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February 2019 Taking up sport in later life.

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Life can be full of surprises and opportunities, sometimes showing up when we’re not expecting them. Recently life has done just that to me, through my daughter taking up tennis and absolutely loving it. Wrapped up in all that enthusiasm it turns out she is rather good. I used to play but I have not picked up a racket, let alone hit a ball, for nearly thirty years. It is important that I explain, when I use the word ‘play’ here, it is a relative term because I wasn’t very good. I expended a great deal of effort, lots of huffing and puffing with little accuracy or power despite my best efforts. Needless to say, no one ever tried to woo me into their club.

Despite all this negativity, I still had a longing to play and to play well. A similar sentiment I have for speaking fluent French but I digress….

As can be the way of things, my daughter was poorly on the day of one of her lessons and I found myself asking if I could take her place. It was dawning on me that unless I learnt to play properly, my daughter would not want to play tennis with her uncool, rather hopeless tennis playing Mama.

So play commenced on that fateful day. All the familiar huffing and puffing and manic sprinting across the court like a headless chicken came to the fore. Not an impressive sight. I was exhausted and the next day I was SO stiff and SO sore in virtually every bodily part that was mine, I wondered at the sense in what I had done. It was time to assess. Should I be doing this? Is it too late to take up this sport? Am I deluding myself and being unrealistic? These were all the questions swimming in my head as I attempted to numb my body in my long hot, epsom salted bath.

I broke the situation down and looked at each component part and asked myself the following:

Can I run across the court? Yes.

Can I swing a racket and hit a ball? Yes.

Can I listen and apply instruction from a coach? Yes.

Can I accept that it could take months for my body to acquire the strength, flexibility and dexterity it needs to play? Ummmmm…Yes?

Can I then commit to a consistent training programme that addresses the necessary strength, flexibility and dexterity requirements? Can I accept that initially this will be rudimentary and at times tedious but essential for my body to adapt and develop the infrastructure it needs to reduce the chances of me damaging myself?…….silence….

OK this last one took longer to get my head around. I wanted to play tennis NOW. If not at Wimbledon level, certainly at some level. Then I remembered how I felt after my first lesson and reality soon came into focus. So finally the answer was yes but here lies the nub. Unless I recognised my limitations and was prepared to work on them in a controlled, graded and phased manner, attempting a new activity would be potentially unsafe, placing my body and health at risk. I could either use this as a reason to give up or see it as a statement of fact. I have chosen the latter.

So, if like me, you have an aspiration, or curiosity to learn a new skill or to attempt a longed for experience, don’t give up on the idea just because you’re a certain age or have particular limitations with your body or health. Don’t be mislead by thinking it’s all right for me because allegedly I’m fit and healthy. I, like many people, have limiting health issues. The reason I work on my health and body is because if I didn’t, these health issues would significantly limit my life (and there are times when that does still happen).

HOWEVER, with a controlled, graded and phased approach our bodies can achieve more than we might think. Your starting point when starting out from ground level, needs to be at a level that is easily and safely achieved however basic and simplistic it may be. Remember the concept of filling the bath with only a teaspoon. It may seem ridiculously futile and pointless but in time the bath WILL FILL.

For some of you, with some activities your starting point may well be a far cry from where you ultimately want to be. Don’t let this be a stumbling block. Let this simply be a stepping stone, in what may turn out to be a journey of multiple stepping stones. You may need to find someone who can facilitate you moving along those stepping stones safely, realistically and progressively. Think of where you want to be and where you are now and how you are going to bridge that gap without hurting or straining your body or disillusioning and disheartening your psyche. Both are equally important. It is also essential that you allow for the set backs ill health and life events or any other curve balls, that will inevitably knock on your door.

So join me, should you wish to take up a challenge that requires time, patience and long term commitment, to discover a part of you that you may have given up hope of ever achieving or discovering. Please feel free to get in touch if you would like to ask more about this or perhaps how to even get started. As always, I’m here to help.

Now, about that désir de parler couramment français…

| 6 comments | in growing older, little and often, perspective in aging, Prepare your body, Progressing and grading exercise

6 Responses to February 2019 Taking up sport in later life.

  1. Sally Mitchell says:

    Fab post ! I think at ‘our age’ there are are an increasingly long list of things we’ll never do, but playing tennis isn’t one of them.
    I have tried for many years to improve my french ( so it matches my german language ability) with some success. May I suggest the OU – you don’t need to do a degree, just a year by year improvement taking about 10 hours a week. Very rewarding !

    • Rachel Kili says:

      Hi Sally, ooooh I love the OU idea. Congrats on the success of your French, perhaps it will rub off on me too! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and suggestions.
      Rachel x

  2. Janice Coombes says:

    Well done Rachel!
    I used to go to a group tennis lesson many years ago when I lived in Australia. My coach was very patient and gave out “rewards” at the end of each session. I hit the jackpot every week and came away with lovely produce from his garden “the reward” but not for best in the class, but ‘student with most room for improvement!”
    I enjoy watching tennis and have been lucky enough to see many of the top players around the world so have great admiration for their skill, stamina and dedication.
    Good luck!

    • Rachel Kili says:

      Hello Janice
      Thank you for your lovely message. What a wonderful array of experiences and stories to tell! I think if my coach were ever to reward me, it would be for my potential yet to come… so there is always hope and something to work towards!
      Best wishes

  3. Chris Littlewood says:

    Hi Rachel,
    I am a big tennis fan, I went to Wimbledon twice last year, but even at school I was hopeless. No talent at all.
    However, I did meet a woman who agreed with your message of persistence and commitment. She was 84 when I bought the horse she had just trained. She had been chosen for the British Olympic dressage team when she was 70. She told me that one lifetime was just not enough to master the art of riding.

    So keep plugging away. Chris.

    • Rachel Kili says:

      Dear Chris, what an inspiring and encouraging message. Thank you so much for sharing this. It is a life message for us all. So much of what we want from life is as much to do with our mindset as it is our physical health. I’ll keep plugging away!
      Best wishes

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