Gym Class, Revisited

When I was a kid I would get a lot of flak from my teachers about how I wasn’t enrolled in a single after-school sports program.
Bear in mind that this was East Germany where shunning sports was just one step short of being put on a dissident watchlist. I was literally called an anti-social individual – “individual” in itself being a semi-offensive term – implying that I was sabotaging society as a whole. Not being on a sports team meant I wasn’t a part of the team, period.

Considering how school shapes a young person, I’m kinda surprised I’m not even more fucked up.
Guess I’ve found ways to work through the trauma.

 


Though my daughter refuses to play “playmo school” with me now.

Anyway. You know what? For once, the Commie bastards may have been on to something. While the obsessive breeding of future Olympic champions was sickening, they got one thing right: the part about a healthy mind residing in a healthy body. One
that is integrated into society.
Like I pointed out elsewhere, while I was happy with my own company the other kids were learning how to interact meaningfully.

This isn’t about becoming an athlete. Fuck all medal mills. This is about investing no more than a reasonable amount and already seeing it flower in awesome ways. I recommend Robert Brockway’s article about starting to exercise here.
The gist:
– Exercise is not

“all or nothing”. Everything is better than not doing a damn thing.
– you can

work your way up step by easy step.
– and we should shake off the trauma of our school sports teachers ruining it for us when they judged all of us with the same tear-stained ruler.
Bloody PE Fascists.

Is that Joseph Goebbels coaching his daughters’ hockey team? Go figure.
Tell me if you know

To which I’ll add two things.

Firstly, gym locker rooms are way down on the list of places you or I like to hang out. That’s another leftover from school days. The big difference is that if we go there of our own free will, it won’t be the same.
Trust me on that. They’re still full of uncomfortably naked dudes but there’ll be no wedgies and no sadistic teachers lurking behind the door. Also, if it’s a workout place, everyone feels the same need to improve themselves. We’re all in the same boat. (Somewhere near the bilge, judging by the smell.)
Once you’ve mastered gyms you can move on to public swimming pools and combine the unease of the locker room with the unease of group showers

and
of avoiding boners while wearing a
Speedo. Whish is also way easier than it was during puberty.

Secondly, sometimes justice is served, and the devil does drag the right souls off.
The worst of all my elementary school PE teacher Nazi cunts was struck down swiftly and terribly by malignant melanoma (literally turning her face black in places). She was simply given no chance to fight. It hit her like a firebolt thrown by a furious god.
From behind.

I’m sure her Hell is an endless circular track lined with pasty, weakish six-year-olds. With whips.
Tell me if you know

And don’t give me any crap about not speaking ill of the dead. Croaking off is not an achievement, even though you do get a certificate – there’s a reason death certificates are rarely framed and mounted on the brag wall.

Yeah, some bitterness does remain. No, a lot. And you know what? I honestly believe that we all have the right to passionately hate a few people out there for what they’ve done to us. Forgiveness and all aside for a moment, this just must be allowed to spill out. No, wait: It has to spill before forgiving even becomes an option.

No one likes a whiner, and no one wants to see you shut down like an organic vegan burger joint in Chicago when things get tough, but by the same token, be pissed off. If you get fucked, you don’t have to say thank you and offer the fucker a napkin. (Felix Clay)

You see, swallowing our anger will cause it to quietly fester, preventing any kind of closure (forgiving included). Worse, it’ll also bottle up the love we may feel towards those more deserving of it than the people we daydream about murdering.
Wouldn’t you know: Pissing on a few people’s graves actually makes us better people!
There’s only one passage out for all our emotions, so blow out that gall plug first to get to the good stuff. We’ll get back to why “like yourself” may be the most important part of that “love thy neighbor” thing later.

Anyway.
I took a long time to rise over the bitch’s ashes.
In my early thirties, at a time when people typically get out, I joined the Army. This was the first time I’d willingly surrounded myself with sporty people, and shamingly sporty they were. I saw portly captains in their early fifties donning their running gear during lunch break – those were the “lazy” ones who had skipped the 6:30 a.m. round – and jog off into the sun.
Being essentially Dr. Bellows Jr., I wasn’t even required to take part in all that, but I suddenly wanted to be part of it. If they could do that, then I could fucking do that.
These people were alive and positively glowing. I wanted in on that action.


“You could have just got yourself irradiated. That’s how we used to get that healthy glow back in my day.”
Sidney Sheldon/Screen Gems/NBC


My first attempts at running took place on an abandoned track in the back of the grounds because NO ONE was supposed to see me fat pig gallop and possibly collapse after a hundred meters. I timed my effort – something like two fucking minutes before I had to stop – and came back the next day. And again.
Remember? Step by easy step.
After a few weeks I was ready to run in public, at first panting and wheezing through the parks, but soon after the wheezing gave way to pure excitement. When two minutes became ten, I stopped feeling like an idiot. When I hit twenty – the moment you start burning up fat for real – I started feeling awesome.

Next, I joined a gym. One that makes you track your progress with a chart. (A gym full of like-minded wimps, so yeah, the locker room feels okay.)
The true beauty of being a nerd? You know how to turn paper charts into spreadsheets like a motherfucker. I could see those weight/time functions rising, rising…

…like The Ten Boners Of Victory.


I also took up regular trips to an indoor pool a while back. I hadn’t been to one of those since third fucking grade. That was even before those puberty surprise boners set in.

And… that’s it. Maybe you were expecting more in terms of inspiration, like me winning the Iron Man despite losing my leg or something. You know what? There are people who’ve done that kind of thing, but they’re one in a million. This is about sustainable everyday progress by an average awkward dude.

I’m not a hero.

Though if I ever lose a leg I’ll totally team up with Amputee Brittney.

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