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Monthly Archives: June 2017

Festival of Fitness

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Festival of Fitness

“You got ‘Davina’s Awesome Abs Workout’?”

“WOT?”

“Kerry Katona’s ’30 Minute Gutbuster’ then?”

“WOT?” The DJ repeats, lifting one of his headphones and craning forward to the gurning reveller leaning over the decks. More slowly mouthed requests follow, but to no avail, as the DJ goes back to spinning his wheels of steel.

dj request

Of course, you don’t actually get people asking for workout tracks at clubs. Keeping in shape and losing weight are not the objectives on a night out to the discotheque. Most of the time there’s a line between music for fun and music for fitness. While many millions aerobicise to tunes in gyms and halls across the world, when you go clubbing or to a gig, the focus is on your enjoyment, not the exercise.

I am one of life’s eternal pedestrians. I don’t have a car and since I had my bike purloined by some miscreant some time ago, I don’t cycle anywhere either. Living and working in a small city means that I’m not hugely disadvantaged as a result, however. I’m lucky that I can walk to work each day, and I’m even luckier that the last slice of my daily jaunt takes me through Cardiff’s lovely Bute Park. As a consequence, I get a decent amount of exercise each day.

I still don’t do enough though. And there are many like me. And there are even more still who are fairly physically inactive. The organisation I work for, Sport Wales, has an aim of getting more people moving. In order to do this, they, and other agencies like them, need to find ways to reach the ones that don’t ‘do sport’. If support is in place early in life, given the right motivation, skills and opportunities, children can develop active habits and set themselves up for a healthier life, but for those of us more long in the tooth, it is a bigger challenge to turn our stubborn minds around and onto new things.

I’ve talked before about the one sport I really enjoy playing (football) and also how I fit some fitness into my commute by jogging home some days. But, aside from that, I’m not hugely keen on exercise itself. It certainly isn’t high up on my list of things to do for fun. I don’t enjoy running, cycling or swimming for any respectable period of time, though I have tried to. On hearing about me jogging home, sportier colleagues than me (i.e. all of them) have enthusiastically asked in the past,

“You caught the running bug then?”

“No,” I reply, “I do the minimum that means I can eat pies and not have to buy bigger trousers”.

violet

So, what’s the answer for people like me? (aside from leaving us to swell like Violet Beauregarde) Well, it’s essentially the same solution for anyone who struggles to motivate themselves to exercise, and that’s to find something that’s fun first, calorie-burning second.

Glastonbury has just finished and it reminded me of my own bout of festival fitness a few weeks ago. It was a much smaller affair, with some 4,000 of us somewhere in a field in Somerset. My fellow festivaleer, Lee, had himself a Fitbit or similar on for the duration of the three-day funkathon, (complete with both drum AND bass, house and techno).

He noticed one morning, as he dragged his partied-out husk from his tent, that Lee had done 5,000 steps that day, according to his wrist-based wizardry. We both mused on this for a moment or so and then thought that, of course, the measurement started at midnight. With us putting in a good few hours of shape-throwing between then and collapse, we’d done half of the recommended 10,000 daily steps without even realising. Because, when you’re dancing, be it at a festival, a club or in the kitchen, you don’t feel like you’re doing a workout.

steps

After the weekend’s dust had settled and our hearing had mostly returned, I asked my friend how many steps he’d done. An average of 40,000 each day, it turns out. Comfortably the most I’d done in any one day since I’ve had my phone (which keeps a record of steps as well).

So, although many (or most) will imbibe a fair few jars of cider/Pimms/moonshine at festivals this summer, and diets may well take a nosedive too, attendees can at least feel smug about their aerobic output over the course of each event, as long as sufficient moves get ‘busted’, so to speak. You do have to ‘give it some’ to reap the body benefits.

It’s potentially a seasonal alternative to more well-known forms of exercise, and one I’d advocate as an avid festivalgoer myself. So get your glitter on, I say, and get moving. In fact, I’m tempted to petition to parliament about subsidising festival tickets as a means of reducing obesity levels in the UK…

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Volunteering: Return on your Investment

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Volunteering: Return on your Investment

Volunteers are a lovely bunch, aren’t they? Very nice I mean. Like, AA man nice (for those who don’t recall the old ad: https://goo.gl/V2A8c).

 

They are the selfless Samaritans making sacrifices, who give so much in so many areas of modern life, across a range of communities and sectors, from offering practical assistance to charities, to helping educate and care for others. A huge amount of time is given over to volunteering. Evenings are relinquished when full days have already been worked.

And the reasons for doing it are varied. For some, it’s helping out with an activity that their child is undertaking (coaching a sports team for example). For others, the work done for free supports or makes up for a lack of services that might otherwise be provided by a council or health trust.vols

Whatever the reasons, there are millions of awesome folk across the country that lend a hand regularly. And that’s heart-warming to hear in these times when fear, mistrust and negative news is spread in much greater volume than positivity and when nations and ideologies clash, making social cohesion feel reduced or under attack.

That makes it all the more important to remember that there are around 15 million people in the UK regularly (monthly or more) giving up their time for others, and this altruism often spans boundaries of age, race and religion, which in turn breaks down barriers and can bring people closer together.

Back to the niceness though. I’m not about to dispute my opening statement, but we do need to add something to the mix. You see, much of the conversation you’ll hear, particularly in Volunteers Week, centres on thanking volunteers for what they give and how the hours they put in contribute to improving lives for others. And of course they should be appreciated; it goes a little way to repaying them for what they give. It’s important too, as volunteers are so vital to communities that we can’t risk losing them due to them feeling under-appreciated.

mince2

But volunteering is not a one-way street. It’s easy to see it as a simple process where volunteers put time and energy in, and others reap the rewards of their coaching, mentoring, caring or advice. But there’s more to it. Much more. Volunteering brings with it a host of benefits to the volunteers themselves. It is often highlighted that through volunteering you can grow in confidence, learn new skills and make new friends. All of this is true, but there are further well-being boosts, that are less well known.

I was at the recent Sport & Recreation Alliance Sport Summit, where the value of volunteering was one of the topics discussed. A survey by Join In provided some great facts and figures showcasing the benefits to be gained from giving. Sports volunteers reported having 10% higher self-esteem and were 15% less inclined to worry than those not involved. Their scores were FOUR times higher for the level of trust they felt in their community and EIGHT times higher for the influence they felt in their community.

Even if you were to be a bit cynical (which I am, to a fault) about the quantifying of emotional responses, it still paints a clear picture of how volunteering makes you feel better about yourself and more connected to those around you. To paraphrase Join In’s recent Hidden Diamonds report, volunteers don’t so much GIVE their time as INVEST it. Because there is a very real, highly valuable return on that investment to the volunteer, the club and the community. It’s a win-win-win.

Given that volunteering in sport is beneficial to all parties; clubs and groups can maybe think about not just asking people to give up their time, but reframe it as offering people an opportunity to be involved and be part of the team. The players on the pitch are seen as the team itself, but I think it makes sense to broaden the definition of the ‘team’ to include everyone who contributes to the success of the club, and that includes the most important people of all – the volunteers.

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