Thursday, October 25, 2012

Just athletic enough to climb on my soapbox.

So, there's this article, aptly titled, "In which I blame my PE teacher for ruining exercise for me forever."

And I read the article, and was basically like, "This author is my spirit animal! Yes!"

And then I read all the comments, which are basically a gajillion women saying, "Yes! You are my spirit animal!"

And then I realized that holy shit, that mandatory class that's supposed to teach us how to be healthy and active has basically turned thousands and thousands of girls / women / female people off of being healthy and active.

It seems that every non-jock has at least 1 horror story about a PE teacher who was mean, vindictive, unsupportive, and / or batshit crazy. If you're like me, you hate this crazy, so you hate PE and try to find ways to get out of it. Somehow, your brain expands that to hating all exercise.

I hated PE since the dawn of time - quite possibly because my elementary school memories include:
  • Getting beamed in the face at close range by a basketball, and having the PE teacher tell me it was my own fault because I ran 2 feet off course in our obstacle course
  • Dying of embarrassment when the PE teacher made a big show of attempting to teach me how to swing a bat - but eventually admitting defeat - as my entire class got pissed that their softball game was halted

Physical activity? Fun? What?

I read somewhere recently that exercise is like pooping - your body just has to do it. It's necessary and not negotiable.

Now, instead of going off on a tangent about how my then-2-year-old brother decided for a while that he didn't like pooping and so just wasn't going to do it (this was also around the same time he decided he was only going to eat orange foods), I'm going to stay on task and save the poo tale for another time.

Here's the thing: we have to empower girls to take charge of their bodies. And making somebody feel bad because they can't serve a flippin' volleyball is not the road to empowerment.

I hope that things have changed since the olden days when I dreaded PE with all my heart and soul. I'm guessing they probably haven't. Not for me, anyway - I still have dreams that I'm running late for high school PE and if I miss it, I'll have to run to make up the class ... the class that was GRADED and counted towards your real-life GPA. It was a nerd's nightmare, and it haunts me to this day.

In my fantasy world, all PE teachers focus on learning new stuff and having fun. And this speech is mandatory at the beginning of every class:

Today, we're going to learn new things and we're going to have fun. There's room for everybody in this class. Remember, we all have different skills - some people are great at math, and some people are great at kickball. We all have our special gifts. Now, let's have some fun!

Oh, and anybody who makes fun of another student automatically flunks the class. For the year.

Maybe if I had that type of environment, I wouldn't be, you know, almost totally sedentary.

Did you like PE? How did it translate to your adult exercise or lack thereof?


Patience_Crabstick said...

Great post! I hated PE. It was a weekly humiliation. I was at least lucky enough to go to a girls' school that allowed you to substitute ballet or dance for gym after 10th grade. I liked dance, but I was convinced I was terrible at sports. I'm not terrible at sports, just terrible at sports in which balls are flying at your head. I'm actually a pretty decent athlete. I rowed in college and I've been a runner since I was 18.

Laura said...

I didn't like PE so much as a kid - I couldn't climb the rope, always ran the slowest, etc. I didn't do much exercise until I started approaching 30. Now I run marathons occasionally and do triathlons. I am still usually closer to the back, but I have fun and it allows me to eat more junk food and drink more wine. I try to be encouraging to others who want to start doing something that you don't have to be the best at it. Yay for participation points!

smalltownme said...

I hated the field sports and running. I was fortunate to attend high school in the 70s when we had a large range of classes to choose from. So usually I was able to get Jazzercise or a dance class instead.

Ilyanna Kreske said...

HATED p.e. especially in high school where the gym teacher allowed the other kids to mock me and refuse to dance with me (we always had a unit on square dancing). She also forced me to run hurdles. I fell on every one, had to get back up and try the next, all the while listening to the other students laugh at me. And if we couldn't do an overhand serve in volleyball we couldn't get above a B. Now, in my 39th year, I have begun walking and even running and am finding I actually like it, until I think of it as exercise. I really like moving my body, and am proud of what it can do. Just don't call it a workout.

Sharon Lee Kubichek said...

sadly, it's not all the teacher. for me, yes, PE was what kept me out of the top 10% of my school and my teacher was not great, but she tried to help me privately. i was at a private school and at least my classes were all girls - no boys and girls together then. my DH was "casually athletic" meaning he is coordinated, and exercises but not competitive. he got me into hiking and biking, individual fitness rather than competitiveness. i have the RA, so i am limited to low impact stuff, but he's happy to just hike, so we do that. one of my kids is similar, not a star athlete, but capable. the other is not. some just lack of coordination, some physical disability. his teachers actually were generally good about that. but. the other kids. boys are supposed to be athletic. boys are supposed to be competitive. the other kids were worst. yep, the teacher did cup stacking and encouraged hiking, but in the locker room with the other guys....
they had a class that was supposed to be just conditioning, aerobics, but all the football jocks were in it for the "easy A". the child of a friend of ours said, flat out, as a 15 yo told us, no, do not put that child in that class, they'll kill him with teasing, even though it is described as 'life-long fitness health'.
so, it's still a problem.

slow panic said...

I HATED PE. I was so self-conscious about anything to do with my body. It was horrible.