Why I Work Out: An Essay From Someone Who Hated Gym Class

Growing up, I desperately wanted to be athletic.  I started playing softball as a 1st grader and picked up soccer (God, I was awful at that) and basketball later on (I was marginally better at that).  I hung out with a sporty crew; we all wore Umbros, jogging suits (you know–swishy pants), and either Sambas or chunky, white tennis shoes that are the current trend today.  I dabbled in sports; all my friends played several and I wanted to play, too!  I wasn’t that bad but I definitely wasn’t as good as my friends.  I remember when we were all playing softball, they all went on to join a travel team and I stayed in the house league–I don’t even think I was asked to try out.  Well, in the house league, I was one of the better players–the pitcher, even…and always played in-field!  It felt good to be good at a sport, even if it was fleeting.  (Side note: Softball was tough for my schedule, though, because I rode and showed horses from age 5-16 and that took up my summers–softball got in the way.)  In retrospect, I think I had a freakishly athletic friend crew from elementary through middle school; most of them went on to play a sport in college.  Either way, it seemed like everyone around me was naturally athletic.  Don’t even get me started on gym class or track and field day; I dreaded them, whereas all my friends reveled in it. Gymnastics was my ultimately nemesis because I couldn’t do a damn thing–except a forward roll and a back bend.  Anyway, where I grew up, athletics were your popularity ticket.  My older sister played THREE varsity sports and when you’re growing up, you idolize your siblings–wanting to follow in their footsteps.

The nail in the organized sports coffin for me was trying out and not making the 7th grade volleyball team.  I tried out because volleyball was the cool, new sport (there was no organized volleyball in my town prior to 7th grade), all my friends were either volleyball or soccer savants, and it absolutely gutted me to not make the team.  So my sister played three varsity sports and I couldn’t even make 7th grade volleyball.  That settled it, sports were not going to be in my future.

There’s a point to this whole backstory–and that is that my lack of athletic prowess has contributed to how I view exercise as an adult.  It’s never been a priority.  I’ve never been particularly keen on “staying active” and sometimes I wish I had played high school sports to plant that seed in me at an early age.  Regular practice = regular workouts.  I believe that being an equestrian for 10+ years instilled a whole other set of responsibilities and independence within me (and it IS a sport), but it wasn’t heart-pumping exercise or strength-training.

As a result, I’ve always struggled getting into a workout routine; I don’t really enjoy much because I’ve ever been very strong or talented in the workout arena.  However, much like my sports career, I’ve dabbled in it here and there.  I got really into going to the YMCA with my dad (exercise was his drug of choice) and would zone out on the elliptical.  I’d join my mom and sisters in yoga classes off and on for the past decade.  I spun in college because my housemate was an instructor.  All were attempts to stay active because I knew that working out was good for me–no matter how forced it felt.  I’ve been going to barre classes (at SALT Fitness) since summer 2017–I was itching to get back into my regular clothes and knew I needed to start up some good habits.  But why do I work out now?

  • I FEEL better.  Do I hate getting up and going?  Yep.  Do I feel great when I leave?  Yep.  I pretty much take the same Barre or Barre/Interval combo class a couple days a week, so it’s fun to see my own progress.  Slowly but surely, I’m getting stronger, which is my goal (upper body and core strength is really what I am lacking).  I’m also in a much much much better mood when I work out.  It helps me be more patient with my kids, focus on my work, and when I work out, I just want to eat healthier – wins all around.
  • I’m trying to set a good example.  Eric played sports (hence why he just up and decided to run a half-marathon one day, whereas I balk at the thought of running a mile) so he’s able to bestow that active attitude upon the kids. Even if sports aren’t ultimately their thing, I want to show them how important it is to be active–more importantly, to ENJOY being active.  And I say that as someone who spends an inordinate amount of time online–you’ve gotta get outside and be active.  It’s good for your mental health and your soul.
  • I’m vain.  Sad but true–aren’t we all, though?  Having kids definitely made me more aware that certain parts that are succumbing to gravity.  My butt in particular needs the most help…it’s definitely not what it was in my 20s.  For me, it’s not about numbers on a tag or on the scale–I just want to be able to fit into all the clothes I’ve accumulated over the years.
  • Family history.  My dad unanimously had the best legs in the family.  Why?  He quit drinking in his 30s and exercise became his outlet; he was in awesome shape and loved staying active (and that’s also how we first found out he was sick–he had stopped working out due to the bone pain from cancer).  But, he also worked out because of his own dad suffered a heart attack in his 60s (my Grandpa ended up living until his mid-90s, though).  I inherited my figure (and lack of muscle) from my mom and although she’s been slim her whole life, she’s had her fair share of health issues (slim doesn’t always mean healthy).  Her advice to me was always: WORK OUT, build strength, be active.  She’s always been on me to be active so that I don’t face the same issues she does (she has fibromyalgia and is pre-diabetic).  I’ve seen her live in chronic pain for so much of her adult life and if I can avoid that, I’m going to try my best.

And in case I reminded you to get your workout on, I found a few pieces online (ALL on sale) ; I personally just bought Alo leggings and nI LOVE them (and also snagged them on sale).

Alo high-waist leggings

Onzie tank (the back is the best part!)

Vimmia tank

Beyond Yoga sweatshirt

Terez camo capris

Outdoor Voices shorts

Epilogue: I ended up going to a small, all-girls high school which was a welcome departure for my un-athletic self.  My parents wanted me to go there and I craved a new experience; it was an awesome fit and I really embraced other extracurriculars there such as singing/theatre.  But don’t worry, I still kept in touch with my athletically blessed friends.  

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6 comments

  1. I can relate so much!

    I too had a super athletic sibling and was severely lacking in that area myself. I too do not enjoy working out. I too have always been slim so I felt like I didn’t “need” to work out when I was younger. I too lost a relatively young parent to cancer (my mom was 68 when diagnosed and 73 when she died). I too have a family history of heart disease. In the last few years, my “why” has been to have good quality of life as I get older and hopefully, spend time with grandkids some day (my kids are currently 10 and 12 haha). I have started to focus more on health and longevity and that has REALLY helped to motivate me to stay active and eat healthier.

    • We’re living parallel lives! As a kid, I didn’t really understand my dad’s obsession with working out but as an adult, I totally get that it was both his mental outlet and that he wanted to avoid his own father’s fate of open heart surgery. Unfortunately, he ended up passing away in his 60s while both his parents lived until their 90s. Even with that, I know that an active lifestyle will keep you feeling good as long as you’re alive. I also think my dad’s active lifestyle gave us a few more years with him after his cancer diagnosis as his multiple myeloma was stage 4 when we discovered it (ad he lived with it for 4+ years). So sorry to hear about your mom. xx

      • Thank you. I think the same was true for my mom as her lung cancer (non-smoker) was also stage 4 and metastatic when she was diagnosed and she lived for 5 years. At the time, the 5 year survival rate for non-small cell lung cancer was around 1%!

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