Yesterday I played football or soccer with my university ex-team mates for the first time in a year. Everything went well for the 15 minutes. I chased after the ball; I defended against players; and I scored the opening goal.
After 15 minutes, fatigue started setting in. The pace slowed. The defending was more lacklustre. The kicks were weaker. After 30 minutes, most of us were calling for a time-out. I wheezed on the floor. By the 50-minute mark, I had left the playing arena and was bent over with stomach stitches. The game was supposed to go on for an hour but already I was ready to go for supper.
It made me realise what a huge difference in fitness level I am at now, compared to the four years of competitive football in university. We played 11-a-side on a big field and I was on the left wing, which required dashes up and down the flank. Back then, we trained three times a week when it was competition season. Warm-up exercises included sprints and circuit training with the ball.
We didn’t have a school field so we travelled all over Singapore just to get two hours of training. We trained in Sentosa. We chartered a bus all the way into Turf City because it was so deep in that we couldn’t walk the distance from the bus stop. We played on water logged patches of grass because we couldn’t afford to pay to rent a field. It was crazy. But it was also the most fun I’ve had in sports.
I ate anything and everything. I wasn’t bothered about calories or my weight. Sometimes when I was bone tired and had no appetite, I forced myself to eat because I knew I needed strength to play and nutrients to repair my muscles.
I didn’t realise it then but my football-playing time was to be my thinnest and fittest years. The best thing was that it was all accomplished without my knowledge. I was concerned about how far I could kick the ball – and not how I looked. I didn’t think, “Okay, 30 sit-ups for nice defined abs.” I thought, “Okay, 30 sit-ups so that I can play better.”
Unfortunately, exercise nowadays for me is about keeping in shape. Apart from yoga, which I genuinely enjoy, all other exercise classes seem to be exercising for the sake of exercising. I like my body combat class because it makes me sweat. I like my body pump class because lifting weights makes me look more toned. Gone is the sheer joy of movement with a purpose.
That joy returned yesterday at the pitch. I love playing team sports and football will always be my first love.
We found time to pose and act like clowns.
Juls and Sumei make faces for the camera.