On my way to work Wednesday, I stopped at a streetlight. Next to me was the track and field of a neighborhood grade school. Kids of all ages, shapes and sizes were running, jumping, throwing and hollering. And then my eyes rested on a small girl, paused on the track. She was bent over her knees, her shoulder-length hair swinging in clumps across her face. The image melded with a flashback of myself in the exact same position. The light turned green.
I don’t curse much, but “the mile” inspires a lot of vitriol in me. What is the deal, gym teachers? Being forced to run a mile once a year doesn’t train a kid to be a healthy athlete!
In a way, fitness is like everything else about us. It’s impossible to predict what place it will have in each of our separate lives. For a blessed few, athleticism from childhood can carry on into one’s adulthood… But being physically fit is often something we get to choose, later. And while we all know it is a good thing, we are more than allowed to realize it in our own time, in our own way.
Of course, fitness can be deceptively exclusive. There are a lot of images that represent what fitness means, and it can isolate people who don’t want to join the club.
Then there’s the fact that it does take effort and intention, which are hard qualities to come by. It’s especially hard in an age when fitness is being peddled as something that can be bought. And the reasons many of us are given for consuming workout trends is to look a certain way, to measure up to projected ideals that may not be our own.
The truth is exercise is awesome and important, and can fight off numerous maladies that I watch my dad subjected to every day. But this isn’t jazzy enough. Even in bold caps. It needs something else. Maybe self-portraits of myself in a “before” and an “after.” Maybe shaming. Threats. Promises of instant solutions. Something to make your inner competitor scream rawrrrrr.
And you know what? You may be right. Without a doubt, all of these tools have been employed successfully by at least six people. Feeling that you look good is an incentive. Feeling like you have to peel yourself from the floor of rock bottom is an incentive. Being yelled at by Jillian Michaels – huge incentive. Wanting to be in better shape, in a faster time than everyone else you know? Good for you! But these tactics are not effective for everyone, and they are not always permanent. In fact, most of these reasons feel akin to being shackled to your grade school gym teacher who plays favorites, you not being one of them. You know?
Anyway, If you’ve read my list of 30 things, you may have noticed that number 30 is to be in fantastic shape by thirty, at thirty. Admittedly, at 19, my intention was probably to look movie-star hot enough for Sufjan Stevens to notice me in a crowded room (I have no idea). But upon getting older, and dropping the obsession with working out for looks, I cared a lot less. In my mind, if I couldn’t balance a cup of tea while jogging, forget it. I also possibly assumed that I would just work out really hard, months before turning thirty, and check it carelessly off the list. I forgot. I forgot that the reason to be fit is to be healthy.
This month, there was no movie moment epiphany. No fireworks. No light bulb. I realized I want to take better care of my body, because it is good to me. Bought a yoga class card. Picked up a jump rope. I now bend. I jump. Crunch. Curl. I even occasionally jog with Gigi, which is embarrassing because she barks at everyone. Most importantly, I repeat. And I must admit, I feel good.
Friend, I guess the point is that no one should feel bad about what point they’re jumping from, to get on the fitness train. But it is a nice ride worth taking, for you, for yourself.
Also, if anyone knows how to get rid of the six pack abs that I’ve sprouted overnight, please let me know. They don’t really suit my childish frame.
P.S. in other news, more reasons to live and love:
Health and happiness to you, friend,