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November 2019
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An active life

A few months ago, I was playing hockey and a good friend suffered a heart attack while on the ice. As it happened, it turned out that he was lucky that he was playing hockey, both because of the guys on the teams with medical training who were able to help him, and the proximity of the hospital. I’m pleased to say that Stephane has made a full recovery and is now playing hockey again as part of his rehab.

Stephane talks openly about what happened, and the story has been a wake up call for a good number of people.  It has had a profound effect on a number of people, with some life changing consequences.

Hockey is a demanding sport, especially for those middle aged out of shape sorts, who are pushing their bodies hard for the minute or two whilst on the ice, before sitting on the bench – all after a week sat behind a desk.  I’m not sure if it applies to all, but when I go on the ice, when I go orienteering, or so many other things, I think I should be able to do what I did when I was 18. I have yet to fully accept that the body does not react the same way when you are 40+, and I probably set the expectations too high, and then wonder why I’m out of breath, or why the muscles ache for hours afterwards. The pressures of family and work all eat into the time available to maintain an active life, and finding a sensible balance is not always easy.  Couple that with a perceived, ever increasing, need to regularly turn to a computer or ipad to keep connected on an information or social level, or just for entertainment reduces time further.  Jo will tell you of my growing intolerance to my perception of the ‘stupidity’ of computer games like “Freeflow”, or “Bejewelled”, or even worse those that involve flicking you finger across the screen to ‘run’ and collect coins – while I get there might be some benefits to memory, the only physical exercise is the movement of one or two fingers – really!!

My second concern relates not to me, but to Millie and Sophie. Is it a dad thing that says kids need to be active and out playing all the time? Is it rose coloured glasses that means memories of childhood include playing out in the street with friends, the bike races around the roads, the ad hoc soccer or cricket in the local field, the games of Acky 1,2,3 etc etc, with some homework getting in the way? Is it that girls really  just want to sit and read all the time? It seems crazy to me to be demanding that Millie and Sophie get out of the house and play – Go, go out and play, go and have some fun, call your friends, get on your bikes, just do something that gets you active! Shouldn’t I be calling them to come in to set the table, or because homework needs to be done?

I’m not expecting Millie and Sophie to be the next Olympians, but I do want them to have a level of fitness and stamina that enables them to enjoy sports and activities, through which they will develop important like skills such as communication, empathy, team work and leadership and a desire to be the best they can be.  Most importantly though I want them to have fun, and enjoy a full and active life, grasping the opportunities presented to them with both hands, and giving each one a try. Having tried it, they can either decide yes, they liked and want to do more, or no, I’m glad I tried but it is not for me. Just seize the opportunity and don’t let life pass you by.

Oh for a simpler more active life! But hang on, who is deciding what we do, and how we spend our time? That’s right we are, we have the ability to make a choice and to do things differently. Maybe that’s easier for me to do. After Stephane’s heart attack, I got that medical check I’d been putting off, I’ve improved my diet and started to get towards a healthier weight. I look for those opportunities to be active. I now walk to the station each day, and run up the stairs. I look to get out on my bike or to go for a run when I can. The challenge now is to keep it up and not to relapse into the old habits.

For Millie and Sophie, they have a choice , and we will keep asking them to make that choice. Are they ready to grasp the enormity of the choice, maybe not. So I’m on a mission to cajole, to get them active, to teach them fun ways to be active and to give the opportunities. This is to be a summer of change – wish me luck, I think we might be going the long way round!


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