This seems like a very apt time to sit and reflect on sport, health and fitness while my poor battered body recovers from an intense couple of days returning to exercise after what seems like a lifetime.
This seems like a very apt time to sit and reflect on sport, health and fitness while my poor battered body recovers from an intense couple of days returning to exercise after what seems like a lifetime. And I feel bad; bad that I’ve let myself get so out of shape, bad that I’ve slipped out the habit of sport being a bigger part of my life, when in fact, sport is a very big part of my family.
My grandfather excelled at sport, playing for the Northern Irish rugby team and also being part of the British Olympic team, competing in Javelin. My mother enjoys Horse Riding, Archery and Golf, my father is obsessed with Windsurfing, and my sister still plays Hockey twice a week whilst working ridiculous hours in London. I grew up loving Gymnastics, sometimes enjoying Windsurfing (preferring the turquoise bathtub warmth of the Caribbean sea to the blustery cold grey waters of Strangford Lough back home) and dabbling in Rugby at university. But, I never quite had the sticking power to keep up one of these hobbies into adulthood. During the 2012 Olympics, I brought a group of school students up to London to watch Women’s freestyle wrestling which was awe-inspiring and frustrating in the same instance; I saw incredible athleticism, strength and stamina, but also something I wish I had seen earlier and had an opportunity to do myself.
I’m always surprised by how powerful the Olympics are – how they can instil such a strong sense of national pride and have a lasting impact with inspiring huge numbers of children and adults alike to take up a sport themselves. I love that within a couple of weeks we can consider ourselves experts in assessing world class athletes, and I’ve found myself having very in-depth conversations about the fine details of Fencing and Synchronised Diving.
We all know that sport and fitness are incredibly important: for healthy lifestyles, instilling dedication and perseverance, that sense of achievement for beating your personal best, or just being able to take a break from the stresses of every day. But I think it’s easy to overlook the power of the team. On Friday after school, instead of going home and getting into my pyjamas I was cajoled into going to Staff Fitness. Despite our faces being bright red, our legs going to jelly, our breathing exasperated and wanting to give up early on, we did it. And not only did we survive the hour, but we did it with laughter, and with words of encouragement.
The next morning, the alarm went off at 6am, and I found myself getting ready to head to Bewl Water for a day hike with the World Challenge team. We all braced ourselves for a day of rain, cold (5 degrees Celsius) and mud. This day was an important part of their fitness, getting ready for their expedition to Cambodia this July, but more so, it was a challenge to how they would work in a team when faced with difficult situations. These Year 11 students have had two weeks of GCSE mocks and their Language Speaking and Listening exam, and yet, they were in high spirits and helped each other whenever they were tired, or fell over into the mud (which almost everyone did). We walked 12.5 miles in the rain and the mud and the feeling of pride for our girls outweighed our own sense of accomplishment.
This is why I think sport and fitness are so important – they help us create our own sense of identity, and this being part of a wider community. This is why I will continue to feel proud whenever I see a student I teach or used to teach in the Student Bulletin or Invicta News for their sporting achievements in or outside of school, or that my voice will go hoarse as I scream for my House competing in Sports Day, or why I will get out of bed early on a Saturday morning to go for a hike in the rain. I know right now, my calves are so tight that walking down the stairs is painful, but I know that this Friday I’ll be back in Staff fitness with my friends, ready to do it all again.
Mrs E Harrington
Head of Sixth Form