Dear Steff Metal
I hate sports. There, I said it. I think they’re stupid and pointless. Like rugby – what’s the point of trying to get the ball to the end of the field by throwing it backwards? We were forced to play all sorts of shit in PE at school, and I was always crap at everything – rugby, gymnastics, soccer, baseball, field sports … so of course when I left school I stopped playing sport. I’ve always been quite skinny, so it didn’t seem to be a problem.
But the problem is, the older I get, the less my metabolism is able to process all the crap I eat. I’m getting a bit of a pot belly and, even though the cat thinks it’s wonderful I’ve made a nice warm belly shelf for her to sit on, I would rather I didn’t get any bigger.
What do you suggest for the metalhead who wants to keep fit and healthy, but doesn’t want to play rugby with all the other munts?
I believe PE class (Physical Education – Gym class for all you US readers) exists for the sole purpose of ensuring kids never want to do physical exercise ever again – from the uncomfortable, unflattering sports uniform, to the embarrassment of failing at everything in front of all your peers, to the horror of having hockey/bassball/rugby balls hurled at your face at unprecedented speeds …
I should know. I’m legally blind – I have no depth perception. If you throw something at me, chances are high I’m not going to catch it. Years of having kids deliberately throwing stuff at me so it hit me in the face means when someone goes to throw something at me, I flinch away and cover my face. It’s become an involuntary reaction. Your loathing of sports does not surprise me, for I share the same loathing.
I’m not going to write a laundry list of my most embarrassing sporting moments, because we would be several thousand words into this post and I would not have answered your question. There was the time I signed up to swim in the school triathalon in my first year because the seniors pressured me (“I can’t swim,” I said. “Don’t worry,” they said. “I can’t swim either, and I’m doing it.” Aparently there’s a difference between my idea of “can’t swim” and their idea). I had to swim eight laps, and I did it – which is probably something to be proud of, but I did it at a slow doggy paddle – so slow, everyone else had ginished, and the pool was completely empty, except me, and I still had 5 laps to go. My cycle partner – who I’d never met before but later became my best friend – looked SO pissed.
This is not to mention the fact that our school held rugby to be greatest achievement of a youngun’s school days. The first XV (or Rugby-Heads, as they were not-so-affectionatly known) were worshipped as gods. We don’t really do cheerleading in New Zealand, but all the popular kids – guys and girls – were good at sport. I was part of the school theatresports group – we got to regionals, and it wasn’t even in the morning notices. The rugby team lost a game, they got a 10 minute discriptive play-by-play rundown in the weekly assembaly. They bullied me and my friends. All this did nothing to ease my antagonism toward sports.
I had a wall chart where I counted down the days till I never had to do PE again. And then, on my last class, I actually wagged. I had never, ever wagged a class before, but I was just so sick of it. I can’t remember what I did – probably went to the library like the badass I am.
In six form, I had a terrible break-up, and I was at home moping when my mum started going to the gym. She suggested a couple of times I should go with her, and so one day, I did. I thought I would hate it, but I LOVED it. No one threw anything at me, no one forced me to do anything – there was me and the machines, and I could choose what I wanted to lift, how many reps. I could listen to music. I could lose myself in my own thoughts. I could look in the mirror and see myself working out … with a smile on my face.
And I felt great. Amazing. My posture and balance improved, and so did my self-confidence. Each time I went I lifted heavier weights. I discovered I loved challenging myself. I realised I didn’t hate exercise – I just hated sports that meant I had to be on a team with other people.
For nearly ten years now, I’ve gone to the gym regularly – 2-6 times per week. And I’ve participated in many different sports, including rock climbing, Goju Ryu karate (brown belt), jiu-jitsu, and plenty of tramping and walking. I sometimes go to a zumba class – yeah, it’s naff, but it’s a good workout and free – and took a youga class once too, although I don’t like it.
