In pursuit of happy fitness!

I write this at 10.25 pm. Is it too late?

I came back after playing a great game of Futsal on turf. Yes, the short format 5 a side version of football. Score line reading 4-5. A high scoring match indeed, right! But hey, it was not between football professionals! It was a game among people of different age groups, the youngest being 29 and the oldest being 53…of people in different professions, with different interests and passions. And some with histories of different injuries too! Broken ACLs, reconstructed ACLs, meniscus tears etc. And yet we picked just one hour of one day in this week for a solid game!

So, what drove me to this?

When the ‘better alternative’ is to be just sitting idle and not doing anything at all, or even ‘better’, chugging beer by the bottle sitting on a couch watching television or movies?!

A year back around the same time, this would have been true. ‘Kaun stress lega turf book karneka, and duss log ko convince karo, etc.’ (translates to: who wants to take the stress of booking a turf and convince 10 others to join in) was the escape mantra.

There have been multiple instances when I have convinced myself that I am stressed and need to have a beer and watch TV and do nothing else. Just Chill! This seemed to be destressing. But then I took out time to think. Was is really destressing? Well, NO! Stress caused to inactivity causing stress causing inactivity causing…

hey! this is a circle! A vicious one!

There are enough “gyaan” online and offline that charts out the benefit of physical activity over being a couch potato. The benefits of regular physical activity are well documented in the clinical and public health literature and include reduced risk of many chronic diseases, reduced stress, and increased emotional well-being, energy level, self-confidence, and satisfaction with social activity. And I assume you have internet access if you are reading this. And hence, I also assume you would have multiple opportunities to browse through them if you haven’t already (unlikely, right?!) come across it.

Then I shook off the laziness.

I realized I need to go out there, go outdoors and do some physical activity. Maybe that would make me feel better and good about myself and all that while having fun! It could be as simple as a walk to as demanding as a trek.

And so How and why did I start?

All that sitting on the couch before and post work hours somehow made me feel bloated…in my body as well as mind. On hindsight, I seemed to be very irritable, and my mood was not upbeat then to say the least. I could see myself growing tall laterally around my waist and the mind was shrinking! What was worse?-realizing it and yet doing nothing about it.

And then I wanted to do something about it. So the easiest thing to do was to buy a pair of running shoes and start running. I ran just a couple of kilometers (few hundred meters was it?!? J ) and huffed and puffed, it left me breathless. It dawned on me that fitness levels are…arrgghh…well…terrible! Where did I lose it? I am a part of a sports management company damn it! And I used to participate in different sports ever since I remember…

Hey wait! I was into sports all through my early youth (for those confused, now I am in my mid-youth you see? ?!) I find running monotonous, so why am I not getting back into the groove of sports?! Something that I loved! Was getting back to sports the answer? Well, sports was always there, but I just recognized and realized it!

I had lost my engagement with sports midway through for some reason and had to get it back. And to me, gym was never an answer. (yes, ladies and gentleman, I too have ‘spent’ a lotttt of money on gym annual memberships!). While going to the gym did make you whatever it makes you, sports has been special to me. How about you? Ask yourself!

The experience of sports time – starting from team formation, interaction, discussing the strategy, executing it, changing tactics while playing alongside or against others (again, people with various sizes and shapes of ego and alter ego!), – all this is so much enjoyable! For instance, in a game of football, you do all of this quickly before as well as during the game (on the fly). These small actions involving agility and presence of mind, I realized, carried itself along and became a part of life! It somehow made my mind sharper and body energized beyond the play time!

While I do understand that pumping iron and running on the treadmill does take you somewhere (oops…in some way running on a treadmill doesn’t take you anywhere, right?!) but sports is a different ballgame together! (no pun intended).

You don’t think about the weights, reps, or the drill…you are just toeing the ball around, dribbling it, smashing it, passing it. Pheww, what fun!!!

Imagine this: you are playing table tennis. Unless you focus on the small TT ball all of 40mm diameter, you cannot return the shot! It seems to me like meditation at a different level! With the tock-tock noise of the ball hitting the table and the racquet, the focus is immense. All this when you are on your toes, jumping around to reach and cover as much ground…nothing short of dancing! fun? Absolutely, delightfully YES!!!

And you get back in shape too! J well, weight-loss, fitness etc. may not have been your goal, but it is the byproduct, irrespective of whether you like it or not!

Does the happiness generated from sports extend beyond the duration of the activity? Of course YES! There is enough research data to prove participation in sports actually enhances the quality of life! Let me tell you, on days that I have started my schedule by playing squash in the mornings, my energy levels have been very high, mind has been calmer and work routine never seemed like work!

