When I was at school my PE teacher often repeated the mantra ‘healthy body healthy mind’ - as I and my friends shivered and grumbled our way out onto the playing fields on a cold winter’s day to do sport. I didn’t really think about the meaning of what she was saying until now.
The accepted wisdom today tends to emphasise that it is the mind that decides what the body can endure ‘mind over matter’ is frequently stated to motivate us to higher achievement. Although there is no doubt that the way we think affects the way we behave, I tend to look at my body and it’s potential from another angle. I believe that by concentrating on getting myself fitter and stronger physically, that makes me feel more positive and confident to take on physical challenges.
I am in my late 50’s and the two sports that I love; skiing and surfing, need good physical conditioning. I have skied for over 25 years but only took up surfing about 10 years ago (it is the hardest sport I’ve ever done!). I work hard on my strength, stamina and suppleness to get the most that I can from these two sports, and as I intend to continue enjoying them into my 60’s and even 70’s this will become ever more important.
I can recall on a surfing holiday two years ago, I was having great difficulty paddling ‘out back’. Eventually I made it - however I felt exhausted, and with tired arms I had little energy for catching waves. My lack of strength meant I had poor timing for the ‘pop up’ and missed many opportunities to take a ride. This then made me frustrated and eventually lose confidence in my ability. I gave up early that day feeling angry, upset and deflated. I reflected on the session afterwards and realised that I was just too tired to surf that day, it was the beginning of the holiday and I wasn’t as fit as I should have been. In hindsight I realised that my body was warning me that I probably wasn’t strong enough to be in those conditions - I wasn’t safe to be in the water. Towards the end of the holiday, feeling more relaxed and also stronger, those same conditions as I’d experienced on the first day, held no problems for me - my technique had no doubt improved, but so too had my strength, which in return fed my confidence - that then helped me do the right thing.
There have been other times that I can recall when I have felt confident to push myself physically. because I have been feeling fit and strong; like skiing a steep mountain that one day looks far too difficult and yet on another day looks inviting. I do believe that this is more than just the brain telling me to take on the challenge, it is my body being ready as well, the body saying it can keep me safe on the mountain. I think I finally understand what my PE teacher was talking about; work hard to get in shape and you will be surprised what you can achieve - this in turn makes you feel good about yourself . A healthy body really does create a healthy mind – I do believe that she was right!