by Noelle De Guzman
As a child, I was bookish, studious -- one might say a nerd. While I enjoyed a bit of tag or hanging about on the monkey bars at recess, my idea of regular exercise was once-a-week gym class. Even then, I was a benchwarmer.
I only discovered the truth of the saying mens sana in corpore sano (a sound mind in a sound body) as I grew older and my personal health flagged due to a sedentary lifestyle.
I started exercising for health reasons, but soon I found that as my body grew more active so did my mind. A morning run or yoga class did wonders for my productivity throughout the day; they were even better than coffee! It was like I’d been sleepwalking through my whole life and had only just woken up to live it fully.
I took up long-distance running and discovered much about myself: not just about how much pounding my joints and muscles could take, but about how my mind responds when things get tough and what I’m willing to go through to achieve my goals. I also learned how to be at peace in every moment, whether it’s an easy jog under trees with birds chirping happily or the hard slog in the last three kilometers of a marathon. Triathlon was simply an extension of this, with the added bonus that going through three disciplines instead of one kept my easily bored mind occupied.
Yoga helped me learn simply to be, to appreciate every breath and to be accepting of whatever state my body and mind are in on the day. This translated into everyday living, reducing stress levels and giving me more space to enjoy the day.
It sounds funny, but physical fitness really helped round me out as a person. Being in the habit of taking care of myself physically balanced out my life that had been until then a pursuit of academic achievements and degrees, then climbing the career ladder.
It opened me up to new experiences. My circle grew from home, work, and nights out with friends to traveling in distant places, trying my hand at all kinds of sports and activities, making friends from different walks of life, deepening connections with my family, and searching out what I could do with my life.
I believe we are all here to maximize whatever potential we may have physically, mentally, and relationally. That is the driving force behind what I do.
And I wouldn’t have realized that if I hadn’t gotten off my couch.