It’s been a rocky road that fitness and I have been on since my toddling days. I fluctuated between feeling great by physical activity and wanting nothing more than to curl up on a soft, cushy place with a book.
When I was little and learning to ride a bike without training wheels there were some spills, unlike most kids, I remembered those spills quite well and after each I would become more and more careful. Not only that, but my dad’s family was (is) super athletic and any time I would go along for a family day of roller blading or bike riding I would find myself frustrated and terrified the majority of the time. They were so good, my brother doing spins and racing my stepmom around, weaving in and out of other people on the sidewalk. I would trail behind, relying hard on the breaks, doing my best to avoid other people at all costs.
As time went I didn’t get better, and they did. They were already so much more comfortable on bikes, hikes and wheels than I was. I didn’t practice when I was at my mom’s house, though at the age of about 10 I did get into gymnastics. I wasn’t a completely lost cause.
But family outings of the physical activity variety always left me with dread. I’m not going to hold back here, they still do from time to time. I know when my stepmom suggests a hike I’m going to want an oxygen mask by the end. Okay, maybe that’s a taaad extreme, but the last “hike” we went on was sold to me with a promise of relative ease and a view of at least 3 waterfalls…
the truth looked a little more like my dad and I at the back of the group asking for the pregnant lady trail. I found myself wondering why I didn’t bring my spiked hiking shoes (oh yeah ’cause I don’t own any) and my stepmom merrily chugged up the path.
There were no waterfalls… and that hike is now talked about as that one time we mountain climbed in Oregon.
All joking and ribbing aside, my love for fitness has always had strings attached and I’ve done more than my fair share of running away.
A little extra fitness history:
I loved swimming when I first learned how and many years after. I lost my love around puberty and wanning eye sight. I never swam competitively, nor do I know any of the strokes well, but I did love pretending I was Ariel (or a dolphin) and would spend hours in the water (if it was warm enough).
When my eye sight started going a little wonky (I wear glasses or contacts or else I would not be able to do anything now) I stopped wanting to be in the pool as much. I like to open my eyes under water (could that have been what ruined my eyes?) and you can’t do that when you wear contacts (unless of course you want to lose them). Sure, goggles you say, but those fog easy, they hurt my head (true story) and are just a pain. Yes, excuses I know….
And then there was puberty… feeling awkward in my own body and totally self conscious in a bathing suit kept me out of the pool and ocean for a good amount of time. Being as pale as I am, I decided not to subject friends and fellow beach goers with my sun reflecting body. (Don’t worry, I’m okay with making them suffer now… I tell them to bring dark sunglasses.)
Then there was the problem of make up and hair and ugh being a teenager had me worrying about every inch of what could possibly be wrong with my looks.
So like I said, there went swimming.
I’d like to say I’ve come back to it, but there’s still that annoying issue with the eyes… and as vain/shallow as it sounds, I would love to find a mascara that stays on with chlorine, I am just not a fan of how pale my eyelashes are by themselves. Seriously… (and I call myself a feminist…psh)
Moving on… Gymnastics came into my life and swept me off my feet. It all started with gym camps at the YMCA during summers and then going to classes with my childhood best friend. Those were some awesome, and scary, times. I loved gymnastics, I was good at it. I was (and still am) more flexible than a lot of the girls, I picked up handstand and cartwheels pretty fast because my stepmom had taught my brother and I long ago how to do them in our extra large room (those were the days).
Gymnastics help me for a good while. But then I reached my fear threshold. Once I found the level where I was suppose to be doing things on the high beam or doing flips without a pit to fall into, my confidence waned. Cartwheels on the low beam, YUP. Cartwheels on the high beam… heck no.
One thing gymnastics really gave me was confidence in my physical abilities. In school I was one of maybe three girls that could do a number of pull ups. This girl Danielle, total tomboy, beat me on the number though… she also beat the boys so I wasn’t too upset about it.
Despite my early love for the gym, I left gymnastics in middle school for a bit but decided to try out for the cheer team. Somehow I put my shyness aside (I was shy in junior high, go figure) and made it. In cheer I was somehow able to master a back handspring, something that had alluded me in those years of gymnastics. Not only that, but I also got my roundoff back tuck. Those were the golden years. I was tricked into working out (even burn outs had some sort of fun and level of friendly competition behind them) and I was a body full of strength.
Before my freshman year of high school I tried out for an all-star cheer team… and made it. But there were excuses abound in my head over why I didn’t want to actually join so I told them I couldn’t do it and only now, on this day, do I wonder if I made the right choice there. Not that there’s anything to regret, it happened, I chose, but fear definitely guided that decision.
So freshman year I changed over to a new school and stopped most of my physical activities. I no longer needed to go with when my family went on their outdoor adventures so I chose not to instead of being behind all the time. I burrowed into my homework and made it harder than it needed to be.
I think I found exercise again my sophomore year. Sure we had P.E. classes but they were a joke. Seriously we were allowed to have any time on the mile, we didn’t have to run AT ALL and most of the other activities were very low impact. My exercise came from dance. I tried out for the dance team after seeing them perform at assemblies and the like and just wanted so bad to be a part of it.
I tried out, made the B team and was told more than a handful of times that I had talent that I just needed to keep working with. (Don’t get me wrong, they weren’t telling me to audition for Juliard…)
I stuck with that for a year and a half, maybe two and then the original team disbanded and was taken over and I didn’t want anything to do with the change.
Sometime in the summer before senior year I decided to take ballet. Oh ballet, beautiful, difficult ballet. I wrote one of my personal essays for college on ballet. I would point my toes so hard in my sleep that I would wake up with cramps in my calves. But my excuses came again (this time monetary) and I left ballet too.
Between ballet and now there were several times of good intentions. Times where I would force myself into the house gym for a couple days. But my resolve would soon fade and I would stop again.
This year I decided it was time to really and truly make a habit. I found dance classes I really wanted to take and I put some money into them. Then I asked for classes for Christmas. For the first time in, well ever, I didn’t waste one single class. I went to all in the package I bought.
As if that’s not enough, I have found inspiration to work out on days that I don’t have those classes. Why? Because I want my body to be the strongest and most flexible it can be so that I am prepared to learn new things. I have weeks where I only go to dance class once or twice, and then I have weeks where I go to dance class and work out in Dad’s home gym three times. My enthusiasm waxes and wanes from week to week but I feel a need to go back when I miss too many days. I feel so good when I’m done with a work out. I’ve become even more flexible and I’m starting to really see the changes in my body. My arms are stronger and the muscles are really starting to show. People are telling me how fit I look. It’s so great.
I don’t care about weight loss or gain, I just love feeling strong, and fit. I still have so many fitness goals to meet and I’m not sure I’ll ever reach a finish line (always something new to strive for) but I am really content with how my relationship with fitness has improved.