Yes, I Am Athletic

Undoing the damage learned in the past

Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash

I grew up thinking I was unathletic. Probably because that was what I learned in school. Classes during that time were full of

  • Calisthenics, which didn’t come naturally and made me feel nothing but awkward;
  • Dodgeball, where I wanted to get hit and get out of the center of the circle;
  • Basketball, where I tried to stay out of the way and not look the person that had the ball in the eye; or
  • Softball, where I prayed whenever anyone got up to bat, “Please don’t let them hit it to me.” Batting was okay. I was not disappointed if I met my expectations of striking out. After all, then I don’t have to run the bases.

Teachers often realized that children were not read to at home and looked for ways to compensate. In my experience, though, the physical education teachers didn’t seem to understand that some of us did not learn even the most basic of athletic skills in our home environment. I never learned them. These PE teachers reinforced the idea that athleticism was something that came naturally and missed the chance to teach kids that being active could be fun.

I started learning this a bit on my own. After I got a bike one Christmas, I rode it regularly. We lived in a neighborhood with hills and valleys, which I now know is probably why my legs are so strong. My best friend and I also took long walks through these hills and valleys, talking all the way. I didn’t realize those were athletic pursuits, however, so I was comfortable.

In college, I went running at 11 p.m. every night with my roommate and a male friend. He threatened to carry me around the track if I didn’t run at least two miles — and he did do it a couple of times to prove his point. I would laugh hysterically. I had no desire to miss out on the fun we had, so every night I was there, running my two miles and going back to the dorm to eat lemon yogurt. It became a tradition.

At some point after college, I joined a gym. Two of my guy friends convinced me to work out with them. We met early each morning. I had no idea what I was doing, but they taught me to use the machines. I loved it. I also loved the time with my friends. They needled and coaxed me into getting out just a few more reps. My own “personal trainers.” It was fun.

I kept it up way after they quit coming consistently. I’d go as soon as the gym opened in the morning, run home to shower and change and make it o work on time. I hate mornings, but since the guys had gotten me into the habit, I just kept it up.

Then I took a yoga class. The perception of a yoga practitioner is everything I am not: flexible and thin body, a clear mind, a good attention span, balance. No, none of those fit me.

Thankfully I had a great yoga teacher. From the first class, she preached the message that we look at no one else in the class and compare what we were doing to them. I was to gently stretch my body through the positions and see what it could do. Maybe I could do a bit more today than yesterday. Unless my body didn’t feel like it — then I was to listen to my body. Freedom.

This freedom to move was what I didn’t learn in elementary school. Competitive by nature and nurture (due to teachers, not my parents), I knew I didn’t measure up, so I didn’t try. To have developed a mindset that said all that mattered was that I was continually moving and growing and trying could have been the secret to making me realize I was indeed able to be athletic.

Since that time, my ADD mind has had me doing all kinds of athletic things. I’ll try almost anything — as long as it is not competitive. I have learned that when athletics becomes competitive, I fall back into that feeling of not being good enough. The next step for me after experiencing that feeling is ‘’Why try?’’ That means a time of no activity is ahead.

I have learned that working out is fun. And yet for me, it is also often not fun. But even during those times when it is not fun when I push through those feelings, there is a great sense of satisfaction.

I don’t look like an athlete. I’m currently overweight and have never lost that awkwardness. I’m not flexible and have no sense of balance.

But in my mind, I am now an athlete. I do athletic things consistently. Massage therapists have commented on my muscle tone. My water aerobics instructor has mentioned my flexibility. I am proud of my strength.

I keep trying. Because that’s what counts. It’s so easy to give up and miss a day, then a week, then six months, and then a year. I know this about myself and am cautious about it.

I strive to be better than yesterday and not compare my self to others. When I do that, a sense of inadequacy overrides anything good I have accomplished. I keep my eyes on me.

Some days I am fantastic, and some days I am adequate, and some days are pure crap. It doesn’t matter. I keep moving and my body thanks me for it. I am a “good enough” athlete, but not as good as I plan to be. It’s a life-long plan of action.

Kim McKinney loves a good story, a touch of adventure, travel, her funny and sassy family and close friends, hot air balloons, hiking, kayaking, and water aerobics.

She blogs at Twitter @Olingrad

I write about people, faith, travel, adventure, justice & life. I love a good story. I blog for fun at;

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