Overcoming life’s physical and mental challenges with walking sports

John Inverdale, walking sports ambassador at Just Get Active

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When Elton John and Tim Rice were writing ‘Circle of Life’, they probably didn’t have walking sports in mind. But now, having heard and seen Elton talking about his early life, and the lack of self-esteem he suffered as a teenager in his autobiography, it’s interesting to see how the ‘Circle of Life’ applies to everyone.

Whilst we hope that low confidence is no longer an issue that bedevils Elton, for some of us, it’s strange to see how life can turn full circle and how some of those anxiety ridden days of youth can return to us in later years.

The following obstacles may resonate with you, but don’t worry – walking sports can help you turn these into an opportunity.  

Feeling lonely
 

Low confidence, shyness and an introvert personality are not the preserve of the young. If you’re living on your own, solitude can become a way of life. It becomes harder to engage with new people on a day-to-day basis.

Let’s face it, these days you can take solace behind the computer screen perusing the internet. It’s no longer necessary to go out, so why wouldn’t you just stay in? Then, just like that, you get into a routine of staying in and not engaging directly with other human beings. This is where walking sports can come in!

Lost athleticism
 

The toned and athletic body that you used to have (which now maybe marginally less toned), might seem like an obstacle. Perhaps you even allow it to become an excuse for retreating further into your shell. “Nobody wants to see me looking like that,” you say. Well, whatever your obstacle is, you can convince yourself of anything if you try hard enough.

As time goes on, joints and muscles start to creak and ache, and we all feel unwell more than we used to. Some of those illnesses, or injuries, can be serious, ultimately dealing a hammer blow to our self-esteem. It might not be the same for everyone in their 50s and 60s, but many of you will empathise with some elements of the above. This is also where walking sports can come in.

How can walking sports help?

If only there was a magic elixir to deal with all these issues. We’d be taking it on the hour every hour. But unfortunately, there isn’t. What there is though, is walking sports. An avenue by which, slowly but surely, you can start confronting and then overcoming many of your personal obstacles.

The first step can often be the hardest. Cast your mind back to when you were a teenager - your first day at school, or the first attempt you made to ask someone on a date. 

Strangely, the second day at school, and the second date, weren’t anything like as bad as the first. The same thing happens when you get involved with walking sports. The first time you pick up the phone to speak to someone or register online and actually arrive at a venue to play your chosen sport, it can feel rather intimidating. But rest assured that once you’re in, you really are in. 

That low self-confidence won’t vanish immediately, but it’ll start to disappear in front of your eyes as you realise there are so many people out there just like you. They share your love of sport and exercise but have had to overcome many obstacles to get there. Whether you’re laughing together down the pitch or bonding over sporting memories, cup of tea in hand, the social possibilities are endless. There’s a welcoming community right on your doorstep.

Your body won’t return to its former glory immediately, but that extra bit of exercise will help to slowly improve your fitness levels and to increase your endorphins. Then, three months in, you’ll feel better in your mind and body.

Apparently, it only took Elton 90 minutes to write ‘Circle of Life.’ The exact length of a game of football. It will take a bit longer than that for you to fully embrace the world of walking sports, whichever one you choose, but it will most definitely be worth it.

Walking sports really can add an extra, rich element to our lives. It’s great fun, and before you know it, in the circle of life you suddenly have a new circle of friends.