I normally spend my Saturday mornings playing basketball—at least I used to, before I came to Lagos. Here, I run.
Physical fitness is important to me, though that hasn’t always been the case in the past. In my previous years, which feels like a lifetime ago, I simply did not care as much. When I eventually began to care, neglect soon came after. Specifically, the months after I graduated and started looking into the job market for a place of employment: that was when I neglected my physical well-being, the most. While looking for jobs, I spent long hours, days and once, a whole week indoors, broken up only by going to Church on Sunday because to some, missing Church as a Nigerian is somewhat of an undocumented sin. I scarfed down treats and high volumes of carbonated drinks, which were converted to energy, which was being expanded on nothing. In three months, I had added on a staggering fifteen pounds of fat. I was exasperated when performing even simply physical tasks like taking the stairs. I was living an unhealthy lifestyle.
Fast forward a year later and I am in better shape. Not the best shape that I can be in, but in a significantly better position compared to where I once was. I move to Lagos for NYSC, and with a lack of affordable gyms around me, I decide to start running because that does not cost me an arm or a leg. I simply get up, put on my headphones and go. I run mostly the same route every day. The same one mile, though on the weekends I push it to two or more because I have more time. The security men expect me to chug by, around 7:30 a.m. I also keep my eye out for other runners and give a respectful nod.
After two weeks of running consistently, I am approached by a lady who is one of the residents in my estate after one of my morning runs. I take off my headphones to silence the blaring Meek Mill I am enjoying so we can have a conversation, though I am short of breath. She asks if we can run together, because she would like to lose some weight and I agree. She asks if we can run within the estates around; not too far away and I agree. She asks if we can do it at 5:00 a.m. and to that, I vehemently refuse, though she explains to me that she is self-conscious and would prefer less eyes on her as she begins her running. That I understand, and we set a compromise for evening runs, so now I run twice a day. Her fears were sadly preyed on, when the security men heckled her as we ran pass one of the gates, and in response, my inner Lagosian cussed them out, profusely. A few days after that, my next-door neighbor asks if we can run in the mornings together, so now I have running partners for both mornings and nights. I also want my personal Community Development Service project to be tailored around creating a running group, to promote physical fitness in my local community.
This article is not to convince you that fitness is important. It is to speak to the mental and interpersonal benefits of exercising with others, as since I started running with my new found-friends, I have gotten to know them a little better. They have also come to understand that one must not spend six hours running, especially when they are just starting out; and they have begun to enjoy the process of getting better each day. To everyone else, it could be something different. It could be meeting up with friends to go on long, tea-spilling walks. It could be taking your kids to soccer training, because everyone in Nigeria happens to be a coach. It could be playing table tennis with a challenger as onlookers watch the smashes that take place. It could be the numerous other physical activities that one could take a part of, with the aim of not necessarily trying to reach a specific weight goal, but to keep a healthier, more active lifestyle. In essence, go and do something. Preferably, something you enjoy.
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