I loathe the gym. I hate working out, exercising, doing more than 5 reps of anything. I hate getting sweaty. I hate getting muscle cramps. I hate running, jogging, jumping, or anything involving coordination.
Perhaps my hatred goes back to my school days when gym class was a minefield and a social devastation. Other than badminton, there was never a gym class skill I mastered…and even that was sketchy. I was the ten minute mile girl, even when I tried. I was the zero pull-ups girl. I was the girl who got hit in the forehead every time we played ultimate Frisbee. I was the girl who fell on her chin in front of the whole class when trying to be the human wheelbarrow. My whole chin turned a lovely shade of black.
In fact, I only had one B my entire academic career…it was, you guessed it, in gym class (I can still remember after the tears settled and I could talk about the B without a sob fest, it was Christmas time. My dad decided to get me Tae Bo DVDs for Christmas to make it better. I was furious. He thought it was hysterical).
As I enter my late twenties, unfortunately my sluggish ways of the past aren’t working any more. While I used to do absolutely no exercise and eat absolutely everything without gaining weight, this is no longer the case. I’m in those awful days where one mini Twix bar equates to an extra flabbiness at the waist, where a few bad days of eating make my pants feel like they’re going to explode. Thus, I do work out a few days a week. But I’m no superwoman in the gym, and I’m definitely not always in my comfort zone.
And I’m definitely not always happy.
I love my classes, I do. I love my instructors. They’re inspiring and motivating beyond belief.
I just have this intensely negative, “I can’t” attitude when it comes to working out.
I make excuses not to go—oh, it’s windy…better not go in case a tornado hits. I whine, internally and externally. I complain. I give up. I get angry—fifteen more push-ups, are you kidding? That’s crazy talk. I try to cheat. I do cheat. I do everything I can to get by…but I don’t give it my all.
The other day at the gym, though, it hit me.
When exercising, I am the equivalent of the worst student on the planet.
See, for me, school is easy. Give me a super difficult test, an awful essay to write, I don’t care. I’ll grit my teeth and do it. The harder the task is, the harder I work. I love a challenge, I love to face the impossible. I am the ultimate bookworm, nerd, and everything that means I love academics.
But in the gym, well, I’m like the kid who hates reading, who hates school. I’m the kid who uses “can’t” and “no” more than “yes” and “I’ll try.” I’m the kid who gives up before she even started, before she even looked at the task at hand. I’m the kid who asks to go to the bathroom eight times a day or tries to make up excuses to take a nap or suddenly has a stomachache on the day of a quiz. I’m all of those kids rolled into one.
Now, when a student complains about Shakespeare or Whitman or Poe, I try not to take it personally. I don’t get frustrated or think to myself Why the heck can’t you just do the work?
Instead, I picture my whiny, sweaty, frizzy-haired self resting on the yoga mat because I don’t feel like doing another side plank. I think of myself sneaking a rest when the instructor isn’t looking. I think of how I internally tell myself to just slow down on the run…it doesn’t matter any way.
And then I am a better teacher...because I know, firsthand, the pull of discouragement and excuses. I know what it’s like to want to quit. I know how to help them get over their mental roadblock, at least for the day.
Because if the klutzy girl who fell on her chin in gym class can try to get through P90X, Shakespeare just might not seem so impossible.