Sep. 3rd, 2009

rockinlibrarian: (eggman)
In honor of me starting physical therapy today, I finally offer this rant that I have been ranting to myself (and occasionally out loud) for, I don't know, quite some time. Last year I wrote about my annoyance with talk of the Obesity Epidemic, so there's a start of it for you.

But this made me wonder, why do I CARE so much about a topic that doesn't really affect me? Why, when I have never had serious weight issues in either direction, and even the slight issues I didn't care about, do I take such offense every time I hear/see another "fight childhood obesity by Getting kids In The Game!" commercial?

But ah. It's because it DOES affect me. Or rather, the fact that it's not doing what it OUGHT to be doing has had its affect on me. The evidence of this is that I have started physical therapy for the second time today! Because my back fails me! Because I am TOTALLY OUT OF SHAPE!

I do not deny that this is All My Fault. But I do think the ways we encourage kids to exercise are failing a certain part of the population. The emphasis on Looking Good, the emphasis on Sports, and the emphasis on Competition do nothing to help inspire good physical activity habits in Geeky Kids like me.

Now that I wrote a proper thesis statement like that, I feel like I ought to be sticking to some kind of outline to address each of those points in turn, but instead I'll start with the history of me and exercise:

It wasn't that I actively (heh) disliked being active. Not at all. I even liked sports-- well, ONE sport, that being baseball and its variants. Granted, the thing that first attracted me to baseball was that the kids who played all wore uniform t-shirts with their names on the back, matching hats, and got to go to Dairy Queen after they won a game. But eventually I learned all the rules and then I liked it because I KNEW all the rules-- the game made sense to me! And it helped that the Pirates were actually a good team back then, so I watched a lot of MLB too. One year, having missed sign-ups for softball (again), I just managed to sign up in time for T-ball. It was fun (although our shirts didn't get our names on the back), but I wasn't very good, and I was the oldest you could be in T-Ball. I'd have to go softball or baseball next year, and... well, I wasn't very good. And I wasn't very good at getting better, either.

But there was one Active thing I REALLY wanted to do, and really loved doing, and, you know, STILL love doing: DANCE. I took ballet in third grade. I loved dancing ballet. But again, I wasn't very good. And in this case, I was also in a class with a lot of very snobby girls, most of whom were older than me (the one I know was in my grade was also very snobby though, so not an improvement). I was a dorky-looking nerdy crybaby klutz, so were my ballet classmates encouraging to me? I'll leave that to you to figure out. But at any rate, I quit ballet after the first year, too.

I was klutzy. I was afraid of anything with the slightest bit of danger attached. I was always daydreaming about unrelated imaginary things. These do not a born athlete make. They make, instead, a kid who hates gym class from the bottom of her soul. Why would I want to go do boring things that might get me hurt while all my classmates make fun of me or at the very least never pick me for their teams because I can't do those things as well as everyone else?

This brings me to my point. As an adult, and as someone with a degree in elementary education, I know now what the point of Phys Ed is supposed to be. It's supposed to encourage and enable us to live active, healthy lives. But too often it doesn't do that. Too often it is either about a)playing team sports or b) getting tested to meet standard times and distances on various individual things, like Running the Mile in a certain time or doing so many sit-ups. If you are not immediately good at the former, your teammates either don't let you play so you never get any better, or they outright jeer you, so you never have the desire to play again. If you're not immediately good at the LATTER, you just get "failed to meet standard" marked on your sheet of paper, and it's never discussed again until next year, by which point you MIGHT have improved, but the STANDARD has been raised as well, since you're a whole year older now. What does this prove to us? That we hate gym class, and therefore we probably hate all sports, ever after.

So now we have these Habits. Somehow, ingrained in us, is this hatred of gym class, so any opportunities of becoming physically fit in adult have to fight against horrendous preconceptions to get us to accept them! And the world is not helping with its overemphasis on weight loss and pretty perfect people always doing anything athletic in the magazines and on TV and all. Those of us who DON'T CARE have learned to tune this out. Obviously exercise is for Other People.

So we end up, maybe not with extra flab, but with weak hearts, lungs, joints, and muscles.

Exercise is not just about losing weight, so enough with the weight stuff! Exercise is something everyone needs regardless of weight!

So please, start reaching OUT to everyone! Not just the jocks and the weight conscious!

Don't fight childhood obesity by holding sports seminars for kids. These will be attended by kids who already like to play sports. They don't need your help.

Don't fight childhood obesity by doing the same old stuff that makes a kid who's bad at sports just feel hopeless.

Don't fight childhood obesity at all. Fight childhood inactivity. And to do that, you need to broaden your ideas of activity.

--Yoga! Yoga is the most wonderful physical activity ever. For once, I am not scolded and accused of not trying because I cannot touch my toes. Touching my toes is not the point. Leaning over toward my toes as far as I can without hurting myself is the point. The more I do it, the closer to my toes I get. No pressure, just stretching.

--Dancing like no one's watching!

--Hiking! Climbing trees! ROCK climbing! Other outdoorsy things!

--Weird feats of skill, like juggling, stilt-walking, tightrope-walking, knife-throwing! The best fun I ever had in gym class, EVER, was the two-or-three days in 12th grade where the teacher just laid out a bunch of weird physical activities and let us go to town. I spent most of the time trying to learn to juggle. Never did get it, but the grade was for effort!

--Fencing and reenactment fighting! I mean I DID call this my Geeks-and-Exercise post.

Anybody think of more alternative "sports" for people who don't like sports? Add them to the comments!

I feel like I did a lot of talking around in circles in this post. If I was publishing it for money (or a grade), I'd do a better job editing it. But I'm a busy mom who took two days to WRITE this, so don't push it.

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