From the time I took my first steps, my parents have been trying to find the physical activity that was the perfect fit for me. It started with baby swim classes, the progressed to toddler soccer and dance. As I got older, I went through bike riding, gymnastics, roller blading, tennis, hiking, street hockey, basketball, softball, and yoga. My parents bought me roller blades, bicycles, tennis rackets, hockey sticks, softball gloves, and a basketball hoop. Some of these pursuits were more successful than others, but I spent four or five years of my life hating gymnastics and softball. None of these physical activities really seemed to stick, and I dabbled rather than excelled.
Eventually, by tenth grade, I decided that I wanted to play an organized sport again, and so I tried out for the school volleyball team. After a week of grueling try-outs, I was one of two girls who did not end up making the team. While that rejection felt terrible, I look back and still feel proud of myself for the effort I put into something that was entirely out of my comfort zone. After my volleyball rejection, I joined the marching band color guard, which involved learning marching and flag twirling, and I had found my physical activity passion.
Of course, all good things come to an end, and when I moved from high school to college I left color guard behind. In college, I tried to keep up my promises to go to the gym, with varying degrees of success. I used the college pool exactly one time: to take my swim test. I swam in the lake my school was located on about five times. As part of my degree requirement, I had to take two credits of PE, so I took Self-Defense and Advanced Self-Defense, but that only kept me active two nights a week for two semesters.
Graduate school saw an even greater decline in the amount of physical activity I participated in. The university gym had a membership fee for the cardio room, which was the only room I had ever really taken advantage of anyways. I reasoned that I couldn’t afford the monthly fee, and for a while I kept myself moving one day a week with a free lunchtime Zumba class, which I really enjoyed.
So what’s the point of my rather drawn-out history of my own physical activity (or lack thereof)? I guess it’s that with physical activity, the first steps aren’t necessarily the hardest. What’s difficult is making the commitment every day to do something that gets you moving. You don’t have to be an Olympic swimmer to swim laps in the pool, and you don’t have to be Michael Jordan to get a basketball and shoot some hoops with your family. As someone who has tried a plethora of physical activities both through school gym classes and parental involvement, I know that finding a physical activity that feels less like work and more like fun can be really difficult, but the important thing is that you keep looking and you keep trying.
Sometimes, it’s the most unconventional activities that get me the most active. Messing around outside with some old badminton rackets, playing a game of croquet, or playing with those velcro mitts and tennis balls make physical activity fun. So rather than committing time to sweating it out in the gym, during the nice weather it’s sometimes better to just shut down your laptop, put on some shorts, and head outside to find what old goodies you have laying around.
We all know exercise is good for us and great for our kids, so let’s start making commitments to move a little more every day.