The art of chilling out

Since early summer, I have been switched off from my GPS watch, Garmin, Strava and the blogosphere. The running, cycling (or pootling) and swimming have not ceased, though not as intensive as before.

In July 2015, I decided to turn a new leaf and do a ‘Haruki Murakami‘ – you know, doing the active pursuits for sheer enjoyment, and not to fit in with a clique, or for habitus. I have been so competitive for so long in my leisure pursuits, I forgot to have fun.

There was a reason behind this.

Rowing on the Thames
2004. The crew and I endure a cold winter outing on the Thames.

Ten years before, in July 2005, a week after my brother passed away, I won a pot at a regatta in Maidenhead. Not many people went rowing the day their siblings passed away, but I did. For the following ten years, my life was punctuated, in between long hours at work, with these types of pursuits: regattas, head races, running races, cycling races, and by 2014, a triathlon. Closer to the the tenth anniversary, I figured that it was time to chill out.

Rowing pot
Celebrating the end of postgrad studies at University College London with a tipple in a pot that I won at Maidenhead Regatta. I use the pot to hold pens nowadays. Photo: © Zarina Holmes/GLUE

The decision to chill out and do sports for enjoyment wasn’t easy. It meant I would not be able to ‘keep up with the squaddies’. But really, what did I have to lose? Mates? Money? None of those, really.

So whilst I was away on holiday this April in the West coast of Malaysia, I started to wind down with one-mile runs. One-mile runs in 90% humidity, 30ºC at night, were not relaxing to begin with. The higher the humidity, the harder you breath and the hotter it gets. So during these one-mile runs, I had no choice but to go slower and relax.

Bali MTB
Bali, May 2015. Downhill biking in the volcanic region. I wasn’t good at it, but so what.

Same thing in Bali: slightly lower in humidity, but the village roads were crap for running, and full of crazy dogs not leashed by their owners. If you hear the dogs growling behind you, you don’t sprint. You run slowly at a steady pace and ‘ignore’ the dogs, until they eventually get bored and fuck off back to their homes. So I learned something about not losing my nerves around crazy dogs.

Being cased by the Indian Ocean. Bali changes my mind about what leisure pursuit means. Photo: ©Salina Christmas / GLUE
Being chased by the Indian Ocean. Bali changes my mind about what leisure pursuit means. Photo: © Salina Christmas / GLUE

Upon our return in May, my sister and I did the Westminster 1-Mile run. I didn’t run in my club jersey, and we didn’t get our best time for that event. But we had fun.

Westminster 1-Mile 2015
Me, in yellow top, and twin, in pink, compete with kids at the Westminster 1-Mile 2015. It was a great family outing.

I can’t tell you much about what we have in store for our next adventure, but the running and cycling will be an integral part, although the swimming might not be a frenzied bash-about across some dark, cold lake in late summer. It would be different. More jazzy. Definitely more enjoyable.

Chilling out is not opting out of challenges. At times, we mistake the strenuous activities that occupy our mind and body as a ‘pursuit’, when truly, it is a little more than a distraction, perhaps an escape from one’s reality. But then again, I had had a decade’s worth of escapades in the form of sport, none of them bad and all led to the decision that I come to now.

Medals for having fun. Might do the Westminster 1-Mile again. Selfie: © Salina Christmas/GLUE
Medals for having fun. Might do the Westminster 1-Mile again. Selfie: © Salina Christmas/GLUE

One comment

  1. Good to change your attitude about exercise and physical activity. It isn’t about always “achieving” or being the best. After all, we all become frail and weak, so we had better enjoy our favourite exercise for life. There’s no other better motivator: pleasure, fun and simply feeling better.

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