I never used to consider myself to be particularly sporty. I’d always participated in games lessons at school and in various teams – hell, at the age of ten, I captained my primary school cricket team in a local competition, having never played until two weeks previously, but that’s a different story. It wasn’t until I went to university, met a lot of people who did little to no team-based activity, and I took up Rugby Union, that I was labelled ‘Sporty’.
It’s not a label I’ve ever fully embraced or, frankly, understood. Sure, I exercise, I play sport, I get antsy if I’ve been sat down or stuck indoors for too long, but never crave a spot of pavement-pounding. Between you and me, exercise for its own sake is something I dread and (horror of horrors) find boring.
Now don’t get me wrong, I know that the benefits of exercise are far-reaching, and when I’m at the top of my physical game I feel like a freaking rock star, but the idea of plonking one foot in front of the other and repeating until I’ve dragged my sorry self around the block and broken into a considerable sweat just to have burned some calories doesn’t really do much for me. Hats off to those that do, and do it well, but running in and of itself is just not my bag, try as I might.
I feel the same way about a lot of individual pursuits. I do cycle, but only because it’s a cheap way to get in to work, and it’s not like I could swing a kettlebell around on the Tube to prevent it being dead time, could I? Or maybe I could? I’ll get on to TFL to float the idea…
So, if it’s not the rush of endorphins from exercise that entices me on to the rugby pitch / netball court / Celtic Longboat, then what’s the motivation? What is it to be ‘sporty’ without an inherent love of exercise? One word: Competition.
A lust-filled, insatiable, voracious appetite for winning.
Becoming totally absorbed in the moment, where everything else give way to a gut-wrenching need to vomit-inducingly hammer it across the pitch and tear you opponents ankles clean off, rather than see them score. Afterwards we’ll all go for a drink together and revel in our mutual love of the game, but for those 80mins its all you can do not to seriously injure someone. It’s sink or swim. Death or Glory. It’s a game, you are my competition, and I am going to win, no matter what that takes. My heart is about to emancipate itself from it’s ribby prison; there’s sweat, not a glow, not a light perspiration, but a full blown ouch-it’s-in-my-eyes-and-I-could-probably-wring-a-pints-worth-out-of-my-shirt sweat; my toes are very close to curling up over themselves in a demon elfin cramping curse; and I may well have broken at least one finger. But I. Am going. To win.
I don’t think there’s much else in life that delivers such a primal release as competitive sport does. If this is what gave me my ‘sporty’ label, does that mean the ‘non-sporty’ people at university had never experienced this type of thrill? Or maybe they’d found it elsewhere? Winning a Fifa tournament? Playing First violin in the orchestra? Winning a debate against an Oxford college? I hope so! And if they have then all of those things should be considered sports too, and ‘sporty’ is what we should all strive to be.
I enjoy being active, it makes me feel good, but if it’s raining I probably will sack off cycling into work. Unless, of course, you tell me that you’ll get in to the office first.