Hey, my name is Florence. I am an ESNer from Brussels and I took part in the WEP Sports Competition 2018.

For me, the Regional Platform Sports Competition was both motivating and challenging because I could not go for a run for a year due to a back injury. At first, I was afraid of trying but I saw how motivated some of my section members were, so I tried it and see how much I am capable of.

After talking with my general practitioner, I started with walking half of the way to university and taking the bus the other half. Doing this, I extended the distances I walked every day. I started with small distances of 500 meters per time. After a few days, I could extend the walks to two kilometres pain-free. This might sound silly but was a huge success for me.

Around the middle of the challenge, I faced my limit, when I walked five kilometres at once. It was discouraging and frustrating. I thought about it a lot and concluded it was important to face my limit. It showed me that training can help me, but I also needed to listen to my body, respect my limits and be patient. Just after I made progress, I did not want to end in the hospital so the next days I was going back to zero again, small distances, not forcing my body to the limits.

My initial goal was to go for a run by the end of the challenge but I realised it was way too ambitious. Therefore, I changed my goal to walking 100 kilometres by the end of the challenge and I accomplished it by the last day. It was a big personal success after nearly a year of physiotherapy.

After I got motivated by my local section, I looked at the results of the Network. It was very interesting to see how the ESNers got competitive and were trying to reach more kilometres than others. Even though I knew I would not reach the top positions, seeing the results of the Network motivated me to try harder and I was happy for every extra kilometre I walked without having back pain.

It’s tough to make time to go to the gym or sporting competitions when you are a student and a volunteer in free time, but during the RP Sports Competition, I realised there is always room for being physically active. There are many ways to stay active while volunteering and studying. It can be taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking (even a part of the way) to an event instead of taking the bus, going for small walks, five-minute exercises during study breaks or organising sports activities with your section or friends.

The Health and Well-being cause in ESN has a great approach. It shows that a balanced life is possible even if you have more interests other than studying, working and social life. Promoting the cause educates volunteers, stakeholders and other people about mental and physical health and the balance between all fields of your life. Health and a balanced life are important and it is possible to have all of it while doing something extra for the society.

Even though going for a run was not an option for me this time, I am still amazed by how far I could go. Even if it’s a slow progress, the important thing is that I saw improvement during the challenge, which motivates me to keep going. My long-time goal now is to improve more and take part by running instead of walking when the next RP Sports Competition comes along.