Sport: pleasure or torture?

Hello all,

I hope you are all having a nice week, not too stressed out at work, with at least a little bit of time to exercise – if it is something you like. If you read my article about the “Happiness Project” you probably noticed that good physical condition is a good starting point for being happy. Mens sana in corpore sano. A sound mind in a sound mind body. We probably all agree with this statement. Actually “we have to” agree, if we want to comply with some social norms: people always think you are alien if you answer “No” to the question “do you practice any sports?”

But let’s have a closer look at our motivations for sport:

Like a lot of people having a non-manual work in an urban environment, I have the chance to have a gym membership since I moved to London. To be honest, I was not very willing to subscribe when I arrived, as my thought has always been “Come on, I don’t need anyone to tell me what to do, I can go running anytime I want”. In fact no. Not in London: the weather conditions litterally discouraged me. Especially as I am a Southern girl, I hate going out when it is windy, rainy, humid…all that makes London’s weather so cool 😉 Still I see a lot of runners in the street when it is dark outside, when it is pouring and I am always SO admirative…but isn’t it like a bit of torture? If you are one those brave men (and women!) who go running outside no matter how good the weather is, you probably think “Come on, this girl is lazy, she just looks for excuses not to move from her couch”. I don’t. I just think sport should stay a pleasure. Not a punishment. Even if sometimes you feel like “you have to”: because you want to loose weight, achieve new goals, stay fit, etc. For this reason I thought I would be more at ease doing sports indoors rather than outdoors.

I always thought I am someone who likes exercising on my own. But I discovered I love feeling the energy of a group, being challenged by a “master” who explains me why this is a good for me, etc. I found a real interest for yoga and pilates, which really help to understand how your body works, and gives you a lot of fun too! (I am fascinated by the names the yoga posture have: child pose, cat, stretching cat, bridge…people have been so imaginative!)

I love going to the gym: not only for the physical benefit I get from, but also for the variety of people you can meet: some people who push themselves to their extreme limits, some people who like competition, some who take it easy and just want to feel good (I probably belong to this category), some people who seem to wonder “what the hell am I doin’ here?” (reminds me this song of Radiohead :-), some people who like showing off, etc. I am not judging anyone here, but I  just find fascinating all the different motivations that push people to go at 7 pm to an over-lighted place to sweat together.

I think the greatest motivation for a lot of people is the “feelgood effect” you get after you are done – with the health benefits. Probably endorphin and all the chemical reactions in the brain. But in a life where every single minute matters (don’t tell you never rushed to catch the tube), is the present moment – the sheer time where you sweat- ALSO crucial? Pleasure should be the no. 1 driver after all, what makes you doing sport just for the sake of doing it. Think about it: “do I enjoy myself at the moment? or is it a punishment, an obligation, just to apply someone else’s advice?” I am one of those people who are convinced of the importance of the “body&mind connexion”: if you like it, so will your body, and you’ll get the full benefit of it.

On the other side you have people who do not practice any sports – and there is nothing to feel guilty about. If you haven’t find any physical activity you find fun, you don’t have to force your nature. Not everyone has to be sportive and athletic. If you walk 30 minutes during the day, it is already enough to maintain good health. There are a lot of sports I could not practice regularly: I cannot ice-skating (which makes a lot of people laugh), I am terrible at table tennis and I am one of the worst dancer you’d meet in your life. But if you think about it, sport is also about accepting and facing our own limitations – and that’s why it is sometimes so hard to stick with it: we all hate seeing we are NOT capable to be faster, stronger, more flexible. And starting with “I can’t do that…and it’s fine” is already a good approach if you want to start with sports.

Also, as a lot of doctors recommend to exercise regularly (ideally 3 times a week), many of us try to include sports in our timetables. A good thing, as regularity is the key factor to implement successfully a good habit. But let’s try to be flexible: let’s admit that on these cold winter days, it often sounds more pleasant to stay at home with a cup of tea rather than sweating at the gym. But in keep in mind, no need to think big: thinking about a 1 hour session can discourage you, but if you go for a 20 minutes dynamic walk, this sounds much more achievable.

Sometimes we also feel weakened (by work, bad mood…) and we don’t want to “lose” our energy with sports. Some people argue you should force yourself because of the well-being you’ll feel afterwards. But if you feel mentally and/or physically exhausted – here is my advice: take a rest. A real rest (no television, switch off your cellphone,no other electronic device to distract you). Just go to bed earlier with a good book. And come back to exercise the day after, ideally with an activity you like which is not too intense. Forcing you going to sports is likely to make you hate an activity you like (remember when as a kid, you mum was telling you to eat your soup to get some dessert? Then you were realizing how much you hated vegs!)

This is only my personal advise, based on my experience, always check your physical condition with a general practitioner in case you have a doubt!

Know your limits, what you like/dislike, always keep some flexibility in your time schedule…and have fun!




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