Photo: m_e_l_o_d_y on Flickr

Photo: m_e_l_o_d_y on Flickr

I remember a childhood filled with sport. Is it just me?

I don’t remember having to drag my butt off the couch and give myself a self-pep-talk in order to get outside and enjoy myself. Do you?

I tried gymnastics, ice skating, roller skating (and not the inline variety – yes, I’m that old!), soccer, ballet, swimming, t-ball, track & field, skiing and basketball. My brother and my friends and I used to ride our bikes everywhere we went and walk to and from school about a mile each way. Being active was just a part of childhood.

Now I’m really going to sound old, but when I was a kid the TV programming was pretty bad (made worse by watching on a black & white TV), the closest we came to viable video games was Atari and Coleco Vision and a cassette tape only held about 20 songs. We didn’t get a computer until I was about 10 and then it had a tape drive and games included Pong and Space Invaders. Just. Not. Worth. It.

Anyway, back to sports…

Photo: carf on Flickr

Photo: carf on Flickr

There are certainly times in my life when I’ve been more active than at other times. When I was in elementary school I was always involved in at least one sport at any given moment. Through high school, however, I was much less involved as music became the centre of my world. At the end of high school, I joined the Canadian Armed Forces Reserves (to be a musician, actually) and found out just how unfit I had become. Wowza. Basic Training sure served to remind me of the need for a physical existence and awakened in me something I needed to explore.

I took up kickboxing in 2000, just before I turned 25. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. There’s something about martial arts training that really helps you to feel good about yourself and what your body is capable of. From there I added running and yoga. Running seems to feed my soul somehow – it’s so primal – and it also doesn’t hurt that it burns a crapload of calories. Yoga is a great complement to running in that it helps stretch out all the muscles that tend to want to shorten when I run. Add in my love of snowboarding in the winter and even the odd day kayaking in the summers and I feel my life has been enriched tremendously by these activities.

When I don’t get to participate in sport of some kind my life feels out of balance.

It’s so easy to say, “I don’t have any time for exercise.” The truth is, you have to make time. You wouldn’t say, “I just don’t have time to shower regularly so I don’t do it.” You would be gross. But what’s happening to your insides, your cells, your organs, your skin? What’s happening inside your body when you don’t make time for exercise? It isn’t pretty.

In my opinion, sport is the way to self-preservation, and I don’t think active living needs to be as hard as people make it out.

Photo: CasaDeQueso on Flickr

Photo: CasaDeQueso on Flickr

Photo: targophoto.com on Flickr

Photo: targophoto.com on Flickr

Now, if you’re anything like me you’d rather cut off your left arm than spend an hour on a cardio machine at the gym and follow it up with a series of weightlifting sets while staring at the spandex-clad fitness model doing one-armed pushups in the mirror. Forget gyms. Go elsewhere.

Going back to that childhood thing… we played sports, we made up games, we lived actively. We didn’t sit so still during the day we had to plan in a trip to a ‘fitness facility’ at the end of it else our muscles would atrophy. I think everyone needs to make it their goal to find a sport they enjoy and participate whenever possible. I don’t think this is an option; it’s absolutely imperative.

If you don’t like it, you won’t do it. If you don’t do it, it’s like not showering. But if you search and you find, I guarantee your life will be enriched and you will likely live longer.

Here are just some ideas for non-gym sports and activities you might enjoy, even if you hate the gym:

  • Kickboxing/tae-kwon-do/karate/muay thai (hard style martial arts)
  • Tai Chi/Kung-Fu/Capoeira (softer style martial arts)
  • Yoga (so many great styles to choose)
  • Ballet/hip-hop/belly dancing/pole dancing
  • Walking/running/hiking/trail running
  • Skiing/snowboarding/telemark/cross-country skiing/snowshoeing
  • Ice skating/hockey/curling
  • Swimming/diving
  • Cycling/Cross-Country or Downhill Mountain Biking
  • Softball/Baseball
  • Soccer (indoor or outdoor)
  • Surfing/Wind Surfing/Kite Surfing
  • Rock Climbing/Ice Climbing/Mountaineering
  • Kayaking/Canoeing/Rowing/Dragon Boating
  • Scuba Diving
  • Water Skiing/Wakeboarding
  • Bowling/Lawn Bowling
  • Ultimate Frisbee
  • Football/Flag Football
  • Volleyball
  • Tennis/Badminton/Ping Pong
  • Squash/Handball/Racketball
  • Horseback Riding/Water Polo
  • Golf

There really is no need to ever set foot in a gym again if you don’t enjoy it.

I’m going to continue running and snowboarding when time permit, hitting the odd yoga class as I can fit it in and hiking the Grouse Grind once the trail opens. What do you like to do to stay active and enrich your life?