THE 'E' WORD
24 February 2003
I periodically check in with the Healthy
Walker blog spot. It's a place where there are weekly "writing prompts for weight
loss journalers." While I've written about some of the topics suggested
(trigger foods, poor body image, etc.), I've generally written it before someone thinks of
that as a topic for the prompts. I'm on the notify list, though, so I decided to check out
this week's prompt when I received the notice that it had been posted:
Did you take any PE (physical education) class when you were in school? Did you
enjoy it? Were you athletically inclined? Have you ever participated in a team sport? In
an individual sport? What sports have you tried, and what sport would you like to
try/learn? Do you enjoy/are you easily inspired from watching sports?
Sports. Ahhh....sports. Exercise. The "e" word. I have been in a women's
discussion group on CompuServe for many years -- Mary ("Life in the Loony Bin,") Tricia ("I Am the Queen") , Ellen ("Under the Microscope"), and Lisa ("Lobotomyland") -- are four other
journalers who have been in this group for a long time. There was a time, years ago, when
we were discussing becoming healthier. "Exercise" always was "the
e-word." At least for many of us. Exercise was the last thing we were
I've never been well coordinated. When I was in grammar school, I would get together
with the kids in the neighborhood and we played "baseball." We played in the
small concrete yard of the apartment building where my friend Stephen lived. "home
plate" was directly under my mother's kitchen window, so she could look out and watch
us play. "First base" was a lump in the wall halfway to the other side of the
small yard. "Second base" was the wall opposite home plate, "third
base" was the stairs that led up and out of the yard, and then back to home base. We
probably used tennis balls and used our forearms as bats (I don't remember that part). I
remember it being fun; I also remember not being very good at it.
I moved a lot in those days, but I remember my grandmother getting angry with me for
running. "Don't run! It's bad for your heart!" (imagine that! Especially in
light of what we know about heart health these days!)
My friend Pat--well, we weren't really friends, but our parents were--always
made fun of me mercilessly whenever we got together, making me very self-conscious about
the way I ran.
We played games in grammar school, but I don't remember active ones. Maybe because I
was always the last one chosen for teams, so it was too embarrassing to participate. I
remember bowing out of a lot of them so I could go climb up on a little wooden structure
to read during recess.
Still, I wasn't entirely a couch potato (I couldn't be--we didn't own a television!). I
took ice skating lessons in Girl Scouts (I was lousy at it), and swam at a neighborhood
pool. But my first choice of activities would never be something that smacked of exercise.
I have no recollection of taking PE in high school. I know I must have--it was
required. But I very definitely did the barest minimum. I was so active in high school
that my other activities allowed me to skip PE because I was needed elsewhere. I am on
just about every activity page in my senior yearbook--except for the sports pages. You
won't find me anywhere near there.
It's kind of surprising that I grew up with zero interest in physical activity. My
father, in his brief time in college, was studying to be a PE instructor. He was very into
physical fitness as a kid and kept weights in the basement of our flat. I don't remember
when he stopped working out, but he did work on being physically fit as a young adult.
Somehow that never translated over into family activities that would encourage physical
fitness in my sister or myself (I followed the trend; I never did anything athletic with
our kids either).
The older (and fatter) I got, the less interested I was in moving. I was the kind of
person who would drive from one side of a mall to the other so I wouldn't have to walk
from store to store.
Whenever I went on a weight loss program, I would always think I needed to do some
exercise "sometime," but "sometime" never got here.
I look at myself today and am amazed that I do anything at all. That I enjoy it
is just another miracle.