The high point of my athletic career came in my senior year of high school. I was Captain of the North Yarmouth Academy Panthers Cross Country team. We were, in the world of Maine “school boy” sports somewhat legendary for three things: a) possessing the most hair and earrings, b) always qualifying and always finishing last (if fewer than five of your runners finished you were disqualified) and, c) cheering for every other team at the race.
It was this last aspect of our corporate personality that won us our moment of glory. At the Western Conference Championship, the largest race of the season (unlike many “Championships” every school attended) over 200 high school runners lined up along the starting line at the Valhalla Golf Club in their best uniforms (and bandannas and earrings). This glorious scene creating an image, I am sure, not unlike that of the battle lines in Braveheart. It was a beautiful sight.
As the tension mounted, a race official walked out in front of us and started the ritual call of attendance. In his best manly-coach voice he would ask each team in turn if they were ready and, in turn, each team would holler and chant in their most intimidating fashion. We, the runners from NYA, would cheer with them. This was not at that time considered appropriate behavior (we actually tried shaking everyone’s hands earlier in the season, but the coaches and officials felt that wasn’t in the competitive spirit, so by this time we were closely watched). Finally, the man got to us--tucked away in an inhospitable corner--and true to form, we waved but did not cheer. However, everyone else did! They gave us a rousing ovation and we loved them for it (I fear Waynflete Academy, standing next to us, got hugs). Of course, they should have cheered, we were the team they knew they would beat. They did. We lost in our usual spectacular fashion.
I mention this story because my son started “Tee-Ball”. It marks another step for him and his parents in the world of organized sport. Also, I am thinking of this moment because of an article in the UU World Magazine which I found both inspiring and a bit frustrating. It was inspiring because of the title (Exercise as Spiritual Play) and the content. It was frustrating because the author, Lisa Watts, runs marathons.
Now, it is not Lisa’s fault that she is gifted and driven. These are good things. No, the frustrating part is that these are gifts that I do not possess. It makes it rather hard for me to identify with some of things she is saying. In fact, for those of us among the “last picked” it may be difficult even to think of exercise as “play” at all. So, as an old hand at being a team burden, I present you with some additional comments to what is an excellent article…
1) Make play a habit
I walk my son to school every day. I will also, on a nice day, hop on my mountain bike, blow out my knees and crash into a tree or rock (does anyone know how to “true” a wheel? ...seriously). I swim on Sunday afternoons at the YMCA “Family Fun Swim”. Maybe you other non-marathoners can do some things like this.
2) Set some goals
Why don’t you throw caution to the wind and make your goal “having a good time on a nice day”? I suggest a picnic lunch and some sightseeing.
3) Do it with friends
This one is awkward since many of us would be more of a burden than a joy to our friends in feats of strength and agility. I refer you to numbers “1” and “2”. My friends, I know, would probably rather go for a hike with me than put up with my antics on a bike or (gasp and groan) on a playing field. However, I do know of a group of equally uncoordinated friends who started a league (really bad lacrosse, anyone?).
4) Appreciate your body
I always eat the salad at Rotary lunches and make one for dinner, too.
5) Don’t sweat the setbacks
6) Remember to rest
Remember the picnic basket.
7) Worship your heroes
There actually are cases of people who have eaten and exercised their way back to fitness and health. They are worth knowing and emulating. This doesn’t mean you should have a poster of “Subway Jared” on your wall, but he does have something to say about nutrition.
8) Give up some control
Again, right on!
9) Remember gratitude
10) Enjoy the journey
So, I must sign off now! Just remember, we all need to stay fit and healthy, even if we are awkward and slow…