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Get Outdoors

World Cup Wanna Be

Several years after the major fitness accomplishment of my life, training for and running a marathon, I fell off the fitness wagon—hard. The details aren't important, but the reason is the same for most us who fail to exercise the way we know we should: I didn't have the time. When I did have time, I was too exhausted to exercise—a vicious cycle.

Now the man in my life has me trotting after the fitness wagon again, ready to leap back on. Pretty common you might think, but consider this: I've never played soccer before in my life and I'm 37 years old; I'm not supposed to be trying new sports that involve getting kicked.

But boy, is it fun! My soccer-fanatic boyfriend is the driving force behind this venture. He can't get enough of the game, so he dragged me out to the soccer field to kick the ball around. At first I only went along because I was happy to see him motivated to exercise. The fancy footwork required was daunting and I was certain that with my lack of foot-eye coordination, I would be a complete disaster at the game.

Athletic Wins

As it turns out, I'm not half bad. Kicking a ball isn't so hard after all (it brings back memories of grade school kickball), and I actually make a goal sometimes. Our soccer-playing sessions usually last about an hour to an hour and a half, starting out with us taking turns playing goalie while the other tries to score.

Being out in the fresh air and sunshine on a gorgeous summer evening, enjoying a gentle breeze, and whacking the heck out of a soccer ball is pure delight, especially for someone who spends most of their time at a desk. Soccer provides a catharsis my usual sports, biking and jogging, never come close to, even though I enjoy them. I also feel like I'm getting a solid workout, even though most of the exercise is in the form of a series of short runs or sprints. When I'm the goalie, I spend lots of time chasing balls kicked way past the goal. All this running adds up, believe me.

We like to wrap up with a real one-on-one game. A small field set up for kiddies at a nearby municipal soccer field is the perfect size for us; the goals are much smaller than the ones the pros use, too. We've even made up rules to suit ourselves. It's a pretty exhausting game, so the rule is that we play to four points. Halftime comes after one of us scores twice.

Lessons Learned

The game demands a lot of running, and speed helps. I've never really been fast, and I find myself getting winded trying to score and defend. It's embarrassing for someone who used to be in decent shape. Now I'm motivated to do more jogging and to work on my speed. After a handful of games, I've scored a cumulative total of one goal. This is no small feat against a guy who's been playing since he left the womb. I have a right to be proud.

Though I'm certainly not the next Brandy Chastain, I'm having a ton of fun playing soccer. It's just what I needed, when I needed it. Now that I've learned several types of kicks and a few tactical maneuvers, my boyfriend and I are keeping half an eye open for pick-up games and adult leagues—for him to play and for me to watch from the sidelines. Maybe if they really need me, I'll go in for relief.

— Laura Brown

 

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