When I was but a wee lass in kindergarten, I received a report card wherein I received a big fat “U” in the area of Gross Motor Skills. This means that I ran, hopped, skipped, twirled, danced, threw, caught, kicked, hit, and maintained my personal space while moving unsatisfactorily for someone my age. I didn’t know what it meant at the time, or until years later, but was nonetheless devastated that I was apparently failing something I didn’t even know I’d been attempting. I’m really not sure how Sister Dorothy could crush a little girl like that; some woman of god SHE was. Clearly, it scarred me for life. How many of you remember a grade you got on your kindergarten report card?
Anyway…the sad truth of the matter is that while I did all right on the academic side over the years, I never got better in that area. I couldn’t do the bent-arm hang in 5th grade. I couldn’t climb the rope in 6th grade. In 9th grade my time on the mile was so poor they made me do it again, although in my own defense, I was riding the white surfboard for like the second time ever, and if you remember the products c. 1986, you will recall that they were not conducive to wearing gym shorts, let alone running apace in same. As an adult, I bump into things regularly, wander as I walk, like a shopping cart with a bum wheel, cannot catch anything but colds, and trip regularly. My walk has been described as duck-like even by people who claim to love me. Add to that some inherited problems, such as my dad’s bad ankles, a propensity toward heat exhaustion from exertion, and a discrepancy in the length of my 2 legs severe enough to require a lift in my left shoe, and you will understand why I have always been an indoor girl. I hid out in the bathroom during recess when I could, and took a book outside and sat on the playground when I couldn’t. Physical activity for me was unsatisfying at best, humiliating in general, and painful at worst.
So aside from the killer rack, I am not a physically gifted person in any sense of the word. I’m even a slow kinesthetic learner, something I learned about myself in group fitness classes over the years and have only had confirmed as I’ve been learning to play guitar and to do inlay. And yet despite the fact that my body has never, ever been my friend, I have made many attempts over the years at becoming physically fit. I even had some successes, but at a cost. The jogging I did at 13 resulted in shin-splints and sore knees; the kickboxing I did at 28 nearly crippled me because of the uneven-leg thing, and my chiropractor told me I had to quit. Exercise has always equaled pain to me, sooner or later, and that’s a reality that has made it hard to get out there and do it, and that I ever do is a triumph of will that is surely worthy of a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, at least.
I recently started what I hoped would be a successful workout problem, called Couch-to-5K, in which you alternate jogging and walking (I call it “wogging”), working up to a full 5K in 9 weeks. I was even getting up early to exercise, which is unheard of for me, but the weather this time of year must be respected, and it’s already too hot to be running around after 7:30. In a Tucson summer, blinking alone can work up a sweat.
After week 4, I’d not managed to even manage to work up to the week 2 pace, and was getting pretty discouraged. But I hadn’t given up, and Monday I was out there, bright and early, and feeling a little better as I wogged than I had the week before. I was feeling really good right until about a third of the way through my route, when I tripped and fell.
Now, I fall periodically. I have the aforementioned bad ankles that like to jack-knife, sending me tumbling to the ground, usually to bloody effect. Both of my knees have heavy scarring from the violent insertion (and the later ginger removal) of asphalt from my flesh. My left palm has a piece of gravel permanently embedded in it from just such an incident last December. And honestly, I knew it would come. A girl cannot just go out and jog three times a week and think she’s not going to end up eating it. Not if that girl is me.
But this fall was worse, because I was jogging when it happened, and I tripped, which only increased the forward velocity at which I skidded (not far, but skidded nonetheless) across the cement. I fell flat on my chest and slid. Fortunately there were no witnesses, which would’ve just made it worse. I lay on the sidewalk long enough to register I was still there and had the wind knocked out of me, and then I carefully picked myself up. My knees were already stinging, but I was surprised to find that I had a bad case of road-rash mostly, and nothing was bleeding. My hands felt the same, and the front of my thighs were a smarting a bit. I didn’t just fall; I FELL.
I walked until I felt up to jogging another stretch, and I did, but when I did, I felt a very sharp pain in my hip, and realized that I’d probably twisted a few other things in unwonted directions. So I stopped that and walked the slow walk home.
The thing about a fall like that is that while stuff hurts the first day, you don’t really feel it all until awhile later. It’s then that, in addition to the scrapes on my knees and hands, I discovered the bruise on my arm, the other abrasion on my wrist, the left shoulder I wrenched (and the sore arm attached to it) probably trying to catch myself, and the pulled muscle on the right side of my neck. Oh, and the bruised ribs and sore abs.
Good times. For the makers of ibuprofen. Lots of ibuprofen. I didn’t need a liver anyway.
It has taken me 30 years and more injuries, aches, pains, and accidents than I can count, to figure it out, but it occurs to me that perhaps physical fitness isn’t for everyone. If it were my destiny to be long and lean, it wouldn’t be so darn difficult and dangerous for me to manifest that reality. I mean, seriously, how many messages from the universe do I have to receive before I get the message: a person who trips over patterns in carpet really has no business trying to jog on uneven terrain. A person who has little-to-no balance has no business doing round-house kicks on a heavy bag. I am not an athlete. And no amount of trying is going to make me one. I accept that, finally. I’m going to take my low-key walk, and ride my one-speed bike to try to stay reasonably healthy, but the days of my ambitious exercise schemes are over. I’m just not made for it.
Everything I needed to know, I learned in kindergarten, apparently. Just took awhile to sink in.