When I say that I hated gym class, I really mean to say that I despised, loathed, and dreaded it. I hated the echoes of the whistles and the shrill scuffing of shoes on the floor, and I cringed at those all-navy uniforms, usually comprised of mesh Champion shorts and a hand-me-down shirt.
Occasionally, I looked forward to class. No, actually, I never looked forward to class, but there were times when I didn’t mind it so much. For instance, I rather enjoyed Volleyball for a few years — back in elementary school, being short was really no problem, as it was pretty much a level playing field. Basketball was fun, until everyone else grew and I, um, didn’t, and I particularly loved swimming. But it was Dodgeball that I really looked forward to — I rocked at Dodgeball. Being short, you learn that pushing people out of the way won’t really get you anywhere, as it’s more akin to tapping someone lightly on the shoulder. Which is why, thanks to gym class, I quickly learned the fine art of weaving in and out. In many cases, this will work to your favor. On the Tube, not so much.
Anyway, I think gym class is why I’ve always had such an adverse reaction to exercise and working out. I loved walking the dogs, roller skating, figure skating, kicking the soccer ball, pretending I was Shannon Miller on the trampoline, and all the other activities that didn’t feel like actual exercise. But when it came to gym class — where you’re forced to like it and perform like you’re an Olympiad, despite the fact that you’re a little kid and had no interest in sports whatsoever, it sucked. Especially when most of the kids outran, out hit, or out spiked you. Give me a pair of skates, I so often felt like saying, and we’ll see who falls on their ass.
Life kind of feels like that every so often. If someone offered me a pen and paper, it would take me ten minutes to come up with a short story or poem, but ask me to run the mile and I’ll run away. When I was in school I realized that someone will always be better than you at something — whether it be grades or sports or the arts. But I also realized that everyone has their something, that talent, that specific skill where they excel — like writing…or roller skating.
I think remembering this lesson has led to a change in self-perception. By taking control and not holding back, by not comparing myself to others, I can work at my own pace and concentrate on my own development. This “take control” attitude is actually what led me to the gym, where I found myself — lo and behold — enjoying exercising and working out. Trust me, I couldn’t believe it either — for a long time it felt like I was in some strange dream where I didn’t know myself. Who is this person who knows what a Vertical Press is and can get through 20 15 minutes straight on the elliptical machine without passing out?
I think being around professionals who were eager to work with you and help you stay motivated has been the key. We have a fitness center at my apartment complex, but I tried that once and failed miserably because 1) I didn’t have the encouragement that I do at my gym which 2) seriously de-motivated me. Plus, I love the fact that I can go swimming whenever I want to (not that I have yet, but, you know…) and take fun classes like Martial Arts and Aerobics — rocking it out to Linda Ronstadt and Ricky Martin…Cool.
I think what has encouraged me the most, though, is this feeling of personal empowerment. I feel good when I walk through the doors (I feel like crap when I walk out, but that’s another story). I like walking down the halls, knowing where I’m going and feeling like I belong. Most importantly, I like the idea that I’m doing something good for myself, going at my own pace, and not worrying about what others think.
And the best thing about it all: no running unless you want to.
Who would have seen that coming?
Added: You can bet the title of this post came from a throwback to my youth. Check out the video here (imbedded video not working): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pldzh1jyQU