During my last semester senior year in high school, my classmates and I began playing weekly Ultimate Frisbee games, and for as much fun as I was having, I realized that a significant hindrance to my effectiveness (beyond poor tossing skills, which was common to almost all of us) was general poor fitness. With quick transitions, Ultimate often requires players to run from defense to deep on the opposite side to receive a long pass. And after a couple plays, I more often found myself watching my man receive a deep pass while walking back instead of knocking away the pass.
That was somewhat disturbing. I used to win short foot-races in elementary school all the time and had prided myself on my running abilities. The catch, however, was that I told myself that I was a sprinter, not a long-distance runner. Putting it through my cynicism interpreter, that statement bluntly called me lazy. So I started to run.
From the many infomercials and diet plans, one can easily see that people will quickly discard fitness plans when the goal seems to far or when the papers pile up. After arriving at college, I immediately stopped running and maintained myself on a weekly intramural (IM) Ultimate game. Basketball games the following quarter and some tossing in the spring, I led myself into a false belief that I was in decent condition with only minimal activity. I had intended to use this past summer to get into a more rigorous plan, but an illness best kept out of pools (and apparently can also cause the spleen to rupture under heavy physical activity?) stopped that until the final weeks of the summer when I struggled to pull myself from effective hibernation.
In my last blog post, I mentioned that my drawmate Tom plays a lot of racquetball, and I’ve been joining him several times a week. And for a room only 40 feet long and 20 feet wide, players can run a tremendous amount. The rules are simple, and one can very effectively practice alone (no such luck with frisbee; I promise tossing by yourself is even worse than you think it is). And I’m fairly certain I manage to run a lot farther than my old running route at home, just because I’m having too much fun to stop.
But I guess the biggest benefit is that I just feel better than I have before. It’s perhaps the most guiltless fun I’ve ever had. Every time I take a break by playing a game of Magic or surfing the net, something in my skull dies a little for the time I won’t get back. Every time I skip some speaker series to chill at my dorm, my opportunity monitor throws its hands up in resignation. But when I get on the racquetball court, it seems like a fair trade. I think I’m in better (emphasis on the comparison; it’s a work in progress) than I’ve ever been, and there’s something satisfying in rolling up to the dining hall not just because it’s meal time, but because I actually have to recharge. Well, at least I’ll claim my growing appetite is from the exercise and not from embracing the True American Spirit.
In addition to racquetball, I’m back into weekly IM Ultimate as well. My dorm last year was full of great players, but we couldn’t consistently get a team of 7 out every week. Only later in the year did we realize that we could actually be good, so we’ve rounded up the same people to play again this year. We won our first game by default when the other team failed to show up, but more encouraging was the pickup game we played instead. Within an hour before the game was scheduled, we found half of our team and completed the effort with some great playing, barely showing that most of us hadn’t played for at least several weeks.
I’m still amazed, though, by how well we played our second game this past Saturday. Late in the game, we were tied 8-8 (play to 11) when one of our teammates had to leave. We had no other players, so by the rules, we had to finish the game 6-on-7, and we did manage to close it 11-8. There were a few scars to show, including blood spots on Rob’s socks near his big toe and the complete destruction of the back of Justin’s heel, but it was worth it (at least, it was for the rest of us with less severe blisters). So maybe I completely flubbed a pass on one of our transitions, and maybe I consistently didn’t know where I was supposed to cut to to get open,. After the game, I was a little proud of myself. I had run that entire game without sitting out.