By Rachel Debling
In every coming-of-age sports movie, there’s that one character who just doesn’t quite cut it in the athletic capacity department. They are more often than not short, bespectacled, can’t run to save their lives, and are guaranteed to be the humiliating mercy selection when the process of picking teams comes down to two lone players.
This sad sack of a person is me — not just when I was a precocious youth but today, right down to the large, fingerprint-smudged lenses (at least when I forget my contacts). To say I’m not “athletic” would be a farce — I teach spin classes several times a week, work out regularly, and, well, I’m an editor for a fitness magazine; having some sort of aptitude in the area of physical pursuits is somewhat of a prerequisite. Still, that does not by any stretch of the imagination mean I’m a star player — I have amassed a collection of participation ribbons that would rival any asthmatic 12-year-old’s.
But in my years of sports trial and error, I have learned that there are certain activities that, while insignificant on the outside, lay forth a special type of challenge that even the most seasoned of home-run hitters, hat-trick scorers, and touchdown dancers can appreciate. These seemingly amateur sports may be your key to success on the field or rink. Just remember when that reporter asks you what you are going to do now that you’ve won the big trophy, you should answer, “Bringing my mentor and coach, Rachel, to Disneyland!” (I won’t hold it against you if you forget.)
Dodgeball isn’t just a sport reserved for lazy elementary school gym teachers and Ben Stiller/Vince Vaughn collaborations — it has real-life applications. I play dodgeball; I am also not very good at dodgeball. Out of a team of 12, I am the one who when someone yells “Who’s on next?” and my voice pipes up, an unsettling silence emanates from the bench as my team realizes that the additional body that will be taking the court will undoubtedly be hit square in the stomach within 20 seconds (often walking into it, if I am to be completely honest). Still, dodgeball holds a special place in my heart — even the most dreadful of Mondays can be enhanced by one precise line drive to a set of testicles on the other team, though it is generally accompanied by an acute sense of remorse (unless trash talk was what spurred the throw, in which case the sensation is best described as triumph).
Training Advantages: Upper-body strength can be improved once you get your overhand or side shot down to a T, and all of the lateral motions you must employ (plus the hip twirling to avoid oncoming balls) can improve your rotational and side-toside ranges of motion.
Training Disadvantages: The aforementioned remorse (definitely a buzzkill), potential shots to the face (hold your comments — I’m under five feet tall, so it’s a probable, life-threatening occurrence), and post-game beers (usually plenty of them).
Did you know that badminton was an event at this past summer’s Pan Am Games? No? Did you know our nation took home an astounding six medals in the sport? Really? Were you even aware it is a game at all? Great; we’ll start there. The sport once most-commonly associated with family picnics, badminton is a legitimate game, and a legitimately competitive one at that. While you may think it’s a poor substitute for tennis (we won’t fault you), it can be an immensely fun way to put your accuracy to the test. Feel free to moan with each hit, à la every female tennis player to have graced the sport.
Training Advantages: Improved eye-hand co-ordination, to start. Plus, slamming the shuttlecock (tee hee) squarely onto your opponent’s side of the net serves as excellent stress relief.
Training Disadvantages: No one’s ever really worked up a sweat in recreational doubles badminton. And if you have, perhaps it’s time to visit the doctor once and for all about those Botox injections for your underarms. (There’s no shame.)
Another sport synonymous with brewskies and comedic movies, you may not immediately think of joining a bowling league as the healthiest of pursuits. Though Homer may not sport the most inspirational of physiques (cut him some slack — he’s a cartoon), with some personal restraint at the snack counter and ample amounts of enthusiastic cheering, bowling can be elevated from a game for a nine-yearold’s birthday to a mildly active night out.
Training Advantages: You can count the time you spend testing the weight of the balls before your turn as resistance training — right? Aside from that, your biceps and front delts get a bit of a boost with each throw.
Training Disadvantages: If you were a part of the scene in the ’90s you may recall the clouds of smoke that went hand-in-hand with dingy, “it’s always Happy Hour here” alleys. Though that danger is a thing of the past in most of Canada, there are still other less-than-healthy standard features that might dissuade you from taking it up: namely, the large amount of sitting time.
Hold on, hold on, hear me out. Yes, it won’t make you the next McDavid, and if you purchase a table for your home it will likely become a makeshift desk or breakfast nook within the span of a few weeks, but this staple of arcades and tame first dates everywhere can pack a seriously sweaty punch — if you get into it. Find yourself a willing adversary (one who’s a bit tipsy will help your odds), pop some quarters in the table, and practise your best wince for when you hear that puck thunder into your slot.
Training Advantages: Your upper body once again takes the brunt of the abuse in this game, though your heart rate is affected by the non-stop action. If you take a slightly athletic stance, you can also activate your lower body.
Training Disadvantages: Unlike the real deal, your arms do all the work for you, unless you decide to add high knees into the mix (not recommended, both for safety and for your chances of winning). Also, if you are looking to make this into a genuine career, it might be worth noting that there is no such thing as an “air hockey wife.” Now that you mention it, there really isn’t a way you could make this into a career. (Badminton isn’t looking so trite now, is it?)
IFM editor Rachel Debling will never cease her fight to find “her” sport, no matter how many times she tries or windows she breaks.