Thursday, April 9, 2015

Exercise, love and hate.

I have a lifelong love/hate relationship with exercise. The first thing it brings to mind was when the "President's Physical Fitness" tests started when I was in elementary school. Up until then, I suppose I was an average child of the sixties. I played on the swings, ran around the schoolyard, played with the other kids in the neighborhood (where I was the only girl). I preferred books to running around though, even then.

But suddenly, in an effort to measure my physical fitness, I had to show that I could run a distance, do a shuttle run, situps, pushups, and worst of all, throw a softball. I still remember the humiliation when instead of throwing that ball for a distance, I held on just a bit too long and threw it straight up in the air. My classmates thought that was just hysterical. It's not like anyone had ever taught me to throw a ball. Girls just didn't do that a lot back then.

Then there was middle school, with calisthenics where we were all lined up in neat squads, and sweated into our nasty gym uniforms. Mrs. Troutman shouted if we dropped our arms during jumping jacks, made us run laps in those horrid Keds, which had no ankle support whatsoever. The uniforms were a jumper, with snaps down the front, and wearing them for a week at a time meant that Fridays were pretty ripe! And once a month, we were forced into the dreaded dance class, where the boys and girls had gym together, and awkwardly learned to box step or even square dance.

And so, it was around this time that I decided exercise was really not for me. In high school, there was the usual basketball, softball and kickball. One year was kind of interesting though, when we had modern dance. It was then that I discovered that I had no stamina, no grace, no balance and even less flexibility.

In college, we were required to take just 4 gym classes to graduate. So, my freshman year, I suffered through tennis and field hockey. Later, I took fencing, and I really started to enjoy that, until the teacher started demanding that we run a mile at a time. Oh, no. Poking people with a foil was fun, but I still couldn't run without exhaustion and side cramps that made me throw up.

So, even knowing that I was gifted with this absolute dearth of athletic ability or desire to exercise, I decided to join the Army. And I exercised. At least for the first ten weeks. I was sure that they were going to "re-cycle" me, and make me start again, because the PT was really hard for me. But, I squeaked through. After that, exercise was minimal. I walked a lot, to my classes in Monterey. Up and down hills, every day. But at that time, there was no organized physical fitness program for language students, nor was there any during most of my Army days. The first PT test I had to take again was shortly before I got out, and I wheezed my way through the two mile run, qualifying by about 10 seconds!

But during my time at language school, I discovered martial arts. Well, first I discovered the instructor. We hit it off pretty well, and he invited me to join his taekwondo class at the gym. I'd seen judo and karate before, during high school and college, but it was all men. Women just weren't invited. And, lo and behold, I found an exercise program that I liked. It had more purpose than simply running in circles. I could protect myself. And so, my 40 year relationship with the martial arts began.