The Problem with Sports

On my way to the bakery around the corner I met my neighbors from downstairs. They’re four students sharing a flat in our house, nothing uncommon in Constance. It was a cold and rainy afternoon, and it was also already dark outside. So the three of them just left the house to go for a run, all dressed up in adequate attire, and left me with that weird sensation I get when thinking about sports. It’s usually a mixture of feelings between guilt, anger and irritation. This, because I know I should try to move as much as possible whenever I’m not sitting in front of my desk (which actually is a rather small part of the day), but also I don’t need this fact to be rubbed in my face. [Insert here a short rant about how the culture of self-optimization makes us think we have to do things we don’t like while secretly just keeping us occupied. So that we don’t realize we’re just adjusting to a capitalist system exploiting us and our bodies in every imaginable way, etc.]

OK, so these people went running, what’s the big deal, you may ask. Well, it just somehow reminded me of all that is wrong with sports for me. There’s first the whole equipment thing. Special shoes, special gear, special accessories. I can not underline enough how this kept me from trying new things. I am not willing to buy new shoes for everything from climbing over soccer to snorkeling, running, gym, or ballet. I like to keep things simple, so I usually stick to the things I already own. Apart from that, all this is rarely cheap. Yeah, I know, some things could be bought second hand, some others can be rented, borrowed or shared. And yes, I do own climbing shoes (which I use from time to time) and soccer shoes (which I haven’t used in at least two years). But I certainly do not plan on extending my unused shoe collection. So I rather don’t buy new shoes if I’m not sure I will actually use them more than once.

Then, there’s competition. I really wonder how people can be so keen on competing even in their free time. I mean, for may of us, there’s plenty to win or to lose in work life – which furthermore can have far-reaching consequences. I really don’t know anybody who’s happy losing. Why would you deliberately risk that, if you can avoid it by simply not competing? But then again maybe that’s a way of training for those other, more important competitions in life. I can somehow see that people might be into that. Yet, it doesn’t exactly make me more interested in doing so – and it still feels like self-optimization, like training yourself on how to deal with disappointed, if you lose. For me, competition is stress, and stress has to be avoided whenever possible.

Now I mentioned climbing shoes. Wearing them sure is something people could consider stressful. I agree. They stress me out when I put them on, because they’re not meant to be comfortable. It stresses me out to climb walls in them, because I’m really not a fan of hurting myself and to me at least, stakes of doing so while climbing are high. Thinking of them stresses me out, apparently, because my hands get sweaty when I think about climbing, or watching climbing videos. And it stresses me out to go climbing with other people. No, to be honest, it mostly stresses me out to go climbing with people who are considerably better at it than I am, which brings us back to competition.

Finally, there’s also this terrible feeling of exhaustion that is part of the majority of sports. Really, how is one meant to enjoy this? Sweat everywhere, your heart beating wildly, the next day probably sore muscles and a quite strong inability to move at all. So again, it’s stress all over the place. Yet, as you might have noticed, I do sports – or at least, I do engage in physically moving my body from time to time in activities that are generally considered sports, like climbing, swimming, and riding a bicycle. If this is so much stress for me, then why do I do it, you may ask. I am (fortunately for me) not one of those persons who feel physically unwell when not doing sports for a time. I clearly don’t like it for the sake of itself. I do sports because I see them as opportunities to socialize. I like to spend time with friends thinking about how to get up that wall. I like to chat about weather, friends and career plans while riding a bike somewhere. I love the lunch or dinner after going swimming with a friend. Or the coffee at the climbing gym. I engage in these other activities, because they hold the promise of human interaction, and that’s really much more what I’m into. Maybe that’s the same for my neighbors. It would explain why even the rain did not stop them from running.

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