As a kid in Primary School, I loved running around with my peers engaging in nostalgic games like 'catching' and 'ice-man'. Being able to run around was a joy even though how breathless I got when I was the 'catcher' and had to chase down my leaner friends - which seemed impossible with the extra weight I was lugging around during my youth.
Running without purpose was a bane to me up till I reached my teenage years. Back then, I viewed sports as an excuse teachers used to torture and punish us students for behaving badly. Every time I felt the burn in my lungs, I gave up straight away and started walking to completion. Studies wise, I lacked focus and lived a carefree life, playing computer games right into my PSLE and that paid off with less than substantial results - enough to get me into the Express stream of a neighborhood school.
Scraping through primary school, I continued my carefree life right till I was 14, when certain significant events served as a wake up call to me and changed my life - and I attribute all these changes to participation in sports. The latter changed my outlook in life, and I started having goals and dreams which I aspired to achieve, and I knew it was a long way up starting from where I was.
Every success comes with the decision to start, and we may fall and fail several times but let not these failures stop you from achieving your full potential.
I was a delinquent in school as I always getting on the nerves of teachers and discipline masters in school. Detention classes and reflection forms were the norm then, and were my companions for what seemed like long days during Secondary One. That all changed one day I decided (influenced by a friend I will never forget) to join the school's pioneer batch of hockey boys - a sport which I viewed as stupid back then (that's how media shaped my young mind to think that basketball was cool). On the first session itself, I got into trouble with the coach, who was the strictest and toughest man I have known in my life then (besides my father). He dished out training exercises set after set like a master chef whipping up course meals in a matter of minutes. I, the 'gangster' I thought I was, rebutted and made unnecessary comments which got the whole team into trouble. Training was hella tough and every chance I got to cheat or give up, I took it. 2 months through the training sessions, I quit momentarily without ever giving myself the opportunity to discover what was in it for me in the long run.
Going into 2007, I started building better relationships with my classmates following certain undesirable incidences the previous year. That one guy who hated me in the training sessions cajoled me into re-joining the team as they were lacking a goalkeeper - and I never looked back since. Sports became enjoyable as every individual in the team had a common goal - to make ourselves known in the hockey scene dominated by certain powerhouses like Raffles Institution.
Studies wise, I was on the verge of failing my second semester, like how I failed my first as I was putting too much focus on sports and hanging out with my friends. It was a great learning experience as I found out that we can never have too much of something, else the other aspects in our life would suffer. Being on the verge of dropping to the Normal Academic stream served as a wake-up call to me. Applying the concepts of working hard and practicing daily in training sessions to my studies, I saw my grades improving and come year end, I got promoted to the second best class in Secondary Three.
Fast forward to several months later, I had the exclusive opportunity to represent Singapore in the U-16 Pacific School Games held over at Canberra, and it will be an experience I will never forget. During my 'O' Level Examinations, I still managed to MAKE time for sports - playing in the Division 2 League weeks before my exams. Sports, on top of studies, was one of my priorities as it kept me sane and fit throughout the stressful season of exams. I'm not the type to be holed in an enclosed space for 6 to 8 hours a day absorbing information - a concept and technique which I find ridiculous as there's only so much focus you can give in a period of time. At the end of it, I still got excellent results which was enough to put me in a spot, where I had 'happy troubles', deciding upon the plethora of choices I had entering polytechnic.
Sports teaches you things no formal education can teach, and builds character in a variety of ways.
I am 24 this year and looking back, I wouldn't be who I am today if not for several important figures in my life and most importantly - sports. Through sports I got to know these people. Through sports I got to discover myself and through sports, I started having aims and big dreams in life.
I never would have imagined myself playing for the youth national team when I was 15, let alone completing a marathon when I was 18. You are the change you've been waiting for in your life, and you possess the final decision to be who you can potential be when you put in the effort.
Not sure how to start? Here are some tips I have for you:
Start small and slow
Sure, I took a pretty hard hit and started rough with training sessions I felt I was in hell. However, for normal humans, it is much better starting with small and low increments - be it in your fitness journey or overall well-being.
Aiming to complete a marathon at the end of the year? Start with running 2 to 3 kilometers every single day, and scheduling a rest on at least 1 day in the week. Listen to your body and follow the traditional rule of no more than 10% increase in mileage per week. Follow the 5 simple rules of training I wrote earlier on in the year, and you're good to go! Plan certain races of shorter distances leading up to the big one, for example a 10KM, moving on to a 21KM, and then a 32KM a month before the marathon, and you will definitely get there.
Have an end goal supplemented with certain smaller goals
Hockey training sessions in the past always had a daily goal for everyone to meet. These daily goals were small steps towards achieving our end goal - being champions in our respective National Schools Division games. Similarly in running, I have certain workouts every other week and these workouts serve as different purposes to build towards the end goal of finishing a fast marathon.
You can apply this to your daily or sports life by setting realistic, daily goals. Achieving these goals build your confidence slowly towards achieving what you want in the end.
Make time, don't find time
Whenever you find time to do something, you never seem to do so because you will never find it due to the many priorities in your life. If I told myself I will find time to train or study, I wouldn't be where I am today.
There are 24 hours in a day, so make time to do what you've set out to do. 1 hour is only 5% of your day, but can make a whole world of difference. Start work at 8AM but end at 5PM? Workout at 6PM. Have overtime work and end at 9PM? Make the initiative to wake up early and get your workout dialled in at 6AM. Like I mentioned earlier, you are responsible for the change you want in your life, not anyone else.
When the going gets tough, dig deep
I have come across certain periods of my training block when I get mentally drained from repeating similar workouts day in and day out. At this point of time, it really is easy to give up and call it a day. However, this is where you have to be at your strongest and pull through. Think back at all the hours you have sacrificed and how far you have come. Ask yourself why you started all this in the first place. Then, dig deep, bite the bullet and when it gets tough - draw the strength and confidence you have built from previous sessions and push through.
Have fun, trust in the process and unwind once in a while.
We are all humans afterall, and subjecting ourselves to constant pressure without the opportunity for rest is going to break us physically and mentally one day. You don't work 7 days a week and expect yourself to be happy at the end of the year right?
In the past, we had seasons we were putting in hours of quality training just to perfect our stickwork, goalkeeping and also shot taking. After competition, we take 1 to 2 months off hockey training to maintain our fitness through simple exercises, and to also reflect on the tournament that we have either won or lost. We take trips and have camps to build stronger bonds with each other.
Similarly, you can apply this to your life by taking breaks every once in a while. For example, use the downtime to spend time with those that matter in your life and to unwind with a vacation away from keeping fit - after dedicating a whole year to training for that marathon. This resets your brain and prepares you for another round of stimulus. Your body will thank you for it in the long run too!
These are just my personal experiences on how I manage my time to juggle between studies, work and sports. What works best is through constant trial and error, and the ability to take advice and the desire to want to learn no matter how old you are. Personally, I still have lots to learn and experience in my life. Not everyone is perfect and what works for me might not work for you - so try to find that balance and routine, and you will surely get there!
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