blurred runners

The sporting life

Slow sports
RE | Issue 13 | 2018

HIKING

Amy Mitchell, Austin 

Last summer we hiked a mountain and the sensation was just that of being blown around like crazy by the wind. I couldn’t catch my breath. I had to put one foot in front of the other to make it to the top. When I got up there, I felt—exhilarated.

People get struck by lightning if you’re above the treeline. You have to be careful. We typically get up early, at first light, so we can be up and down before
the afternoon thunderstorms roll in.

We have been going to Colorado every summer since my 31-year-old daughter was four months old. We stay in Estes Park and hike in the Rocky Mountain National Park. I have a hiking buddy in Wisconsin—one of my favorite things in the world is to go hiking with my friend. She and her husband know places in the Park nobody else knows of.

We walk six to twelve miles in a day, either up a mountain or over toward the lakes. In the spring, there’s still a lot of snow at the higher elevations. The snow melts in the summer and the streams and lakes are very full.

We always pack food, that’s critical; and good shoes, extra socks, a camel pack, and layers: you might get hailed on or snowed on or rained on. I use two hiking poles; they are a little difficult on a plane but they are so helpful.

I get to places I would never otherwise get to see. Places you just cannot see from a place you park your car. I’ve seen bighorn sheep, elk and moose. Once I saw a bear. You can come round the corner and see wildlife just standing there.

I really want to go hiking in the Smoky Mountain National Park. And I want to go to Acadia in Maine. And the Glacier National Park in Montana. They are amazing, beautiful.

I stay in shape during the year so I can hike. I work out, I walk, I do Pilates, I play tennis, I swim. There’s a hike-and-bike trail in Austin which goes around Lady Bird Lake, near the office. I come into work with my tennis shoes and go down and walk the trail. There are people running and biking and out on the lake they are rowing and kayaking.

I have a daughter in New York. That’s another good place to go walking.

BADUANJIN

Tracy Wong, Hong Kong

Baduanjin is a form of qigong. It means ‘the eight pieces of brocade’ and is based on a simple, slow sequence of eight sections. I started to practise it a few years ago, when I realized that I needed to take some simple exercise every day and improve my health. I learned the sequence on YouTube and now I perform Baduanjin every morning. It relaxes the tension in my neck and sets my mind at peace.

For me, learning and practising Baduanjin is much easier than Tai Chi, as I only need to remember the eight sections. As I go through the sequence of eight, I stretch my body to focus on a different physical area in slow motion, keeping my breathing constant. I have to ‘draw the bow’, ‘separate heaven and earth’ and ‘touch the sky’, all before I go to work.

‘Slow’ is not an easy task for people who work in Hong Kong—especially in Central—but I can see how ‘slow’ benefits me, physically and spiritually. I recommend it to you.

YIN YOGA

Mia Edin, Singapore

Yin yoga is all about internal focus, physical and mental. By practising it regularly, the practitioner can improve mobility and keep the body flexible even as it ages. While focusing on mindful breathing, the practitioner holds each (typically sitting) posture for several minutes, enabling the body to fully adjust before stretching further into the pose. The postures are passive in nature and focus on working the connective tissue in the hips, sacrum and lower spine. Yin yoga can be particularly beneficial for athletes, allowing them to release tension in overworked joints.

The relatively ‘simple’ postures (don’t be fooled—they can be challenging to hold for several minutes) and the slowness of the practice can, together, reduce stress and anxiety, as the practitioner is continuously reminded to focus on the breath. It is quite common for yin yoga teachers to include meditation practices in their teaching.

DRESSAGE

Kate Freeman, London

I started horse riding as a child. When I was younger it was about the thrills and spills of going fast and jumping; as I grew older, I realised how important to me the relationship with the horse is. Horses are perceptive. Whatever my mood, each time I go to see my horse, I know I have to leave all of my worries at the gate, as she will pick up on anything in an instant and become anxious, and her performance will be impaired. Dressage is a discipline that requires riding and training a horse to develop its balance and strength so that, together, you can go through a series of movements. It may look as though the rider is doing nothing, but it takes years of training for horse and rider to perform even the simplest of movements. When I ride I have to be totally focused; the slightest shift of my body or thought influences what my horse does. There is no greater feeling than when it all comes together and we are in harmony. I love the partnership that I have with my horse, old as she is now.

CROQUET

Louise Higginbottom, London

My father, a demon tactician, taught me croquet early in childhood and my passion for it remains. It requires two or four players (in two teams), four balls, six hoops (laid in a rectangle), a finishing post, some mallets, a lawn, and a vicious streak in one’s temperament.

The aim is to propel your team’s balls through all six hoops (set up in a rectangle) and hit the post first. The fun lies in the ‘roquet’—hitting your ball into another ball, and then using your ball to project that other ball towards a hoop (if yours) or into the far distance (if an opponent’s). The art is in the angles (as in snooker) and use of follow-through—none, and your ball stays still but the other flies off; follow through, and your ball travels as well. The satisfaction is in keeping the other team’s balls permanently at the opposite end of the lawn, while your team progresses round the course.

Croquet pretends to be a gentle game for ladies, played before afternoon tea taken in bone china cups. In fact, it is a gladiatorial, if slow, fight to the death (and a glass of Pimms).


First published in RE: issue 13 (2018)