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Chasing the elixir: DB teens with a passion for fitness

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Suveera Sharma talks to three DB teens for whom fitness is a passion, and something that is setting them up for life.

If there is a phase of life that brings about the strongest memories in anyone, it has to be the teenage years. An age of physical and emotional growth as well as turmoil, of confusion and heartbreaks, of sorrows and celebrations. It is the age when you try to cross the shaky bridge towards adulthood and away from immaturity, trying hard not to miss a foothold.

During these turbulent years, the importance of having a hobby to provide grounding can never be overemphasised. A passion, once found, can act as an anchor, stabilising teens as they navigate a sea of emotions and energy. And what could be more rewarding than finding that stability in striving for fitness and health?

Teenage fitness is paramount, though with increasing academic demands and a suddenly active social life, it can often take a back seat. Children, who were otherwise storehouses of energy, suddenly show a dip and lose interest in organised sports and physical activity during their teens. However, it is imperative to establish a regular fitness routine, as habits formed during these years often last a lifetime.

Discipline and mental agility

Sixteen-year-old Hugo Mas looks like any other quiet, unassuming DB teenager. But he has found his passion in the competitive sport of fencing, avidly pursuing it since he was just eight years old.

hugo mas

So how did Hugo’s family introduce him to the sport at such a young age? “We all went and tried it out as a family when we were living in Madrid,” his mother Mar recalls. “He gradually showed keen interest and he exhibited a talent for the sport, clearly rising above his peers. Enrolled at SASLE school of fencing in Madrid, he began competing in the National Championships age nine, and consistently came first or second in his category.”

Combat sports demand a lot from the participants. Apart from a high level of physical prowess, they also demand a great deal of discipline and mental agility.

“Such invaluable exposure in a national-level championship was very good for my confidence,” says Hugo proudly. “It improved my technique, stamina and fitness level. I learnt perseverance and it made me more resilient. It taught me to never give up.

“We have to be extremely alert and intuitive,” adds Hugo, a Discovery Bay International School student. “We must anticipate the next move of the opponent and act accordingly. It requires concentration. The training in fencing has also helped me improve my game in other sports like soccer, as I already have a certain level of fitness and can think rationally.”

Drive and motivation

Emily Stanhope, 15, is another fitness enthusiast living in DB. As with Hugo, her entire family is motivated towards fitness and health.

emily stanford

“My mum was a fitness instructor and introduced me to the benefits of regular exercise. Even now, I go to the gym often with my parents. It is nice to exchange notes and motivate each other. I do different activities like boxing, Spinning and Bodypump. This provides variety and makes sure that I am always challenged. If my whole family is doing it, I have no excuse not to enjoy and join  in too,” says Emily, a Discovery College student, who trains at Kapuhala Train-in-Space in DB, with Cindy Reid of The HIT Room.

“Emily is a dedicated and diligent young lady,” says Cindy. “She came to my boxing classes a few years ago with a group of friends, and then continued in Teen Spinning and subsequently participated weekly in Bodypump classes. When her friends dropped off, Emily continued to attend the training on her own – rain or shine, before or after school.

“Emily works hard, is fiercely independent and is incredibly driven, in the way that she takes her training seriously,” Cindy adds. “I have every confidence she is going to go far in life as she translates these notable qualities to her studies and career choices. I am very proud of her development.”

Passion and creativity

Hannah Olsen, 17, a student at Island School, has been pursuing dance ever since she was four years old. It is her passion. She performs regularly with Island Dance at Ocean Park and at the Chinese New Year Parade.

“Dance is more than just physical exercise,” Hannah says. “For me it is a medium to express myself. I am a creative person, and I just pour my emotions into my dancing and let go.

“Fitness routines are incorporated into the lessons. We do core strengthening exercises and stretching in our warm up routines. Even the actual dancing provides a good cardio workout.”

Hannah’s teacher at Island Dance, Nimisha Kashyap, is all praise for her. “I have taught Hannah for six years now and she has always been a keen dancer and a hard worker. However, it was when she was old enough to join my senior class that I saw a change in her. She started to take dance more seriously and made it a priority, which helped her excel quicker in terms of technique and performance quality.”

Striking a balance

During the teenage years, pressures from school increase and studies slowly get more and more intensive. The demands grow and it is easy to buckle under the weight if you don’t strike the right balance. So how do these talented teenagers walk the tight rope?

Emily explains, “Balance is important. I have realised that I can study more effectively only if I break away from it and have that time apart from actual studies. Just studying all the time can get very boring and will make me lose interest. Even when at home, I procrastinate before reaching out for my books, so instead of wasting time watching the screen, I head out to the gym and work out.”

This is true, there are ways of getting all that you want out of your day if you want to, it just needs prioritising and planning. It is important to focus on downtime as much as actual work so that you can maximise your performance in every aspect.

Hannah agrees. “I choose to finish my studies on time so that I get to dance. It helps me to concentrate and then come back to mybooks rejuvenated.”

Likewise, fencing helps Hugo focus. “For me it is like meditation. It helps me relax. Fencing teaches us skills for life. We learn physical fitness and mental resilience, how to get knocked down but then get back up again.”

Promoting a positive self-image

It is important that teenagers control the decision about what activity they want to pursue. If they like what they are doing they will not give up.

“Help your child to commit to fitness by being a positive role model yourself. Not only do you both grow stronger together, but also get time to stay connected with each other,” says Mar. That is indeed true; it might even be a good idea to use a family exercise chart and place it somewhere where it reminds you to keep up the good effort together.

Of course, for an all-round healthy lifestyle, exercise should also be accompanied by good eating habits. Eating less is not always good and eating more is not always bad – eating right is the key. Nutrition and exercise need to go hand in hand.

Healthy, energetic conduct promotes a positive self-image and the rewards overflow into all aspects of a teenager’s life.

Photos by Baljit Gidwani – www.evoqueportraits.com

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