. Wolf, my first primary school track coach, told me I jumped like a gazelle and that has never stopped motivating me.
Diane Welstead – Une Annee D’Amitiee
Cycling’s great because you get to see the countryside at a slightly faster pace than walking. I hadn’t done it since I was about 26 when I used to cycle to work until I decided it was too dangerous. Then last summer I got an old Raleigh racer which came from the back of a friends garage. I swapped it for a bottle of wine. At the moment I am doing a nice flat route beside the river then beside the railway where I negotiate dogs rather than cars. Much safer!
I went back to netball after a 30-year break! It’s the fastest growing women’s participation sport in the UK. This may be due to the Back To Netball movement which is trying to get women back on the courts. It makes sense, since most of us had to do it at school, we all have a basic grounding. I expect there is loads of latent talent out there. It’s very freindly and a great way to keep fit.
A strained achilles forced me to take to the water and I’m so glad I did. Now I fund it has cured other little niggly aches and pains. At the same time I discovered Swimfit – a free online swimming programme. It’s done through a series of daily swim-workouts, which start very easy and get gradually harder. The workouts are varied and prevent swim-fever – that particular mental fuzziness caused by trying to keep track of the number of lengths you have swum.
Two or three times a week I leave the office after an hour or two at my desk. I’m often feeling pretty lethargic. But I head off down to the local squash court for a so-called ‘friendly’ which gets me back at my desk by 12.45 just in time for lunch, TOTALLY knackered and very hungry. There is nothing else that can you can do for 40 minutes which will leave you feeling so utterly well-exercised. Well almost nothing.
Ed Coventry – Travel Editions
I love walking as it is the only time I truly switch off. All the hassles and work/life/family issues get forgotten for an hour or so. I also feel very connected with my surroundings and delight in seeing deer,and maybe a new breed of bird. In Autumn I can combine it with picking sloes,and elderberries!
It was all part of my mid-life crisis. When I got divorced aged 40, I started going down to the gym a lot. As you do. They started up a Triathlon club and kept on at me to give it a go. The thing was, I could barely swim a length. It took me six months to pluck up the courage to go along to one of the swim sessions. Now I am totally addicted, I’ve even done these Iron Man triathlons. First a 3.8km swim, then run a marathon, then 180K on a bike. Mad. But triathlons come in all shapes and sizes. There’s Tri-a-Tri where the swim is just 10 lengths of a 25m pool, the run is 2.5K and the bike ride is just a few miles. Lots of people get into it that way.
It’s just such fun! There’s lots of lovely Latin American music, the movements are fast and lively too, but not difficult. At my age everyone can interpret the actions in their own way, there’s no pressure. But the music makes you want to move! I arrive feeling 84, pretty exhausted and barely able to get off my chair and by the end I am fizzing away. What one thinks of as ‘tiredness’ is often really boredom. You’ve only got to be able to get going and you come back to life. And I’ve realised it’s very clever, by the end you have exercised every part of your body without even knowing it. A bit like taking medicine on a lump of sugar!
Online Yoga was a big discovery. There are yoga practices of anything from 5 minutes to an hour long. And if you want to meditate, Yogayak even offers 8-hour relaxation videos. Eight hours. There’s yoga for beginners, middlers, old hands, etc. Yoga for every need, every ailment, every taste. My favourite is Ekhart, the cheerful Swede. But there’s the laid-back Californian, the exotic Asian, even the rather anxious, tortured German. All you have to do is start. Right there!
And finally, one reader confessed herself to be so lazy that she engaged a personal trainer …
I’m so lazy that I have to have a personal trainer, she comes once a week. Every week I think ‘Oh no, how can I stop her from coming. What can I have wrong with me?’ But nothing stops her. She gives me these killer diets and exercises named after eastern block countries, things like Bulgarian Squats and Kazak Thrusts. She’s into Kettle Bells and every now and again says ‘I think we’ll do the Beast’ which is a by-word for excruciating pain. She’s just been this morning. I said I had a bad back but there was no escaping the Dirty Thirty. That’s thirty split squats followed by thirty shoulder presses and thirty press ups. And everything is timed! Then she said ‘How about the Sally Squats?’ – I said ‘what about my back?’ The horrors of The Sally Squats are well known, they are even on YouTube. Actually my trainer’s very good. Her name is Jane Cochrane and I thoroughly recommend her. I just do what she says, don’t listen to hard and wait for it to all be over.
I love running. It gives me more energy, I feel superhuman – it feels like Mindfulness to me. I’m in the present with my body, breathing and the immediate environment. I do it twice a week for half an hour. I run a bit fast and then a bit slow. It’s called the Fartlek system of running. I think the Swedes invented it. Quite early on I invested in a large pair of turquoise headphones which can’t fall off and wear and MP 3 player on my arm.