Growing up, my sister and I were not encouraged to take part in any physical education. Mother considered it a total waste of time. She also believed that, in her words
All those Physical Education teachers are lesbians.
She expanded on that to imply that any female who played sports would also end up “that way.” My sister and I added this to the long list of fairly odd opinions that our mother held firmly.
Dad belonged to the Y and he took us there on Friday nights for the Family Swim. Afterward, he also stopped after swimming at Fisher’s Hamburgers, where they served the greasiest hamburgers with equally greasy fries.
My sister Lindy and I loved the food and it was one of the reasons we were so eager to go to the Y.
Thanks to Mother’s discouragement, these Friday night swimming trips were the extent of our exercise program growing up.
In college, a classmate named Kathy became my best friend primarily because we had an English class directly followed by a Physical Education class. We would toss a coin to see if we should go to the PE class and sometimes we would throw three out of five times and sometimes even more, hoping for the desired outcome. Regardless of the coin toss results, we most often went to the student union and had coffee rather than attending the dreaded Physical Education class.
We thought cutting PE was cool, and we didn’t for one moment consider the fact that we needed four years of Physical Education credit to graduate from our college, never mind that doing something physical was good for our health.
The second year of college, I signed up for horse-back riding, billiards, and even a bowling class. That’s right: the lowest-impact, least strenuous Physical Education classes available.
They were kind of fun and I “managed” to pass all three of them. Unfortunately, I was supposed to sign up for at least one more physical education offering that year.
By senior year, I felt like I was a million credits behind in PE, and I was “forced” to get a doctor’s note that said I couldn’t take that much PE. I think he felt sorry for me because I would be taking four hours of PE a day. Thanks to his note of excuse, I graduated from college with just one and a half semesters of the dreaded PE under my belt.
I realized later in life that exercising is not a bad thing. Not all gym activities involve a giant ball coming being thrown at your head. You don’t have to wear a penny out tossing it, and the only one demanding that you meet expectations is you yourself.
When he was a teenager, my son and I belonged to a health club that offered a “lifetime” family membership for $200. While seriously doubting that this place was going to be around very long, I signed up and we enjoyed swimming and exercising there. I discovered the enjoyment of water aerobics and yoga, and when I don’t do these things I miss them.
Of course, the health club closed eventually and I had to look for other ways for us to exercise. My son always had a bike and he enjoyed riding around the neighborhood until he discovered girls and cars.
Awhile ago, I tried a Zumba class. It was strenuous and felt like I was going to die after the first session, but I made it for the entire class and felt really proud of myself.
The other day, I took my second spinning class, and by the end of the class, I really was spinning (and not in the cycling way). I quit after 45 minutes of a 90 minute class, and the teacher followed me out to make sure I was okay. That was embarrassing, but what I have learned is that it’s okay to try something and not be able to complete it.
It’s better to try and fail than to have never tried at all.
That was a big part of Mother’s problem. She never wanted to do anything unless she could do it perfectly from the start. Therefore, she missed out on lots of great experiences, and she encouraged her children to follow the same path of inaction. Her motto seemed to be
It’s better not to try at all than to fail.