Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. I hope all of us can take a little time to express our love and gratitude for the physical activities, sports, and movement practices that support us and sustain us. I plan to go to my favorite Friday yoga class with my favorite teacher (Hi, Liz R!). Outdoor cycling– my other love– will have to wait, as it’s too cold and icy for me right now.
But today, I want to pause and look back at some sports encounters I thought would turn into bona fide sports relationships, but either we never clicked, or it wasn’t the right time, or something else came between us. These, my friends, are the sports that somehow got away. But it doesn’t mean that I didn’t love them.
In college, one of my friends was on the fencing team, and he talked me into taking some lessons. I really enjoyed both the agility training and the precision of movement, but never developed the combo of enough skill and commitment to follow through. Still, when I see women’s fencing, it gives me a thrill and I think about myself there behind that mask, foil in hand. En garde!
My friend Martin is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ), and is an enthusiastic ambassador for the sport. He arranged for me to take some lessons with his friend Cesar, also a black belt and a long-time trainer and teacher. I have to say, it was a lot of fun, grappling on the mat, learning a bit about some of the basics. And the conditioning exercises alone (to be in one’s best shape for doing BJJ) is a killer full-body workout (in more ways than one). Again, although there was instant attraction, I didn’t find myself setting aside time to pursue it. But I am a fan, particularly of the women fighters.
Parkour is a recent crush. I blogged about it here. It was fun balancing, stepping on all the uneven surfaces, learning how to move your body in ways that respected gravity but also protected and cushioned you from harm. And I have to say, the warmup and conditioning exercises were tough and good for me. But, it was not to be. I have a history of ankle injuries (multiple sprains and also avulsion fractures in both ankles), and jumping down from a height and landing on a hard surface was not good for them. Sigh. I haven’t completely given up the idea of fashioning some agility training that just omits the jumping down from heights. In the spring I’ll report back on progress.
Scuba was one of those vacation romances that was entirely unexpected, thrilling, but ultimately not sustainable. When I was on sabbatical in 2015 in Australia, I went to Cairns in Queensland with the specific goal of experiencing the Great Barrier Reef. I swam, kayaked and snorkeled. I also went on a day trip to one of the outer reefs.
As I was getting on the boat, one of the twenty-something staff people asked me if I was planning on diving that day. I said, I have no experience or training. She smiled widely and said, “that doesn’t matter! We will take care of everything!” I asked, “how much does it cost?” Turned out it was $50. Done– I was in.
Oh my, what a terrifying at first but then magical experience it was, being 10–13 meters underwater, with coral reefs, myriad fishes, ancient giant clams, turtles, and yes sharks too. I loved it. Quickly I ceased to notice my own breathing through the respirator, and all became quiet and blue, as I moved slowly through the water. It was heaven.
Determined to experience underwater nirvana again, I decided to take a proper certification course when I got back home. The online materials were interesting, and the class (at a local dive shop) let me ask followup questions. We took a test, and that part was done.
Then we moved to the pool for a two-day skills course. Let me say now that two days just isn’t enough to develop and practice and get comfortable with underwater scuba skills, at least not for me. I felt (and was) rushed the whole time. Day one went uneventfully, but I got rattled on day two. My breathing was more shallow and rapid, and I had to get another tank. The instructor kept hurrying me (fair enough) but I really needed more time. And I wasn’t the only one; at least two others in the class of five were in need of a slower pace, and it was clear they weren’t having fun.
The instructor did end up checking me out on all my pool skills, but with the lifeguard standing by the pool, waiting for us to finish so he could close up for the day. Clearly, the time allotted for the course was not sufficient. I get it– scuba instruction is expensive for everyone (students and instructors), so minimizing time minimizes cost. But the cost to me was the undermining of my confidence and enthusiasm. I never did follow through with the required two open-water dives to get my certification.
Will I ever return to scuba? Maybe. Maybe not. But I will always love you.
Readers, what sports or activities have you loved and lost, or loved but never had a relationship with? I’d love to hear from you.