Your problem is you’re stuck into thinking the only kind of exercise you get comes from the kind of stuff you did in PE class, and even if you could one day, maybe, potentially enjoy one of those sports, they’re forever tainted by the fact you hated them in PE class. I put it to you that there are heaps of potential exercise regiemes that would suit you. Here are some of my ideas for metalhead workouts:
Jogging: picture this; just you, pounding the pavement on a crisp, misty morning, your hands balled into fists, and your iPod glued to your ears – there’s no one else around, just you, an empty park or street, the smell of fresh air, and a soundtrack of epic metal running tunes. If you want to combine your exercise with time alone to think, jogging is the perfect workout. And, apart from ensuring you buy the best pair of running shoes, it’s totally free, leaving you plenty of money to expand your collection of rare norwegian black metal vinyls.
Martial arts: And I’m not talking some kind of watered-down mixed martial arts at your local community centre. Do your research and find groups in your area who practise real martial arts – there are hundreds of schools, from asian martial arts to South American and European martial arts. (I spent six months learning a certain illegal martail art which I can’t talk about because … it’s illegal. But let’s just say, I’m quite a dangerous girl to attempt to rape in an alley). Some schools are quite ancient, while others are splinter groups who may have only been in existance for a few years.
I spent over three years practising Goju Ryu karate – the school started in Okinawa by – <> . The Japanese teach that practice, concentration, discipline and belief in yourself override the body’s natural reflexes – that’s how unfit, wimpy people like me find themselves able to do 50 push-ups … on their knuckles, and flattening someone twice your size. Above all – you learn respect – respect for the art of fighting, respect for your elders and your opponents, and respect for yourself. It was through practising martial arts I learnt to respect my body and what it could do – I learnt to be confident and proud.
Rock climbing: I was a rock climber in seventh form on our school’s team – I was good at some things – I discovered I have tremendous upper-body strength – but suck at competition climbing because you have to climb according to colors – which I can’t see. If you’ve got a partner you can work with, this is one of the best strength and endurance workouts imaginable, and both indoor and outdoor climbs present unique challenges.
Circus arts: I’m signing up for a trapeze class with the <> company. Why? because it sounds like awesome fun, and apparently, it’s quite a workout. If you thought gymnastics had potential but ended up kind of lame, try aerials, high wire, or those topsy turvy ladder things.
Dancing: and I don’t mean headbanging – try tribal dances with heaps of pounding drums. There’s even a chick doing belly dancing to heavy metal.
Tramping: In New Zealand, we’re lucky to be blessed with some of the most astoundingly beautiful natural scenery. And the best way to enjoy it is to go bush for a few days. You don’t need a lot of money or any special equiptment other than a pack, some decent shoes, the ultimate trail mix, and a cold beer waiting for you when you finish.
Swimming: it’s one of the best workouts you can do, and, with heated pools common in most cities, you can swim any time of the year. Being a decent swimmer can lead to other, more awesome pursuits, like diving, spear fishing or white-water rafting.
Snowboarding: a couple of years ago, I was able to add snowboarding to the list of things I shouldn’t really be good at but kind of am. In my first morning, I was good enough to attempt the intermediate slope – the ominiously-named “rock garden”. And, although I toppled most of the way down the rock garden, I got some honest-to-Odin actual upright boarding in, and fuck, it was cool.
Weights/Gym: for simply losing weight and getting on track to feeling awesome – I can totally recommend the gym. You have to be a certain kind of person to enjoy it – and you need to have a gym nearby that’s not too expensive (try checking out voucher sites or TradeMe for cheap introductory memberships). If you pay for your membership, you have to force yourself to go. On your first visit, talk to a trainer about what you want to achive (weight loss, general fitness, gain strength or flexibility) and have them write you up a program. If you’re aiming to lose weight, I’d suggest 5-6 days a week to start (3 days of weights, the rest of cardio), then you can drop back to maintain weight and fitness. You can bring along your iPod and listen to whatever you want. My work has a gym which is usually empty, so I can play my own CDs on the stereo.
You could probably also try to eat less crap, but that’s a discussion for another post.
Readers, what do you to do stay fit? What tips can you offer for anyone not used to exercise finding the right sport for them? How did you come to find the sports you enjoy? Have you ever been part of a winning team?