Athletic Aspirations

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. 

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6 thoughts on “Athletic Aspirations

  1. Laureen says:

    I remember your gymnastics class when you were little. You were quite adorable in your little leotard =)
    I’m fairly athletic so I got by in gym and varsity sports but that’s probably because I went to a small high school with a coach who was just grateful to have bodies on the court or field. I have NEVER been a runner. I hate running. I only run if someone/something is chasing me.

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    • Samantha says:

      Adorable, yet crying? 🙂 I bet you remember swimming lessons with me too. I can’t believe what a fearful little kid I was. 🙂

      I think a lot of us were born without running genes. It makes me sad.

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  2. Charleen says:

    I’m not athletic at all either. I always hated gym class. My junior and senior years of high school I was able to take a dance elective (which I wasn’t great at either but it was more fun and less sweaty), and there was no PE requirement for my college degree (though I’m sure they had enough variety I could have found something, if there was).

    Lately I’ve been making an effort to lose weight and get in shape. Even C25K was too much for me (total false advertising) so I made my run intervals shorter, my walk intervals longer, and progressed at a much slower pace… at my most fit I was “running” for ten minutes (at about a 10- or 12-minute mile pace) and walking for two (though I’ve since fallen off the wagon and am starting to build up my endurance again).

    One thing I learned, though, that made me feel better about my slowness… it’s not that you’re necessarily going faster or farther… just the physical act of running gets your heart going more than walking, even if it’s slow running compared to brisk walking.

    Of course, if you have knee problems, then the brisk walking might a healthier choice overall. But here’s hoping you’re able to move past it!

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    • Samantha says:

      I sure hope so. I would like to enjoy running, I’ve just always been so terrible at it. My knee has been a problem for about six years now, so it’s one of those things I should work on strengthening before putting too much impact on it (which swimming can definitely help.) It does help that the ‘town’ I live in has a LOT of hills, so even at a brisk walk I’m going to be getting my heart pumping, for sure. Boyfriend and I walk all over the neighborhood for a couple of miles and are sweating and pumped up by the end. So many hills!

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      • Charleen says:

        Where I live is really hilly too. It’s good for an impromptu workout… but unfortunately it sort of removes walking as a viable mode of transportation when you can’t help but arrive all sweaty.

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