As a child, I was very active, climbing trees, running outside, riding my bike, and hiking in the woods. It was play then — no points to score, no fitness levels to achieve.
By fifth grade, my dread of all things sporty was firmly formed. Kickball was the daily recess activity, and I was always chosen last. Every single day.
I was terrible at the sport, and one game it all came to a head. I was up to kick, and I missed the ball every time it was rolled to me. I remember my teammates yelling at me in anger. I dropped to the ground and pounded the dirt in frustration as everyone left the field. We lost because I couldn’t kick the ball.
That was a turning point. From then on, I didn’t even try. I was the girl standing far in the outfield, chatting with friends instead of watching the game. When the ball came my way, I would protect my head and shrink away instead of trying to catch it. Coaches despised me. I even failed PE one semester during high school. That was the semester when we had to serve 10 volleyballs over the net. I could not get one single serve over the net. I made a zero on the test and earned the disgust of my coach and the ridicule of my classmates. In all my other classes, I earned As.
PE was all about being the fastest or strongest and always about winning. I am not competitive. I like to do my best for myself but not to outdo someone else, so I never understood the elation the winning team felt. Who cares? What’s the big deal? So you spiked the ball? So you earned a point? In the big scheme of things, what did it matter?
Running felt jarring and sweating was miserable. In short, I hated PE and believed all kinds of messages related to that:
- I am not sporty.
- I am brainy and not athletic.
- I am uncoordinated.
- I am sedentary and not active.
- Sports are pointless pursuits.
- Exercise is a miserable waste of time.
My first semester of college, I took biology and a (required) aerobics class. I hated the PE class not only because it was at 8 AM but also because it involved sweating. I would always position myself at the back of the gym so no one could see me struggling through the routine or making mis-steps. The teacher consistently frustrated me by moving her own position to the back of the gym, reorienting the entire class in the opposite direction. That shift turned my formerly safe spot in the rear into a humiliating place in the front. I secretly hated that teacher for her sneaky shifts.
In biology I sat in the front, always had my homework, and answered the teacher’s questions — correctly, of course. In biology I felt secure and at ease.
When we had to run laps in the aerobics class, I was always last. One morning, a classmate from my biology class lapped me around the track and sarcastically taunted me over his shoulder, “Not as easy as biology, is it?”
Wow. That stung. I was a brainiac in biology where he struggled. But in PE, I was the weakest link and he shone as a star athlete.
I felt like a huge loser in terms of athleticism. This experience was even more fodder for my anti-sports mentality. Unfortunately, all things active and fitness filtered into this sports category – walking, jogging, badminton, biking, swimming. Anything that was somewhat sporty was filed into my mental NO file that said
- I can’t do that.
- I’m not good at that.
- I hate that.
- That’s embarrassing.
This is the first post in a series about my own journey towards personal fitness and well-being. Stay tuned for more of my story. This one is negative, but they are going to get positive!
- How I Became a Non-Sporty Person Who Hated Exercise (You are here.)
- How I Grew to Appreciate Exercise (Even Though I’m Still not Sporty)
- What Exercise Did for Me
- Meeting Exercise Goals With Self-Talk & Rewards