Ok..but then…what if? How to… ahem.

Oh we come up with so many excuses to not engage in sports – don’t we? We say we are fine as we are. I have even heard people say “I do enough household work to make good for exercises” or “Oh come on Jitu, we get enough exercise running after trains and busses!”.

I shall buy that argument the day you run all the way from Dadar to CST behind a State Transport (ST) bus keeping pace with it!

It’s painful to book turf, squash and badminton courts etc. no? to make that one phone call?

Do we not have the money to spare? Is basic sporting equipment really tough to obtain? We never had such problems as kids. We took every opportunity to step out and play! So, think about it…Why is it so difficult now? Is it really really so difficult? Ah! I think we are just lazy! J this is one place where I shall say being content isn’t good enough!

And once we start playing, others join in too! When we started off, there were 6 of us, and now, there are 12-15 all waiting to get into the turf arena to just make the dash!

Figure out, is it a good idea to just pick up one sport that you loved as a kid and begin right there, brushing up your skills? Do you want to try a new sport every month? Or mix and match say squash, badminton, table tennis, hockey a few days of the week? Wouldn’t it be thrilling getting back to your old self? (oh oops, young self!)

Why stop there? Why not improve on one? I have experienced that getting coached is fun too! It immensely improved my swimming skills a couple of years back. As a kid, I learnt to swim at a municipal pool where there were 100’s of others in the pool. The only aim of the coach was then to make sure the student knows how to float, swim and get to the support rails. What we did was called ‘bawdi swimming’ (translates to swimming in a well). Splash splash splash, the more you splash, the better it is. Back then, it worked well as it drained us of some energy and gave us opportunities to eat more – wada paavs J! But now, when I learnt the technique from a coach, I am able to channelize my efforts and do more laps in the same amount of time.

So, coaching did help! I intend to learn a new sport too! So I believe, why wait for tomorrow? Why procrastinate? If we could play then, we can play now too! The transition, trust me, is mind boggling! First, go play, figure out. As you start playing, you can always later on look at coaching. And like for most of the things, there is no age limit. So what if you are 21, 38 or 58 years old! It is just early youth, youth and mid youth stages of life!

Another innovative reason that some of us come up with is ‘if I go out to play, I stand to lose on family time’.

Oh come on! Let me tell you, there is nothing better than bonding with family over sports!

In my experience, the best time I have bonded with my daughter is over cycling, playing squash, swimming, badminton…oh the list goes on! It somehow becomes a family event. It doesn’t require everyone in the family to play, watching and encouraging or being a critique to help improve is also a great way to be in it together – isn’t it? The amount of energy it generates between family members is…well, just cannot be quantified, you need to experience it to believe it!

I see many women taking up sports nowadays. I spoke to one, a homemaker, for her views on it. What she said was simple and amazing- if I do not take care of myself, how am I supposed to take care of my family! She told me it was all work and no play for a long time, and it drained her off (more so) mentally and physically. And then sports happened. A seemingly simple game of ring and Frisbee between a group of women, again, some home makers, some working professionals, some senior women (60+) thrice a week for 30 minutes. And bingo! Energy levels shot up! She vouches that it has immensely improved her lifestyle! And the happiness quotient (if there is any such thing) has overshot the sky and now has a ripple effect on her family! This has made her husband take up squash coaching!

Agility has improved. and she has made more friends in the society and shares recipes, adding more variety to cooking! Aha! Peripheral benefits!

While going to a gym is fine, I see that sports is a much better way of social interaction too! Sports with social interaction made me happiest. A squash game followed by friendly banter and laughter made me totally happy! J

I chose this firm route to get rid of all my lethargy, laziness and made it a lifestyle change. I try and make it a part of my life. It needs to happen without putting in any special efforts, and it does happen, given that it’s all so much fun!

Somehow I feel the human body was designed to play sports. We evolved as hunters and gatherers. And unless we use some of the skillsets, it may be lost with evolution!

Same with the mind. Unless we think, the mind might just stop working! So I guess that’s sufficient food for thought. Its 11.07 pm when I end this.

And I say, it’s never too late! As my father would say… उद्यमेनैव हि सिध्यन्ति, कार्याणि न मनोरथै। न हि सुप्तस्य सिंहस्य, प्रविशन्ति मृगाः॥ (meaning: Things are achieved by doing and not by desiring alone. Deers by themselves don’t go into a lion’s mouth.)

Step out tomorrow, re-experience that joy.

Jo Khele Wo Khile ! (meaning: Those who play… Blossom)

Keep playing!