One of my biggest wishes throughout life was that I could have just an ounce of athleticism in me.
My mom took me to gymnastics when I was about three or four years old. I remember trying the balance beam, and being able to (almost) do the splits, and seeing my mom waiting there in the bleachers for me.
What I don’t remember is crying so much for my mom that I wouldn’t do anything else. That’s ultimately what ended my gymnastics career.
I still tried, although my little fears during my childhood inhibited it. I watched the Olympic gymnasts on television and tried to copy their moves, especially on the balance beam. I pretended like I was a gymnast at school on the playground, swinging on the high bars and gaining hard callouses on my palms. However, I didn’t like doing somersaults (I was afraid of tucking my head under and rolling at the time) and I couldn’t do hand stands or cartwheels because of a weak left leg that refused to stand up straight when I tried either trick.
I remember, when I was a little older, trying to learn the dances from the only secular music group I listened to at the time, S Club 7. They had a TV show that I recorded the episodes, and each one would have a ‘concert’ or music video, usually with dancing. At the time, I thought I learned it pretty well, although the coordination took a long time and lots of repetition to master. It was good exercise, and although I probably looked pretty silly, I felt like I was really dancing. It was a nice reprieve in the midst of all of my exercise and athletic shortcomings.
I got older. Physical Education was always a struggle. The weather was hot and I’d get heat exhaustion, or I’d be achy, or I just couldn’t run fast enough to make things worth it. I wasn’t very coordinated, either. I could shoot a basketball, but couldn’t run and shoot one at the same time. Forget catching a football, or a softball, or avoiding getting hit in the face with a basketball. Forget being able to move fast enough to hit a volleyball, much less diving on time to grab it, kneepads or not. Running a mile in any year of school was embarrassing. I’d run a twelve-minute mile (which you can walk, by the way, if you walk fast enough) and then sigh at the girls in my class who could run a six-minute mile and be slightly jealous of them.
In college, it got a little better. I could choose what sports I wanted to play for my required physical education classes. I ended up taking tennis, volleyball, hydro aerobics, and swimming.
By far, my favorite was swimming, although it was probably the most embarrassing out of all of them. You know that you’ve found your exercise preference when you can go out in a one-piece bathing suit with a swimming cap, goggles, and a nose clip, and then be the slowest swimmer out of everyone in the class, and still enjoy yourself. The water was gentle on all of my inept muscles, aching knee and combated the sweaty, nasty feeling of working out when you are not very good at it. The only moment that was actually painfully embarrassing was trying to do the butterfly all the way across the pool, being the last one by a matter of minutes, and having to walk half the way because I just could not do it.
Overall though, I’ve always wished I had the genetic predisposition to be the slightest bit athletic. I can get better at physical sports and activities, but the progress is very slow. I’ve always been very in my head, reading and writing, and never had the coordination or physical prowess to go outside the box and run every day, or get exceptionally good at physical activity.
Now that I’m getting older, I want to run for exercise and swim every morning. With the necessary resources, I think I could do that. I purchased a pair of Nike Free shoes, which have been excellent for walking so far, and tracking my progress with Nike+. (Nothing like tempting me with levels to get me doing something I normally wouldn’t.) I’m going to work on strengthening my bum knee, whether it’s finally having a pool that’s easily accessible to swim every day, or walking regularly to get it up to par before trying to run on it. Either way, I’m willing to try, even with my weaknesses. And that’s what really counts, isn’t it?
My mom has always said something about me that makes me very proud. She says: “That’s one thing about you. You set your mind to something, you’re so stubborn that nothing is going to stop you. You’re going to persist until you get it done.”
She’s right. And that’s exactly what it will take. I may never be considered “athletic”. But I can push outside those weaknesses I have, enjoy exercise and stay healthy. That’s a goal I’m willing to keep pushing for.
Are you athletic? Have you been the one who got picked first for gym class or the one trailing behind everyone that’s three or four laps ahead? Let me know in the comments.