Friday, September 10, 2010

Memories of gym class = yikes!

Coming to enjoy exercise (yep, it's still coming) hasn't been easy. When I was a little girl, I was not a natural athlete. In fact, I was not particularly coordinated. As an imaginative only child, I liked to make up pretend games and play with my dolls and stuffed animals, which was only semi-physical. In kindergarten, I had open heart surgery, so by the time I got to elementary gym class, I wasn't supposed to run or swim any laps. Plus, I had no desire to anyway. Gym class was a terror for me. Let me count the whys. :)

Our grade school gym teacher was a particularly unsympathetic lady with dyed frizzy red hair, and if memory serves, zip up jumpsuits. We all thought that she was OLD (I think she may have been in her sixties) and she certainly never participated in any of the activities except to yell at us and blow her whistle. Our gym games were always team sports. I was no asset to the teams. I was afraid of the ball. It seemed like the game we played most often was the dreaded prisoner Dodge Ball. We were a co-ed gym class, and when we were older and the girls were starting to develop, the boys would chuck the ball at your boobs as hard as they could. I would purposely get hit ASAP so I could sit out the rest of the game. Luckily, we only had gym class weekly in those days, or who knows how much I'd be shelling out for therapy today.

A more positive grade school experience was Baby Ballet. It was taught by Miss Diane, who told us to "fly through the air like Peter Pan!" It was fun, and I got to wear a tutu at our school recital. Although, I didn't get the pink one. My mom was just not pushy enough when the costumes were handed out. I ended up with blue, but my mom or grandma sewed pink roses on the skirt to make me feel better. Naturally, I wanted to be a ballerina when I grew up.

Unfortunately, there was no ballet in Junior high gym. In fact, my misery was enhanced by our stunningly horrible gym uniforms and school issue swim suits. The uniforms were some kind of knit polyester one piece. The t-shirt top bore horizontal stripes in shades of blue, blousing into navy blue stretch shorts. These shorts were not joking about being short. Then, I had the chic accompanying knee high white sweat socks and white tennies. None of these items enhanced my chubby self. Our swim suits were blue and would have been modest, except the top part had a way of working down and falling off the slimmer girls. Thankfully, our class was all girl by then or all this would have been even more mortifying.

Did I mention that I had first hour gym? This meant that you could ensure that you would be either sweaty and nasty or wet and flat haired in time for your next class and the rest of your day.

In Junior high, there was no "i" in "team." We laid off the dodge ball, but I found something new to hate and fear: softball. What a nightmare! Yes, I was the last person picked for the team. Yes, I spent time in the outfield, because I couldn't hit and I couldn't catch. The worst, though, was trying to bat and failing, with all eyes on me. Basketball wasn't much better. I was one of the shortest players, in addition to being one of the worst. So, for reasons that I still don't understand, I, as a small girl, was sometimes called on to try to make a shot. As a penalty for the other team, I imagine. I don't remember ever making it. Cue the violins!

Gym was one long list of couldn'ts. I wasn't able to climb a rope, jump off the diving board, climb with those pegs or anything else really. The only thing that I could kind of do was spike a volley ball. It was a time of humiliation, and I never thought that exercise could be fun. The one thing that I liked to do out of school was go on walks.

As an adult, I learned that there was so much more to exercise than what gym class had offered. As a college freshman, I took a ballet class in the summer and found out something. I am flexible! I could do a turnout and put my leg straight up the wall. Working hard, I could really give it my all and I had physical skills that not everyone had. This was news to me. Workouts could be personal. They could be what you like and if others judged you, it wasn't important.

Since then, I have learned the pleasure of yoga, belly dancing and burlesque dancing, and of the satisfying results gained from aerobics and stationary biking. As I approach fifty, I become more open to more physical things. Why have I never tried tennis, swimming, or ballroom dancing? Why shouldn't I hula hoop, jump rope, ice skate or go bowling? Who cares if I can't do it well? So what if I look silly? I want to be able to enjoy the capability and potential of my body while I've still got it to use. I hear by promise to try some new things and pursue the one I like best before spring!


  1. You go girl! I'm loving your attitude. By the way, what is burlesque dancing?

  2. Love this post! I hated gym class and had myself convinced I couldn't do anything athletic. I didn't even ride a bike til I was 8 years old! I'm still not coordinated but have found the joy of long walks outdoors and a good sweaty treadmill workout!

  3. Thanks, ladies! Stephanie, Burlesque is old school striptease, focus on the tease, not the nudity. It involves learning slinky moves and how to work fans and feather boas or take off gloves. It's fun!