Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Strong is the New Pretty

I saw a story on ABC's Nightly News this evening that talked about how the women on the U.S. Olympic Team are inspring throngs of young girls to get involved with sports. Swimming, gymnastics, and soccer are obvious choices. Even archery has seen a surge in interest, thanks to the recent popular movies The Hunger Games and Brave. And the report said, "Strong is the new pretty." I like that.
This all got me thinking of my own physical fitness history. As a child, I was never athletic, but I was always active -- especially by the standards of today's wired-in kids. My friends and I were always walking places, riding our bikes, hoola hooping, jumping rope, somersaulting and tumbling through the backyard. My parents often took us to the local pool. Back then, I was brave enough to jump off the high dive -- I'd never do that today.

I thought about gym class through the years. In elementary school, I remember having to play kickball, softball, and dodgeball. Oh, how I hated dodgeball. And I doubt I ever made contact with a softball. I've never been one to enjoy playing organized sports. I've never been on a "team" of any kind. The recess games such as tag and red rover were more to my liking. In my late elementary years, our school had a track meet of sorts with other schools in the district. Somehow, I suppose because I couldn't do anything else, I ended up in the "kick for accuracy" event. There I was, running up to a ball, kicking it towards a net -- and I'd never even heard of soccer. I was terrible at this event. But somehow, I came home with a white ribbon. I don't remember what place that was. Fifth or sixth? And maybe there were only six kids participating.

And then there were those blasted President's Physical Fitness Tests. The bane of my gym class experience through junior high. I have always been, and still am, a terrible runner. Slow, awkward . . .ugh. And chin ups? I recall practicing these with my girlfriends on a low pine tree branch in my yard.

In high school, two things happened. I had back surgery, which meant I was, from that point on, exempt from gym class. And I discovered boys. Which meant I was no longer interested in bike riding. Unless it was to some boy's house. But it was also around this time that my beautiful mother discovered Elaine Powers. And she took me with her. That was interesting. Does anyone remember those vibrating belts that supposedly jiggled the fat away? Yeah right, if only it could be that easy.

About the only exercise I got in college was walking to and from class -- and it was a really small campus. And treking up to "The Hill," because that's where all the parties were.

As a young adult, most of my physical activities depended on who I was dating at the time. One boyfriend loved to golf. He golfed all the time. And he said I couldn't come because I didn't have clubs. So, I bought myself some clubs. Ha! I still enjoy golfing. I just stink at it. Then the next guy was a bodybuilder. He belonged to the YMCA. So, I joined too. I don't think that relationship lasted long. But my enthusiasm for belonging to and going to "the gym" has endured. The next man in my life was seriously into bike riding. And I knew what I had to do if I wanted to spend any appreciable time with him. I bought a bike! And then I married him. Bob has since given up bike riding. But I still love it.

After we were married, we joined Bally's. It was near my workplace, and I went there regularly for nearly fourteen years. This was also in the age of VCRs, and I had several videos I would work out to, if I didn't feel like driving to the gym.

When we first moved to Louisiana, it took me a while to find a gym I liked. In the meantime, I rode my bike, rollerbladed through the neighborhood, and walked. Then I discovered Dynamic Dimensions. I love that place! Really awesome group fitness classes.

As all my regular readers know, my latest physical activity is kayaking. And that interest came purely from within myself. I followed no one there. Only my heart.

I still don't consider myself athletic. But I couldn't live without exercising. I need to move! "Our bodies were designed for motion," to quote Leslie Sansome on one of her workout videos. And when I look around at my friends at the gym, I wholeheartedly agree with ABC News. Strong is indeed the new pretty.

This photo was taken yesterday at Group Step class at Dynamic Dimensions. Pretty, huh.


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