My sisters and I have lived with those words for decades, thanks to a thoughtless P.E. teacher many years ago. As the eldest, I heard this second hand from my middle sister, who must have been horrified to hear this from a teacher. Our youngest sister actually played softball, so I think she broke the mold. She got bonked in the head with a softball one time and though it was scary because my mom had to watch for a concussion, it was also awesome because Baby Sister was tough.
I hated P.E. and sports for many years. I would begrudgingly go bowling with a friend, or doggy paddle in a pool, but other than a few sit ups here and there, I didn’t exercise. I wasn’t very athletic, so why would I?
Fast forward through college physical education to my early forties, which is when I first played on an organized sports team. I worked at an office that played in a softball league, and I joined. I was way out of my depth and felt terribly unathletic but I actually had fun. Not having participated in organized teams sports, I was surprised at how fun it was- the camerarderie, the feeling of being part of a team, and the crappy beer.
Something in my brain opened up with that experience, and I joined a big box gym. It was really hard because of my lack of self confidence and training. I went to a step class and couldn’t get the rhythm down so I never went back. I tried a yoga glass but my upper body strength wasn’t great and the instructor had no time to show me an altenative so I never went back. I ended up injuring myself in a personal training session with an enthusiastic but inexperienced personal trainer who had no idea how out of shape I was nor that I was no longer 35 years old. I spent a lot of time doing physical therapy, having surgery, more physical therpay, and the old feelings of “not being very athletic” came flooding back to me. I tried a new trainer who showed me some Pilates moves but was ultimately more interested in chatting about her injured back and her size 4 clothing issues. I was moving further away from my goal of getting in shape and really had no idea how to get back into exercising.
My friend Colleen had started working out with a personal trainer and going to the gym regularly. She looked (and looks!) awesome and STRONG. In a weak moment I agreed to go to the gym with her- I was nervous but curious. As it turns out, I’ve stuck with StudioX for more than a year, and it’s truly changed my life. I lift weights, jog, use the rowing machine, and can do a burpee. I work on balance, strength training, and cardio. I’ve lost a few pounds and gained muscles and confidence. And I AM athletic- who else would do deadlifts for fun?!
Many thanks to Colleen for luring me into the gym, to trainers Jesse and Christina for pushing just the right amount, and for Tim for having a clean, comfortable, low key space to practice and learn.
And dear PE teacher- you were wrong. My athletic ability was there all along; it just needed a little positive encouragement to blossom.
The image is a cigarette card from the George Arents Collection of the NYPL Digital Collections. I’m pretty sure this “Prone Falling” exercise is a burpee in disguise. See the full exercise card collection here.
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