I always hated workouts – until I made them weird | Rebecca Douglas

I hate exercise, or to be precise, exercise hates me. It’s like my body is actually allergic to it. If I even think about doing cardio, my asthma wheezes to life and a migraine begins jackhammering its way through my brain. It’s my body’s way of saying “yeah nah, the only fitness I’ll be doing is fit-n-this whole pizza in my stomach, surfing TV channels and hand-balling chores off to my husband so I can spend more time on the couch”.

Now that I’ve hit an undisclosed age slightly above 30, I’ve collected a symphony of niggling pains that start turning up as soon as I pull on a pair of sneakers. Loudest among them are a twanging Achilles, groaning lower back, and screeching tendonitis in my elbow. They’re a noisy bunch that really should be sent to the naughty corner until they pipe down.

With all this resistance, it’s a wonder I ever get out of bed, but in the interests of living much past 40 and continuing to lie about my age, it’s sometimes necessary to jog off a few calories. This is where I have to trick myself into enjoying it, and the best way I’ve found to do so is by sampling the strangest sports I can find. Swimming? Cricket? Netball? Nope, not happening. Juggling pineapples blindfolded while riding bareback on a dolphin? Sign. Me. Up.

While I was still somewhat nimble at school, my taste in athletic pursuits was relatively tame – ballet, tennis, softball and volleyball. My greatest claim to fame in these was winning a trophy for “Most Improved” in volleyball, ie “Thanks for upping your game and sucking slightly less now”. Did I mention my third place in triple jump at sports day – out of a total of three competitors?

Undeterred, I’ve made it my lifelong mission to find a sweat-inducing activity I both don’t hate, and in which I have some semblance of talent. Having long since exhausted all sensible sports, I’ve ventured into the wild, untamed arena of the silliest sports imaginable.

It started with a few seasons of badminton, but I worried I hadn’t strayed far enough from the mainstream. Sure you hit around an offbeat feathery “shuttlecock” creation, but it’s really just a faster version of tennis, with a markedly higher likelihood of smashing yourself in the face, at least for me. Even as a natural left-hander playing the sport right-handed, it just didn’t feel weird enough to be comfortable. The search continued.

A group of women are hanging in a foetal position in a hammock during an aerial yoga class.
A group of women are hanging in a foetal position in a hammock during an aerial yoga class. Photograph: Kateryna Kukota/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Next came several months of sashaying my way through every dance style known to humankind. I was quietly confident I’d find my niche in belly dancing given I brought ample stomach girth to the party, but sadly it also requires coordination and a modicum of skill. Next!

Ballroom dancing, Zumba, jazz ballet, and hip hop were all trialed with degrees of success ranging from none to barely perceptible, along with various flavours of yoga – aerial (the cosy-hammocks-hanging-from-the-ceiling kind), bikram (the heated-room-and-makeup-pouring-down-your-face kind) and hatha (the regular old hippy kind). Again, the envelope was barely nudged, let alone pushed. I was sure I could do better.

Then came ultimate frisbee (a team sport with the aim of catching the disc in the end zone; a kind of cross between netball and rugby) for a year or so, a term of deep-water aerobics (where you wear a floatie belt while jogging in the deep end of the pool), and a lesson in stunt driving (hooning around in a Mini Cooper while trying not to kill your instructor in a blazing fireball of death).

These have all been a blast, but I’m not done yet. Thanks to a white-hot streak of sitting on the couch during one Winter Olympics, I developed an insatiable fascination with curling, or as I like to call it, “the scrubba-scrubba sport”. The determination the competitors show in sweeping away at that ice has my unending admiration. Bless their little scrubbing hearts. It’s a toss-up between that and hobby-horse dressage (a real thing, I kid you not!). Yup, nothing beats prancing around, straddling a fake horse on a stick, pretending to be fancy. Odds are it’d be just odd enough for me.

In the end, the sports that have stuck have been pole dancing (in the most unsexy fashion possible, I promise), geocaching (a worldwide scavenger hunt using GPS coordinates), and learning to run using the ‘Zombies, Run!’ app (in which you pretend to pick up supplies for your base camp while zombies are chasing you).

Appeals to consider my health and living past 40 might have failed, but a rampaging horde of zombies can be mighty motivating.


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