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COLUMN: Confessions of a sporting workaholic
By Aki Riihilahti
My name is Aki and I am a workaholic. Well, some would say so, anyway.
I am not sure if I need cold-turkey withdrawal treatment, but at least everybody constantly keeps yelling at me to "take a holiday for once in your life".
Apparently it is not good for you if you read your last work emails at midnight and yet already in the morning you are sitting in a meeting, and if on top of that you are also a professional athlete.
So, I did as I was told and went on a holiday. I travelled far from my workplaces and all the meetings.
On day one, I lay on the beach, slept, read, ate well, and had a bottle of red wine.
I tried to enjoy the peace and quiet.
The second day of my holiday dawned.
After a poorly-slept night, I woke up before cock-crow and decided to go for a walk.
The walk turned into a run, the run into a hard two-hour training session.
Still, I decided to forget the brief adulterous relationship that my body had lured me into and to continue the vacation.
I read about Genghis Khan, loafing in a deck-chair.
After a couple of pages, I abandoned the conquest of the world and went to pick up my laptop from my hotel room instead.
With fingers smoking, I typed emails, expressed my views on some projects, started a couple of new ones, and compiled the following year’s plan of campaign and the budget for it.
Things seemed to fall into place.
I enjoyed what I had accomplished more than I enjoyed the sun.
I rewarded myself with a session of Bikram yoga.
I am still sitting on a lounger in Thailand while writing this column. Under the parasol, I have managed to complete several weeks’ worth of work.
These days people take their work home and even with them on their holidays.
Far too often work comes first - before family and friends and hobbies.
Am I the acme of such work-orientated evolution, because I am able to enjoy the fact that on holiday I can simply concentrate on doing stuff, without being constantly interrupted and harassed by meetings and phone calls?
A holiday does not mean that one should do nothing.
And despite of all the work that I have done, I have still had time to take a tuk-tuk to go and see some Buddha statues.
I have chosen to have two full-time jobs. I am a professional footballer and the managing director of a stadium.
From the point of view of activities, challenges, and working hours, the two jobs complement one another, whilst keeping me very busy.
Both jobs provide me with endless challenges and possibilities, but it all feels meaningful.
And I am not ashamed to admit that on my holiday I have kept exercising and working on stadium projects.
And these things do not feel like work, for from early childhood I have grown into this sort of lifestyle.
Ergo, I guess I am not a workaholic.
I just mostly do things that I enjoy.
The writer Aki Riihilahti is a former English Premier League and Championship footballer (with Crystal Palace) and a member of the Helsinki HJK side that won the Finnish championship title this past season, and he is also now the Managing Director of the Sonera Stadium in Helsinki, HJK's home arena. Riihilahti gained 69 caps for Finland between 1998 and 2007, and is also known for his regular columns in The Times while he was still playing in England.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 12.12.2011