I wasn’t an athletic child, which made it difficult for me to learn the sports and games we played in P.E. We all know the stigma attached to kids who aren’t strong or athletic, and this stigma ends up shaming kids and discouraging them from being active.
Even today, as I’m trying to exercise more, I get looks from people when they ask me how much weight I can “bench press” (I don’t actually use a bench press but I use other weight-machine features) because the answer is a low figure. On the arm pulley weight feature I use, I can do 30-40 at 20 pounds. I can do five to ten repetitions at 30 pounds. There’s a couple of other features where I can’t go over 10 pounds. I’m not a physical powerhouse, and I have a problematic back, so I have to be extremely careful. However, the repetitions at 20 pounds are making me much stronger.
Some people can walk three miles at 5 miles per hour. I can walk about 3/4 mile at 3.5 miles per hour. More than that and my feet hurt and I become winded. But I worked up to that from about 1/3 of a mile, and I hope to get up to a mile at 4 mph soon. For me, that’s an intense, brisk walk. And I’m getting stronger and more fit all the time.
We’re told we’re supposed to exercise briskly for an hour a day. Right now, I’m not in a physical position to do that. Maybe one day I will be; maybe not. I’m not going to push myself to do an hour a day because of some one-size-fits-all standard. I’m going to do what I feel comfortable with, and then push myself to do a little more.
A couple of summers ago, when I first started swimming regularly, I struggled at first to swim half a short lap. By the end of that summer I could swim the length of an Olympic sized pool and back. I built up to that gradually, at my own pace. When I achieved it, I felt like a Titan.
If this country is to overcome obesity and get more physically fit, we need to get over judging people for how much they can do, and instead focus on whether people are doing what they can. Most of us aren’t professional athletes so it won’t add a day to our lives if we can bench press 100 pounds instead of 30 pounds. The road to fitness shouldn’t be a competition, it should be a pleasurable challenge for every one of us, and we should all cheer each other on.