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Three On Thursday

I saw this on social media yesterday and immediately related to it:

And today I’m going to share three reasons why phys ed was something I disliked.

  1. The Presidential Fitness Test. Do y’all remember this? We had to climb a rope and hang from a bar and run a certain distance and . . . it was awful. It was 3rd or maybe 4th grade. I was a tall skinny kid (hard to believe now!) with very little upper body strength and I couldn’t hang from that stupid bar and I sure as hell couldn’t climb the rope. I can still remember trying to pull myself up on that rope and feeling like my ass was full of lead and dragging me back down to earth. It was humiliating. And everyone watched.
  2. I always worried about being picked for a team. I was never picked dead last but usually pretty close to it. I was popular, so that got me some boost, but I wasn’t athletic and my hand-eye coordination wasn’t great either. I’d stand there in the dwindling group, waiting to be chosen for a side, and feel myself getting more and more anxious that I’d be last. Humiliating, again.
  3. My high school had a pool and that meant we had swim class as one of our phys ed rotations. We all had to wear the same speedo bathing suit and they were colored by size. I had no boobs and those suits were awful unless you were built like a super model. There was hardly any time to shower, dry off, and get dressed so forget reapplying make up or doing your hair after class. None of that would bother me now but at 15 years old it was . . . here comes that word again . . . humiliating.

I read an article recently that showed a strong correlation between an individual’s experience in gym class and their feelings about exercise as an adult. I’m quite sure the humiliation I felt as a kid is the reason that I prefer to exercise alone rather than in a group setting. It’s eye opening (and sort of heartbreaking) to realize that this was all put in place before I really had a chance to learn for myself what I might enjoy doing. But I’m sort of hoping that naming it and airing it out will help me to release these feelings and start fresh.

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This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. Completely agree! I wasn’t athletically inclined and disliked PE. Those awful fitness tests and having to play on a team desperately not wanting to be picked last. The only good thing about high school gym was it was only required for one year and I got lucky and it was the last class of the day. No showering- just get dressed and head home.

  2. I’m short and round so I was never a high pick for gym either. However, I was smart as hell and my dad was a coach so he taught me the techniques of sports. It didn’t make me fast, but I could slam a softball, throw a spiral and toss a discus farther than anyone on the track team. And when I was being harassed by a boy on the football team in jr high, I embarrassed him in front of the school by using his strength and weight against him in a judo throw. My moment of victory was walking off to the stunned silence of the group. And when my parents heard, they made me apologize. Although Dad did let me get away with ‘I’m sorry I beat you up.’ In HS, our teacher graded us on effort, improvement and attendance. I got an A in gym!

    1. This is a wonderful way to grade students in gym! I might have been an A student also, but we got graded on ability.

  3. BRAVO! I’m so proud of you for digging deep and healing that child deep within you. For so many people, PE class was absolute torture. I’m sure it did a lot of harm for all but a few kids. You are not alone, Carole!

  4. I am still bitter about the fact that I got graded on my athletic ability (or lack thereof) in gym class, and I’m really glad that my daughter (who goes to the same school) now has her gym grade based on participation and wearing her gym uniform. I’m thankful that I’ve rediscovered exercise as an adult and found redeeming qualities in it that have nothing to do with how good I am at any particular skill. And I’m also thankful we didn’t have a pool — I have yet to hear about anyone who had to swim in gym class who was not traumatized by the experience!

  5. All of these are true for me, too, and it seems like some gym teachers almost have a special propensity for humiliation. We had horrible gym uniforms that everyone looked equally bad in, but I was there not climbing the rope and not getting chosen. It has definitely affected my feelings about exercise as an adult!

  6. Not me but my daughter who is quite short. Her high school had a Project Adventure course which is supposed to elicit teamwork, effort, camaraderie. But not according to one gym teacher who was a bit sadistic. The goal was to climb a tree using far apart hand and foot holds, then jump out and be let down on a rapelling rope. Try as she might, my daughter could not reach all the handholds. The teacher said he would fail her if she didn’t reach the top of the tree. She said so fail me and let me down. He failed her, and I was proud of her. I told her, “When you go on college interviews and they ask what is this F in your school records, you can tell them the story!”

  7. I love this post. I used to get so annoyed when they did that fitness test but had not spent time teaching kids the exercises. I actually started running because my daughter needed to be able to run a full mile in order to get an A. So we went to a trail and started running so she would be ready. She got the A and I found an exercise that gave me the alone time I was craving.

  8. I sure can relate to this post…enough that I am almost getting a stomach ache (to get out of gym class – LOL). The Presidential Fitness Test was HORRIBLE – I hated it. And, starting in Junior High, we had horrible blue cotton gym outfits that we had to wear. They never fit correctly and were just so ugly and unflatering. And swimming. Geeze – at least you had speedo suits. We had red jersey suits. Yes – jersey! As soon as the suit got wet it would sag down horribly. The only time I enjoyed gym was the one semester in high school when we did archery.

  9. Oof! I hear you on all of this… PE class was just the freaking pits! (I was always the last picked and I just hated it all so much!)

    But as I am getting older, I can appreciate the benefits of moving my body… but the struggle is real!

  10. This post really struck a chord with many of us, Carole. I felt humiliated by the entire gym class experience. Our uniforms were heavy white canvas (hello, dirt), and we did lots of exercising outside. I was not athletic, not fit, shy, and generally miserable. I never got to shower before the next class, so I felt like I smelled all the rest of the day. And I never had a gym teacher who was kind, just a lot of hectoring from all of them. I was so relieved when I wasn’t required to take PE anymore. I have found the results of exercise to be worth it as an adult, and I think it was a shame that no one took the time to allow me to explore different types and find what I liked when in school. After all, the best kind of exercise is the one you will do!

  11. I hated PE (for some of the same reasons you did … and I was not a popular kid – and never got picked for the team) and it was a game changer for me when I started running my last year in college and discovered I loved it and I was pretty good at it. Like it changed the whole way I thought about “exercise” … I’m sure I’d still have issues with that presidential test but now I know it doesn’t matter.

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