When I graduated from high school, I thought that there was one activity that I would never have to participate in again: gym class. I figured that it was a battle that I would have to fight in middle school alone, and I was convinced that I had left the sweaty, always-picked-last activities were behind me. I realized that this was not the case as I discovered that I would have to take my school’s form of a gym class during my second semester of college.
When I learned of this impending torture, I felt as if I had been betrayed. How could I face something that I had already paid my dues for during the many hours spent looking like Jabba the Hut on a soccer field? I knew that it was an injustice, but like most people faced with unfair situations, I took the torture stoically. Ok, I actually complained a lot, but in hindsight, I like to imagine that I took it with the grace of Marie Antoinette at the guillotine.
The main reason for hating an organized gym class is because I am not one who is often referred to as “athletic” or “sporty.” Instead, I am considered to be “bookish” or “uncoordinated.” I am okay with these distinctions since I have never had the urge to become a star athlete; however, I have found that it is better to be athletic than not when you are in college.
The class met twice a week for an hour, during which the teacher would read through the textbook highlighting material that we had already taken an online quiz about. In my opinion, the class should have been entirely online instead of a hybrid of online worksheets and painfully dull lectures. And these were made even worse as it soon became evident that I had been placed in the “athletic” lecture time.
What I mean by calling it the “athletic lecture time” is that most of the students in the class looked like they had a high school letter jacket hanging in their dorm room closet. Before coming to the first lecture, I had figured that the class would be peppered with fellow scholarly individuals like myself who used their intellect to hide the fact that they were inept when it comes to playing sports.
Unfortunately, the only “non-athlete” in the class other than myself was a pudgy freshman whose face turned a dark shade of red whenever he walked more than five feet. I thought that we might bond together because of our shared aversion to physical activity. But my dreams of walking away from the class with a new friend were shattered when he refused to even look at me, the only other sedentary person in the class.
Halfway through the semester, I felt like I had finally gotten into the swing of things until one dreadful announcement. I was minding my own business during class, which is my way of saying that I was browsing Facebook while pretending to take copious notes, when the teacher informed us that we would be running a mile and a half to gauge our physical fitness. I was quickly filled with dread as I thought about how I would be required to run for over a mile at the same time as a bunch of other people who ran every day at the gym for fun.
The teacher tried to encourage the class by saying that the first mile and a half would just be conducted as a means of measuring our baseline fitness and that we would have most of the semester to improve our time before being graded on our run. This would be great for someone who diligently went to the gym each day to do the assigned workouts, but I had no plans to become that person.
We did not have to meet as a group to measure the time of the baseline run, so I did a combination of slow jogging and walking to reach the mile and a half point. And to make matters worse for myself, I decided that I would skip my weekly workouts and just record them as having been completed.
Now before you go ahead and start judging me, I want you to know that it is not like I would do nothing and lie about it; instead, I found creative ways to exercise. For instance, I would walk from my dorm room to the gas station across the street to get Pop Tarts and record that as a thirty-minute run. I am not proud of what I did, but trust me, I received what was coming to me.
On the day of the run, I came to the track and saw the athletes stretching and jumping up and down to prepare for the run. At first, I stood silently off to the side and watched as the alpha male athletes pounded each other on the back and excitedly grunted about the impending show of strength. After a few moments spent watching the manliness competition, I set my backpack to the side of the track and attempted to look like I knew what I was doing by trying to touch my toes. This turned into me reaching slightly past my knees and confirmed to anyone near me that I was by no means ready for the run.
When the time came for us to start running, the teacher lined us up and told us to pace ourselves by not starting out too fast. I took his advice to heart and started off at a leisurely jog, trying not to notice the students who kept lapping me. It may seem like an exaggeration, but I was moving at a pace that was slow enough for even some the “lesser athletes” to lap me more than once.
Halfway through the mile and a half, I began to slow down even further until I was moving about as fast as an elderly mall walker. I was content to keep that pace until two of my friends from Biology class spotted me and ran over. I glanced over just in time to see the two energetic people making their way towards me. I hoped that I would blend in with the wall, but the bright red t-shirt that was plastered to my sweaty body ensured that this did not happen.
They jogged next to me and attempted to use words to make my heavyset self move faster. It sounded like an episode of Oprah as they told me that I was a “great runner” and to “never give up until you get to the finish line.” I did my best to smile at their optimism and slightly picked up my pace to make them feel like their encouragement was working.
Honestly, I expected them to quit running with me and go back to whatever thing they were doing before they decided to make my life a living hell on earth as we neared the line that marked each lap. I slowed my pace because I knew that there was no way that I would be able to continue the charade of keeping up with them. Much to my horror, they kept going.
As the two Energizer Bunnies noticed that I was slowing, they began saying even more “inspirational” things, which did nothing more than frustrate me further. Not only was I being forced to run a mile and a half, but I had to do so while listening to what sounded like a pitch meeting for those inspirational posters that have big words like “DETERMINATION” or “TEAMWORK” plastered underneath a grainy picture of a sunset.
Thankfully, I was almost done with my run when they had started jogging alongside me, so I did not have to put up with their outgoing, athletic personalities for long. As I crossed the lap marker for the last time, I felt like a champion because I had just run what felt like the Boston Marathon without dying. I beamed with pride at my accomplishment and started walking around the track to cool down.
The only other student left on the track was the other “non-athlete” from class who had begun sounding like the voice actor who wheezes in those anti-smoking advertisements. I considered congratulating him for not dying but decided not to because I was too tired to face his rebuff. I left the track that day feeling accomplished to have jogged a mile and a half, and as I walked out, I thanked my two friends from Biology for giving me the encouragement to not give up.
Once the semester ended, part of me wondered if I would use the gym class a means of kickstarting my new fitness routine. Turns out, that did not happen as I ended up steadily gaining weight and becoming more lethargic as the months wore on. And this pattern of living continued until my junior year of college when I finally took control of my severe lack of fitness. I’m not sure if the gym class had anything to do with my love of running during junior year, but let’s say that it did since it makes for a more inspiring story.