This could be a review; I did say one of the reasons I wanted to start with a picture this month was so I could write them, if needed. But it’s not. It’s just a story, and a bit of an opinion piece.
Here’s the short of it: my relationship with sports, exercise, working out, all that stuff — well, it hasn’t always been good. I used to avoid all physical activity like the plague. I was bad at it, and I thought it was beneath me.
My relationship with sneakers, trainers, running shoes, whatever you want to call them, is also tricky; it was involved in one of those incidents that you carry around for years until you realize it was shitty on someone else’s part and you are fucking done feeling guilty about something that happened when you were fourteen and why are people still expecting you to take responsibility for a grown adult man’s behavior? But my mom reads this blog, and I don’t want to go into that. Maybe some other time.
Under normal circumstances, this entire post would never have crossed my mind. But of course, my circumstances are what they are.
I ragequit gym class during a written exam the last year I had to take it. I can’t remember what was going through my head at the time, or why I would choose to give up on a subject when doing something that was the opposite of my problem with it. But quit I did: I got up, told my teacher I’d make up the subject in September, and went home.
For many, many years before that, gym class had the dubious honor of being the only subject I’d ever got a failing grade in. Fifth grade of elementary school, when I was nine, I’d failed a trimester in it. I believe the grade was called “Needs Improvement” at that point. It was primary school, after all. It wasn’t the kind of subject you made up, so I just kept going and passed. But gym was always my lowest grade, a barely-there pass in a sea of As and Bs.
I hated it. I did the bare minimum. You know how people always talk about being the kid who gets picked last? I was, but I didn’t give a shit about that. I just didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to run around my gym until I felt like I was going to throw up — which didn’t take very long because gym class was the only kind of exercise I ever got. I didn’t keep it up during summer, and I didn’t supplement it. I didn’t see a reason to put myself through that kind of pain.
A few years later, when I started getting tachycardia every other day, I was extremely conscious of my heart rate. But even before that, I had no endurance, and I couldn’t handle the workout. A time or two, we got to play sports and I didn’t hate all of them — I remember enjoying baseball in primary school, a sport we never touched on in high school. I remember not absolutely hating field hockey. I remember liking basketball except for how much my hands hurt when it was cold. Volleyball was always out-and-out painful.
Of course, when I was a teenager, I just felt small. I felt weak, and I hated gym class because it was so hard on me. I thought I should be able to handle the kind of exercise everyone else did. I thought there was something wrong me. It took me a long time, even after quitting, to realize that the whole thing was just messed up.
Here’s the thing: I was weak. I had low endurance. The way you build strength and endurance is slowly, starting at the bottom, taking baby steps. You don’t start where everyone else is, because that’s a surefire way of making you feel not good enough, and that’s never been a motivating thought for me. I do well when things go well, and I collapse under failure.
Not only was gym class designed to hold everyone to the same standards at the same time regardless of physical shape or external training, but I never once was given suggestions to improve my state. It never occurred to me that exercise could be fun, feel good, if you picked the right activities and built up to it. I didn’t find this out until August of 2012, when I got into watching gymnastics and on antidepressants both at the same time. I quit writing and watched a lot of TV on my iPod in bed when the sun was beating down hard on my room and my old overheating laptop, and I started exercising. It lasted until the end of the year, but it was a huge eye-opener.
I always meant to go running at some point. I still never have. But I know that if I decide to do it, I can build up to it by improving my endurance slowly, taking baby steps, with exercise that doesn’t make me want to throw up.
I didn’t have a pair of sneakers from the time I quit gym class to sometime in 2012. I’ve been wearing that one pair every day since it got cold in London. Now I have another one to switch things up.
I picked this pair of Asics running shoes because the colors on the website reminded me of the Avengers. I guess that’s how you get me to do things: give me a media consumption reason to care. I started exercising because I was watching women’s artistic gymnastics, and I was fannish about it, and then I was fannish about Make It Or Break It and sometimes exercised while I watched. I actually bought a t-shirt once just because it said Payson on it, even though it had nothing to do with gymnastics; it was some kind of telegraph facsimile. But it’s still a t-shirt I wear on a regular basis.
The red on the shoes is pinker than I expected, but they still feel great on my feet.