Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Yesterday a friend emailed me that he was impressed with my running.  People like to tell me that, any time I mention my running (which is, I admit, pretty frequently), and it is always strange.  I started writing a post yesterday morning about how strange it is, because my whole life I have been unathletic, and to have suddenly become (or, anyway, to suddenly realize I have become) a person whose athletic endeavours are interesting or impressive to anyone is odd.  I was going to detail my various misadventures and speculate on whether it was me who changed or other people, or the type of people I know.

But I got distracted and also annoyed, because I realized that I was not as unathletic as I have always thought.  True, my childhood involvement in sports was minimal and undistinguished - but the reasons for that were largely the mismatch between my parents' preferred sports-for-me (ballet, and later swimming, both of which I disliked in large part because I never had the right clothes for them) and my preferred sports-for-me (gymnastics, which was deemed too expensive, and soccer, which was deemed too masculine).  In high school, sports were just as much about social categories as about athletics, and I joined colorguard.  This is not a sport, exactly, but if you do not think it is athletic then clearly you have not spent much time running back and forth across a football field while throwing a flag in the air.  And I never played sports in college - in general I am not big on poorly-organized, competitive, large-group social activities, which is pretty much the definition of intramural sports - but I did patronize the fitness center quite regularly.

So I was confused about whether I am an athletic person.  I know I am not particularly fast or strong or coordinated, and I know that my whole life I have been told - by my parents, by my gym teachers (some of whom were almost comically unathletic, to the point of employing golf carts in order to traverse the track), and mostly by myself - that I am slow, weak, uncoordinated, and generally unfit.  But I also know that, well, I like to run.  And ellipt, spin, practice yoga, dance, lift, and hike.  And that I do some or all of that stuff regularly, sometimes with a purpose and sometimes without, regardless of what else is going on in my life.  And that a lot of people don't do that stuff, or only do it when they are trying to lose weight or fulfill a New Year's resolution, or do it much less than I do.  And that, while I will never be impressively fast or strong, I am getting faster and stronger, and I feel good about my level of fitness.  And I realized - this is like so much else.  Most of what is getting in the way of becoming who I would think I was if I were just meeting myself isn't an obstacle of preference or ability; it's mostly the rules I've made, or let other people make for me, for about who I am and what I can do.  Sometimes those rules have been convenient, but they are often arbitrary, outdated, and incorrect.  They aren't immutable, and some of them - like the one my mother made for me once about not being able to run a marathon - are meant to be broken.

1 comment:

  1. I know what you mean, as I was totally unathletic and unfit in my high school and college days, only getting into fitness years later.