Saturday, October 23, 2010

Rethinking Fitness

Did you dread exercise as a teenager? I know that I did. When we are children, we want nothing more than to be able to run around and be active, but for many people there comes a point where that stops, and that seems to be in the teenage years. This makes me wonder why that happens.

I think that how we view exercise has a lot to do with gym class in school. In the early years of school, gym class was about getting activity in. It was about running around and having fun. Who knew that we were actually exercising? It’s just fun and games, right? I used to love gym class in those early years. I started to hate gym class right around the time that we had to compete in the Presidential Fitness programs. I HATED that.

I was good at the shuttle run and the v-sit reach, but when it came to running the mile- I stressed about this for days before hand. We were expected to run a mile in the shortest time possible after not running at all prior to that. The kids who were involved with sports outside of school were the ones who were the most fit. The gym teacher would praise them and hold them up as examples to everyone else. I was always one of the kids huffing and puffing and finishing last. I felt like a failure. But thinking about it now, I always finished. I never quite. I even remember an experience where the gym teacher watched as us slow ones huffed and puffed our way to finish the mile. She was annoyed and impatient. She didn’t even wait for us to finish, but took the rest of the class back inside, just leaving us there wondering if we were supposed to finish or quit. What kind of lesson was that teaching us? Isn’t it about finishing? About your personal best? Gym class wasn’t fun anymore.

In middle school, gym class became much more competitive. The teachers would pick two people who would then pick the teams. It never felt good to be picked last. There were a few of us in those awkward teenage years where we were so self conscious that we hardly knew what to do with ourselves. We were the ones that the volleyball would hit in the face when it came over the net instead of spiking it and scoring the winning point and being the hero of the day. And the boys would laugh. Exercise and sports just weren’t fun anymore.

I began to dread gym class. I started to tell myself I just wasn’t naturally athletic. I wasn’t good at sports and I never would be. So when the option came my Junior and Senior years not to take gym class anymore- I immediately took up that offer and participated in choir instead, where I felt more successful. I saw exercise as torture. This type of mentality about exercise is hard to change. I think that this experience is the same for a lot of people out there.

I hated exercise for as long as I can remember. Exercise in my Jr. and Sr. years was virtually nonexistent. I was finally free from the ridicule that exercise seemingly brought me. Thinking about this now, it makes me very sad because I missed out on so much. I had low self esteem and exercise and activity could have helped me to feel better about myself if I had learned that it could be fun. Exercise has so many benefits and it can be so enjoyable. Plus, when you compete only against yourself and not with others, it can lead to feelings of success and accomplishment. But it takes time to rethink fitness. It is about changing your thought process and your attitude towards exercise. Exercise can be fun and enjoyable and an activity for the whole family. It doesn’t have to be a dreaded chore.

It makes me sad to think about the children in schools today that may be going through the same things, especially with childhood obesity on the rise- it’s so important that exercise and activity are fun and not opportunities to embarrass and harass the children who are not as physically fit as others. Healthy competition is okay, but in gym class why can’t it be about competition with your own previous records or performance? I’m not a gym teacher, so I guess I can’t have any impact on this aspect, but it’s interesting for me to think about. I CAN start with my own family. While today, hubby and I are working on rethinking fitness and learning to love to exercise, someday we can pass that along to our kids and they can enjoy the benefits of exercise, too. That’s what I can do, and so can you. We can all make a difference as we begin to rethink fitness.


  1. great post!
    i believe that fitness in the schools is so so important. just as important as math and science.
    thankfully my high school had a great gym program where we could take classes according to our interests: sports, dance, whatever.

    have a great weekend!

  2. The one memory of high school was going to a race track and having to run around it. I was at the very end and i have never felt as embarrassed as i was that day!!

  3. I completely agree with you. Since I was pretty hopeless at all team sports, I really didn't get much out of gym at school, so I'm having to learn to like exercise now. Better late than never!

  4. Very interesting and you so right.

    I started dancing when I was 5 till I qualified as a dance teacher and then taught till I left for Germany, so fitness and movement have been a huge part of my life....
    I participated in Netball, Hockey and athletics at school as well...I hated competitive sports but loved team sports....

  5. You're so right. When I was in school, I HATED gym class in school. Because I wasn't "as good" as most. But when I could do what I wanted, when I wanted and with whom, it became a pleasure, not a chore.

  6. I sucked at gym. The games were fun but the fitness tests were awful. The thing I hated the most was having to do pull ups while all the other kids watched.

  7. I hated gym so much in highschool. We were all expected to perform at the same level, which just was so unrealistic. Not to mention the incredible amount of teasing I got.

  8. I just loved jogging in a park and still do! Didn't do any sports at school but jogging kept me healthy!

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