When I was a kid I liked to play boisterous games in the garden, running around making lots of noise. Anything involving getting dirty, crashing to the ground, skidding across the grass or climbing trees. In bad weather, I also loved sitting in my room making models from toilet rolls, cardboard boxes, egg cartons and such like. My model creatures starred in little plays I dreamed up for my own amusement. I had far too much energy to fit in a house, though, and I was quite a handful.
I think it was a relief to all of us when I started a paper round at 12 years old and earned enough money to buy a racing bike. From then on, I took off after school on my bike and didn’t go home until I was worn out or it was dinner time. I went on mind adventures, making up stories about the people I saw from my invisible bike.
Here’s my sneaky truth: I still do a lot of that today. I have a lot of energy to burn off so sport has been my savior – squash, rugby, running, mountain biking, beach volleyball, triathlon, swimming. I don’t care what it is, I need to play.
Play lets me off the hook.
I love to absorb myself in an activity with so few responsibilities. It doesn’t matter who I am, where I live, what my job is or how much I earn. I just have to turn up in a clean kit, be disciplined and train consistently, stick to my position and put some effort into it. All things I love to do. Then we can all muck about, have a laugh and sit down spent afterwards in the camaraderie of sport.
Did I mention adrenaline? I’ve also had flings with hang-gliding, parachuting, bungee-jumping, rifle shooting, kayaking, scuba diving, motorbike racing and touring. My nerves like standing on end, apparently.
There’s a snag though.
As I’ve aged, my body has taken a lot of knocks and it’s not the invincible unit I used to rely on. I’ve had to give up one sport after another. I still cycle, run, swim and gym but nothing else. Oh, wait, except the jewel in the crown – bodysurfing.
I throw myself into the ocean most mornings. It’s always there, anyone can play and as the waves lift me there is a moment of total GLEE! I feel 10 years old again when my body’s shooting forward at the mercy of the wave and the break is frothing around my ears. There are plenty of unexpected tumbles and I both fear and love that I can’t control the ocean or myself in it. There’s an elemental feeling of abandoning myself to this powerful force of nature, which delivers by return a cracking joy ride.
It’s the perfect carefree antidote to life’s responsibilities. I feel clean and sleek, like an animal.
Play – how on earth would I live without it?
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