Physically Fit? Who Me?

A little while ago there was a commenter on my blog by the name of Len Saunders. I explored the link to his name and discovered that he specializes in children’s fitness. I wrote him a note and he wrote back and included a link to his blog. [you can click on the words and they’ll take you to the various locations].

One of the articles mentioned various ways to encourage fitness in children and talked about the things we, as parents, do to discourage fitness in children. This got me to thinking about myself. The following were my thoughts and I offer them here more as a reflection than true wisdom.

I think the thing that astonishes me the most about the whole bike ride and the various physically active things I do in my life today is the fact that I was not a physically active young girl. I was often told by my father that I was unfit.

And I believed him, to a large extent.

The truth is that I wasn’t.

But, the damage was done and I believed myself to have little physical abilities nor inclinations. Yet, there is the story of the day I met Pope John Paul and was simply furious because that meant I couldn’t go to my Gymnastics Class at school. In fact I hid repeatedly and the Principal and Gym teacher repeatedly had to go and fetch me so that I could go meet that man I didn’t want to meet! I wanted to do gymnastics. Nothing made me happier than playing on the unparallel bars or pulling off a nice trick on the horse.

Then there was the fact that I simply adored volleyball. And I had talent but it never went any where!

Plus, the school I attended allowed you to have an extended lunch period if you passed a certain level of swimming prowess. I was among the first to earn my extended lunch.

Or on the days that there were hartels, my father would make my brothers and I bike 1 hour to school. He always slightly ahead of us giving us the direction to drop to the ditch if he got shot.

Of course, by now you must be realizing that I didn’t grow up in North America. My father was a Relief Agency Director in Bangladesh. I didn’t come to live in North America until I was 14!

I loved tennis. I wasn’t all that good but that was more because I only got to play it for about 2 months.

Now before you start believing my father wasn’t all that kind to me, you have to realize that there had to be a reason he believed that I wasn’t physically fit. And a reason that I bought into his belief.

You see, living overseas means you live in an extremely high humidity. Plus, I lived in the capital city which was full of pollution.

Any time I attempted to do most physical activities in a non-air conditioned room I had problems.

If I tried track and field, and our school did the Presidential Fitness tests, I did miserably for most of the tests. In fact I frequently fainted on the mile and often finished dead last. Mind you I had a killer height on the high jump, placed highest in my year repeatedly.

See, I loved gymnastics – air conditioned; volleyball – air conditioned; swimming – its related, you’ll see why…

When I was 23 I found out why. Despite my deeply routed belief that I wasn’t fit I pursued physical activity ‘because it was good for me and I wasn’t fit.’

You see I was pregnant with my son and I had made the comment to my doctor that I wasn’t very fit. She looked at me in utter astonishment. I biked for my transportation. I played a mean game of squash 3 times per week. I did circuit training at the University gym 3 days per week opposite my squash. And yet, I believed that I wasn’t fit.

Why? Because I still frequently lost my breath all the time.

Late for class? Dash up the stairs? Bike up a steep hill? Lost my breath every time.

Yeah, exactly, I have a form of exercise induced asthma. You think I would have clued in! But I didn’t.

It turns out that for the most part my parents encouragement in an another area actually helped me live and grow up without puffers. In fact when I went to be tested for Asthma, I couldn’t even get a simple baseline reading. My airways reduced by 20% and fluctuated wildly with every attempt. Finally they said it was astonishing at how rapidly I could regain my lung capacity and it was a marvel because of how rapidly my lung capacity constricted.

Yes, my talents and lessons in music actually helped me with my asthma. In fact, they were key.

It was my doctor’s utter astonishment that led me to re-examine my complete belief that I was the fat, incompetent, lazy girl in the corner.

It still took some years but I’ve been working at shedding that image. Truthfully I still fight many self-image doubts. Especially since after nearly dying after my daughter’s birth and the long recuperation meant I did end up weighing 280 lbs and I truly was a fat girl.

First of all I had to shed the idea that I didn’t like physical activity. I had to go back and recall how I loved gymnastics. How I’ve always loved volleyball. That biking has always been a viable form of transportation for me.

Slowly, and very slowly, I worked on adding in activity again. Mostly, I walked thanks to an Aunt who lived relatively nearby and invited me to walk with her.

Then there was the biking. That was added simply because we had one car in the middle of nowhere and I wanted to be elsewhere!

Then I discovered I love cross-country skiing, in a non-accomplished way granted. It took me over 3 years to finally figure out how to ‘glide’ and not have to work for every inch. And I still can’t get anywhere without falling multiple times and ending up truly soaked and cold/sweaty.

There was the odd volleyball game.

And so on. Until about 2 years ago I finally realized I loved physical activity.

I also had to work on the ‘exercise induced asthma.’ Ironically, it was my love of music and my talents in this area that led me to stumbling upon a solution to this problem. For the vast majority of the time this doesn’t bother me in the slightest any more.

My voice lessons and working on my Grade 10 levels for singing had me doing extensive lung exercises. That proved key in helping me control my breathing and helping me prevent the airway reductions I experience in exercise. Now I don’t do the best playing volleyball but that is because it is hard to practise rhythmic breathing with that kind of activity. However, I typically play in an air-conditioned area that that helps make it something I can play.

Anyhow, that’s enough on the subject for today. I’m going to write more about what I do with my children later. Especially when I learned that my son has the same ‘exercise induced air-way reductions.’ I’m going to write what strategies I have in encouraging both of them to exercise and what I do when they don’t want to exercise.

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8 Responses to Physically Fit? Who Me?

  1. Meredith says:

    What a story! That is remarkable.

  2. Yep, I have “exertional asthma” as well. It is a hindrance, but I have learned to live with it w/o medication as well.
    Your training in music is amazing. I never realized that the breathing exercises were so beneficial in other area’s.

  3. surfette says:

    I was always the girl that enjoyed games like volleyball, but stunk at the game, personally.

    Great story, Bert!

  4. Desia says:

    Congratulations on your too cute little dog, and on completing that 160 km trek!
    I wish I loved exercise, it’s the only thing that I can do to keep my weight in check, but to find the motivation…

  5. appliejuice says:

    Great post. Thanks for the link. I am going to check them out. I will be doing PE at our Co-op this year and it is always good to get ideas. 🙂

  6. appliejuice says:

    I checked out Len Saunders site and I am going to use some of his ideas. 😀 I forgot to bookmark the section and I am not having a hard time finding it, but we are going to do the exercise thing with everyone on May 9th. 😀 There is also a contract between parents and child on using less electronics, I’ll be using that too. Anyhoo, thanks for the link. 🙂

    I agree that his site could use a bit better navigation tools or something, but like you, I found it very interesting and with lots of useful information! We’ve had a few e-mail correspondences and I’ve found him polite and that, in my opinion, stands for a lot!

  7. appliejuice says:

    Either I read it wrong or they changed it. The date for the PACE activity is May 6th. I thought it said May 9th. Now we can’t participate as a class. 😦

  8. Elaine says:

    I thought that I had commented here before but I guess I didn’t 🙄 some days it’s amazing that I actually remember my name…..Ok, why am I here? Who am….

    Oh wait, it’s coming back to me 😆

    Sorry, the coffee is still trying to work on me this morning and it’s sure taking it’s time!

    Anyway, that is a great story and I’m glad that you’ve been able to find a way to help deal with your asthma that doesn’t involve meds. That’s big.

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