After this morning’s pre-work swim session and with the smell of chlorine fresh on my skin I’m feeling rather nostalgic for my university water polo days today. I have a sneaking suspicion that this nostalgia may also have something to do with the rather wonderful wedding of one of my polo teammates at the weekend, which took place in our university county of Warwickshire.
Saturday involved a rather early start (although thankfully only 5am early this time) as we headed out of the city to Stratford-upon-Avon. Luckily I was travelling with two of my teammates and well accustomed to each other as we are first thing in the morning, we were quick to source cups of tea and breakfast.
Although it’s been a frighteningly long seven years since we graduated, whenever we all get together it’s like we’ve never been apart. There is something about being a part of a sports team that seems to create a certain kind of bond. Whether it’s the hours of training together, and with them the understanding of the sacrifices that have to be made for early morning or regular evening sessions, match days, with all of their pre-match nerves, adrenaline kicks and ups and downs, or the shared goals and mutual dependence that come with being part of a unit, my teammates are among my closest friends; they know me better than anyone else and sometimes better than I know myself!
As a team we’ve not only been through every training session and match together, but away from the pool we’ve been together through every injury, every exam, every job interview, every house move, every relationship and every break-up.
We share a similar outlook on life, the same love of all things sporty and outdoorsy, similar ethics (four of us are vegetarian/vegan and I sometimes forget the others eat meat as they so regularly adapt for the rest of us!), the same morals, the same attitudes to drugs and alcohol and the same slightly raggedy appearance that comes from always being on the way to or coming from the pool/gym/exercise class/climbing wall/run.
What is also so nice is that the new husbands of my teammates also share these values and interests and Arina’s Paul is no exception, with his sub 1:30 half marathon time and his decision to turn the grounds of the country house where they had the wedding into a fair ground of fun sporting activities. From the coconut shie to the egg and spoon race and from the bowling to the three-legged dash, everyone got involved in the games, only barely disguising their inbuilt competitive nature.
The whole wedding was so beautiful and fun-filled and all on such a perfect midsummer day, no one could have asked for more!
The night of the wedding we stayed at a lovely b’n’b just outside of Stratford, complete with country views, Cath Kidston crockery and tea pigs tea. Bliss! The staff were beyond helpful and the room was beautiful, with the comfiest beds, free-standing giant bath and its own little balcony; I would recommend it to anyone thinking of a retreat in the Warwickshire area.
The next day after a delicious breakfast we lounged in the sun on the terrace of the b’n’b with cups of coffee and gossiped until it was time to head back to the city.
It was testimony to what a lovely few days I’d had that when I returned home to an envelope with the entry number and chip for the Bewl 15, a 15 mile race through the Kent countryside, which I entered before the disaster with my foot, I managed not to burst into tears.
I have to admit I’d been optimistically holding out hope that I might still be able to run, but my foot is still as bad (and as unattractively swollen) as ever and while I can cross-train, cycle and swim, running seems a far off aspiration right now. I’m sad as I’d hoped to run with Jess and Becks, the Twins in Trainers, but for once I’m trying to be realistic.
With my team on my mind, I will leave you with a note on all of the social, physical and psychological benefits of joining a sports team to inspire you to get out onto the football/netball/hockey/water polo pitch:
The obvious physical benefits include increased strength and stamina, improved muscle tone and agility and better general overall fitness. Training as part of a team can also lead to the development of longer-term healthy exercise habits and a routine of regular training sessions.
Knowing you are working as part of a team encourages you to give it your all every session, while being part of a greater whole gives a sense of belonging and can improve social skills, increase confidence and self-esteem.
Regular workouts help relieve stress and anxiety and promote a healthier body image.
Team sports can also help to build planning and analytical skills, strategic thinking, leadership and mutual cooperation, as well as building discipline and a respect for authority.
So what are you waiting for?!