You don’t need much to practice sports except a point to start from.
I get asked a lot what kind of workout I do and for how long I’ve been doing it. First I wasn’t really prepared what to answer. It has never been one type of sport, but rather several evolving from one to the next. Just recently a friend told me that he would be interested in a blog post about what sport means to me. In this post, I want to introduce you to the sports I’ve done historically up till now. A follow-up post will be more specific in covering which exercises I do and how I evolved to be able to do them in the way I do.
When I was in my teens I used to go skating on the streets every spare minute. I never really considered it as a sport, but rather the only thing I could think about during most of my youth. The word “sport” implies, in my opinion, a kind of determination, rather than simply a hobby. There was never anything more important than finishing my homework so that I could go off to learn new tricks, jump higher and further, or jump down those stairs I wasn’t brave enough to conquer the day before. Sometimes I would just hang out with my friends as we watched each other skate or try ridiculous new stuff. Falling was a big part of it, too – most of the time unintentionally! Once we put on our fat knee pads and sped down a hill just to let ourselves fall on our knees to see who could go furthest sliding down the road. I grew up in a small village in the south of Germany. Meaning there weren’t many locations for skaters. Sometimes we went to a town nearby that had an outdoor skate park. On weekends my dad would take us to an indoor skate park close to where he used to fish.
This kind of activity stopped abruptly when I moved out of my parents’ house to a larger city to start my apprenticeship in computer science. You could say I started down the path to becoming a real nerd, just sitting in a room, lacking daylight, in front of my computer. After a couple of years of a sedentary lifestyle – at home, in school and at work – I went running with an older colleague in his forties. I basically started from zero. I was 20 at the time and couldn’t believe how out of shape I was. It took me about half a year to be able to run half an hour without getting out of breath. And “run” does not actually mean that I was very fast! 🙂
This inability somehow gave me a push to improve myself, which made me train more frequently so that I could run longer. When I started my first real job I moved in with two students. That’s when things really started to take off. Sometimes I ran three to four times a week for at least an hour, covering more than ten kilometers at a time. I gradually ran more and more, and faster than ever before. At some point, maybe after a year, I even ran a half-marathon. That was the peak of my running ‘career’!
Since then I’ve never completely abandoned running, but it was time for a change – at least that’s what one of my friends kept telling me. At the time he had been working out for a couple of years already. He wanted me to join him. Almost on a daily basis he told me that I was fit and had the perfect build to make quick progress in weightlifting. He would soon prove to be right. Nonetheless, I remained reluctant. I never liked the idea of working out, especially with the image I had of those bragging, muscle-packed beasts you see in magazines. But one day, there was a bench for bench pressing on offer at the supermarket next door. I can’t remember what drove me; I remembered that my mum still had weights at home, so, I bought it and asked her if I could have her weights. After setting it up I started immediately. First a couple of pushes by myself, later with my friend, who motivated me and over time told me everything he knew about strength exercises. Soon I overtook him in some particular exercises. After about four years of continuous training, not only at home but in the gym as well, my performance started stagnating and the motivation to drag myself to the gym dropped.
When I was backpacking in Southeast Asia for over a month I tried to figure out how I could work out on the go. Since a gym wasn’t an option, only bodyweight exercises came to mind. I downloaded a book about essential exercises and workout plans to my Kindle and started to work out according to its recommendations. Suddenly, “the world” became my gym.
Two Danish guys I met in Vietnam were up for this “new” kind of exercise the moment I mentioned it. Just two days after we first met, we shared a hostel room that became our private gym. The space had bunk beds, was kind of smallish and damp, and must have been the place where alternating current was invented: power came and went in oscillating waves.After doing bodyweight workouts for about three years now, I’m convinced that it is much more effective than the general gym workout. A wider range of muscles are used for every movement, in contrast to a more isolated load on a few strands of muscles. Balance and body tension are also trained as an effect of stabilization.
The next and so far last step in my evolutionary process is calisthenics. Calisthenics is a subset of the street workout (or ghetto workout), which is a huge deal in the States but not yet in Europe.
Google defines it as “gymnastic exercises to achieve bodily fitness and grace of movement..”. Wikipedia says: “The word calisthenics comes from the ancient Greek words kalós (καλός), which means “beauty”, and sthénos (σθένος), meaning “strength”. “
I would describe it as bodyweight training in combination with gymnastics. It involves a lot of hanging off bars, particularly in all directions away from those bars – straight down, straight up or horizontally; to the front, back or sideways. An important part of those exercises is to keep the body as straight as possible. One other hobby of mine is single trail mountainbiking. It is completely different from the other sports that I do. It involves cardiovascular training when getting up the mountain, and retention force (holding on to the bike) as well as sharp reflexes when rushing down the single trails in the woods. Let’s see what the next big change will be. At the moment I haven’t yet reached my full potential with calisthenics and there is lots of room for improvement still. In one of the following posts I will go into more detail on how I came to do calisthenics and the process of improvement, as well on what I’ll be working on then. What is your history of sports? What do you do at the moment and what motivates you?