With the Olympics over and the Paralympics pending it got me thinking about the influence Sport has on our everyday lives. One may not be a sportsman/woman themselves, yet still find themselves engrossed in the excitement of the action. Perhaps due to patriotism or a love of spectatorship – to watch athletes perform at what usually is the pinnacle of their career after years of hard work. Alternatively, there are also those who participate within sports themselves and can only begin to imagine the experience they (Team GB) have had in Rio de Janeiro, which serves as one of the biggest motivations of all time.
Focusing more upon the latter, the great achievements of the athletes out in Rio. I pondered how sport had shaped my own life. I have always been aware, as I am sure have many of my training partners and competitors have also that participating within sport often entails sacrifices. However, due to these ‘sacrifices’ and hours of training I truly believe sport has shaped me into the best version of myself.
Here are a few things I believe sport at any age can teach someone (no matter what level):
Confidence. Without a doubt sport instills confidence. Not only through body image, but also through socialising with a variety of different people. Physical activity also releases serotonin, a feel good hormone which makes it more likely for you to be more positive within your every day life (even for a short while) and consequently boost confidence.
Ability to achieve under pressure. Whilst this isn’t always necessarily the case (I still get reeaally nervous before exams… and races), it definitely helps. If you put yourself into a competitive environment, fueled with adrenaline on a regular basis, you’re more likely to excel as you’ve had practice. This could be translated into a working environment, for example when you have to make a presentation to a room full of people. This familiar feeling could make all the difference. As they say, practice makes perfect.
The value of healthy eating. Of course chocolate and buiscits will remain my favourite foods EVER, but athletics has certainly brought to my attention the importance of getting the right nutrients. It’s also helped me to understand how much of an influence of what you eat has over your mood, through intolerance testing. I’ve also learnt how to get foods into my diet which I’m not so keen on, whether that be through supplements or through blending horrible green veg into a smoothie.
Organisation. This is a biggie. I constantly hear people complaining that ‘they have no time to exercise’. I hear you, there aren’t enough hours in the day. However if you plan when and where you want to train it becomes a whole lot easier and far harder to come up with excuses. Having done athletics since I was roughly 9 years old and juggling school work with training. Organisation is something which I’ve developed naturally… so much so that at one point I was literally planning my day by the hour so that I could fit in my main sessions, pre-hab, appointments, yoga etc. If nothing else, planning 30 mins at the gym into your day will help your organisation at work.
Self love. Cringe, I know. Yet, it’s so true. Choosing to look after your body (exercising) makes you far more aware of how your body functions. It allows you to accept that your body is unique and may require you to do things a little differently to everyone else. My experience of sport has also highlighted the integral role that rest days and active recovery days play, as after all we’re only human.
Sleep. In my younger years I used to drive my parents crazy as I hardly slept.. I didn’t sleep through the night until I was 2 years old, but now I can’t get enough of the stuff. Sport enhances your chances at getting a better nights sleep. I know that if I haven’t trained for a couple of days I’ll become restless whilst sleeping.
A handy tip that I’ve learnt due to athletics is that if you want to perform at your best, whether that be for an exam or competition you need to get a good nights sleep two days before the event (rather than one). For example if I had a race on Friday I’d try and get the best nights sleep possible on the Wednesday to fuel me.
Resilience and Drive. Many have argued that this is innate, however I believe it can also be developed in the right environment. If you exercise with those who are of a similar age to you and also of a similar ability (if not possibly better), I believe you will thrive. You will also find if you surround yourself with people who possess resilience and drive whilst exercising, these traits will also rub off on you.
Comradery. Pushing yourself with others creates both mutual respect and comradery. This was clear to all in the Olympics, specifically in the girls 4x100m relay, with Dina Asher-Smith, Asha Philip, Desirée Henry and Daryll Neita. It was evident to all that each respected and trusted each other to get the baton round and thus formed a great team. Comradery could become a larger part of your everyday life as you gain a greater awareness of what others around you are achieving and the efforts it’s taken them to get there, as a result of participating in sport.
Importance of relationships. This for me, sports specifically is an obvious one. The person you work out or train with has to be someone you can put your trust in. Toni Minichiello recently stated in the BBC documentary ‘Jessica Ennis-Hill: A Coach’s Story’ that athletes effectively go to coaches and place their dreams into their hands. Minichiello highlighted the importance of a good athlete, coach relationship as without a coach which you can trust you will not be able to achieve your dreams. The same goes for your every day work out at the gym as equally your coach or PT will be with you there in the most grueling moments of a session. Similarly on a daily basis you need to surround yourself with people who you can trust and who will be able to support and motivate you in the not-so-great times as well as the good times.
Please let me know what you think of these points and of your personal experiences within sport.
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