Sport for the Uninitiated: Jumping for Joy
Sophie Porteous talks about her fitness journey and the mental and physical benefits of getting active
Exercise and I have never had a close relationship. Despite my first initial and last name literally combining to be ‘Sporteous’, I could not be further from that. I haven’t always completely shied away from sport and exercise: I did play netball and rounders at the beginning of secondary school, and I did cross country as an after-school club, but this was arguably only for the hot chocolate and biscuits that we got given at the end.
As someone who has suffered with chronic pain for nearly 6 years, sport became something that was painful and tiring. I used to dread PE lessons, often purposefully scheduling doctors’ appointments, and music lessons in the middle of the class so it would be impossible for me to join in. Since the age of 12 I have never really seen the appeal of running around a field in the cold, and the idea of paying for a gym membership that I knew deep down I would never use seemed silly to me.
Coming to uni I joined body soc, and this definitely made me a bit more interested in exercise classes, but for me it was more of a social occasion: going to a Zumba class to have a giggle with my friends once every two weeks didn’t really feel like ‘exercise’ to me, and paired with the constant powering up and down hills everyday I felt perfectly content with my level of activity.
Yet when lockdown started last March, I felt like I had a lot of energy that I didn’t know how to get rid of. Going from walking everywhere, clubbing and generally just moving quite a lot, it turns out I had actually been quite active for the first 2 years of uni, and now all I could do was sit at home. I tried to make the most of the daily permitted exercise, going for walks nearly every day, but walking a dog who just likes to plod around a very flat field is not quite on par with pacing it up forum hill because I’m running late for a lecture in Peter Chalk. Then, I discovered an LBT class run by an old president of body soc that was being hosted on zoom every Tuesday so I decided to try it out and it was brilliant. I have always loved doing things that are set to music: I’d much rather be doing squats while listening to Little Mix than trying to do a burpee with only my panting to listen to.
The biggest problem I’ve always found in exercise classes is that due to health issues I always have to do the low impact versions of the moves, and I tend to get very out of breath very fast (although at is probably just because I am unfit). In an in-person class I feel embarrassed to be the only one marching when everyone else is jogging, but at home I can do whatever intensity I need to and not feel self-conscious. Plus, I can take a break in the middle and no one has to know!
Not only has exercise become a good way of using up the excess energy I have from sitting around all day, there have also been massive mental health benefits. The endorphins that follow an exercise class are incredible. I never thought I would be someone who is actively looking forward to exercise, but as I sit here writing this I keep thinking about how I could fit in a 20 minute HIIT workout that is set to songs from musicals (check out emkfit on youtube if this is something you are interested in!).
” Exercise was always something I (incorrectly) assumed people only did to lose weight or stay in shape, but exercise doesn’t actually have to be about that at all. “
Shifting my view on exercise as being something fun that I can do for myself, instead of something I feel like I should be doing has been so good for me. I saw a video of Chessie King, Honey Ross & Sophie Milner discussing how exercise is the equivalent of an ‘adult playtime’, and this concept is something I whole heartedly agree with. When we were children, we would run around for hours with our friends just for fun, and I think exercise should be seen in the same way now.
So if you’re reading this and thinking ‘that sounds fantastic for you, but I’m not really a fitness person’ then trust me: I’ve been there and thought those exact same things, but I honestly think once you have found your ‘thing’, be it going for a run, doing a dance routine or simply following Joe Wicks, you too will start reaping the benefits.