If you are a very small child, congratulations! Roll out the banner, as they say. (And might I also commend your reading skills?). Babies being born today, tomorrow, yesterday, barring accidents or serious illness, can now realistically hope to live to 104 years old. I think this is good news, although I appreciate not everyone will jump for joy at the thought of aging beyond a century. If we’re lucky enough, and by some miracle of life, we get a tiny, beautiful body (and they are all beautiful) that we get to grow with and play with and travel with and love with through our entire life. That’s some machine to keep motoring all the way through a lifespan that’s getting longer and longer. And with that long a journey ahead of you, you’ll need it to be in good nick.
Up until recently, my own body had been somewhat curtailed by a kidney stone. Throw in ongoing treatment to ‘explode’ same and the residence of a tiny gadget to stop the kidney stone drawing my system to a complete halt, and you have the perfect ‘keep unfit’ storm. It made me tired and, if I had a busy day, kinda ‘achy’. Even when I didn’t do all that much, it felt kinda achy. In fact, feeling kinda achy became the norm. Until my (fingers and toes crossed) final treatment the other week. We’re gonna need a second banner.
So now there’s no excuse and I’ve been getting out a little – just a little – more often for some ‘just me with a mind to specifically exercise’ time. That means a 6.15am alarm call (if the babies aren’t already up), a bit of organisation and a spoonful of resolve. OK, a bottleful… Maybe a barrel-full when the weather’s not great. Because it’s not the easiest thing to do; to get up and get out and get active.
At the risk of sounding 97 years old, when I was younger – specifically between the ages of 12 and 18 – I didn’t go about being active; I simply was active. I played tennis, basketball, camogie. I did ballet – alot. I cycled everywhere – to school, to friends’ houses, to training sessions. For fun we went for walks (I kid you not), we went to the hurling field for a puck-around, we played ’21’. Exercise wasn’t a thing – it was a by–product of being young. It was something to do and something your friends did. Weekends were spent tagging along to hurling matches because that’s where your friends would be and where else would you want to be? Sport was fun, it was compelling – it was just how it was.
When I went to college I left the bike at home – I moved on to live in cities and my sporting-compadres, my friends, dispersed. I went out more, I hung around the hurling field and the tennis courts less. It’s only natural that one phase in life is replaced by another – particularly when you move into adulthood – and other things take priority. However – and this is a big HOWEVER, no matter where I went or how I went there that love of being active, of participating and running and being outside and being part of a team – it lasts. It’s a knack that gets under your skin. Like the love of a hurling team – your village, your county – it remains, and pushes you to remain fitness conscious and maybe take a yoga class, go spinning or hit the road for a run every now and again. It’s inherent. And, perhaps because girls are less likely to be given that gift (it’s sad, but statistics show that’s the way it rolls) it’s a pretty precious commodity to have in your back pocket. Who gifts it? Your parents, your teachers, your contemporaries, your community along with a bit of luck, an in-built love of being active and the freedom & time to pursue – something which often-times only childhood can provide.
It’s a gift for life – a healthier, longer life.
So post-kidney stone, my slow, back-to-health-40-minute-morning-workout is a tribute to my sportier past and a promise to maintain a sportier future. It includes as follows in no particular order:
- Quick-Walking; thanks to my sisters, my friends – the walking is central to an Irish country gal’s life experience
- Big Skips; thanks to Eoin ‘The Star’ O’Mahony and Radox, respected Camogie team coaches
- Side-Ways Skips and Fast(ish) Sprints; thanks to U15 / U17 basketball training with Shane and Ger
- Some Running; thanks to various 5km, 10km races completed over the years
- Wild Arm Swinging; thanks to ad-hoc, Wimbledon-mimicking tennis warm-ups
- Split Jumps (in my head. In reality these look like spiky, random leaps into the air); thanks to Mrs. Gibson, a ballet teacher with true poise
- Punching the air, while quick-walking; thanks to the noughties Tae-Bo trend (I had a DVD)
…all performed in the (assumed) total privacy of the road that begins outside my house.
The best things in life truly are free.
This girl – every girl – needs sport in their life, in every sense of the word. Particularly now I’m aiming to live to 104. Use it or lose it people!
A version of this blog post has appeared on: huffingtonpost.co.uk