Don't get me wrong, I am glad that I grew up in an era when they still had P.E. (That's "physical education" for my non-American readers.) I think the demise of P.E. in American public schools must contribute to the obesity problem in our kids. And P.E. does get kids to try activities that they might not otherwise try out, because they have to. I had some achievements in P.E. class, mostly in the last year that I took it, my sophomore year. I became a decent swimmer, because at my high school we were all required to take at least 1 term of swimming. I enjoyed it, so I took 3 quarters that year, and was teaching to other students in my last quarter. Another was the 1 quarter I took of basic P.E. that year, when I was absolutely determined to learn to make a lay-up shot. I never became good at it, but Coach Colleran was impressed by my determination and effort and gave me an A even though I sucked royally as an athlete.
And there's the problem: P.E. taught me that I sucked as an athlete, and when I grew up I just crossed athletic activities off my list of things I could do. I was always the slowest, the least coordinated, the least driven to stay in the game. All of our activities seemed to pit us against each other--whether running around the track, or playing half court basketball, or picking teams for any number of team sports. I didn't enjoy being picked last, or always finishing the race last, or never being passed to because I couldn't make a basket. What I didn't learn was that there were things I actually COULD do well--like sports that required endurance rather than speed. My coordination turned out not to be as bad as it seemed when I was a little kid. And I was a decent enough swimmer that I was asked to join the swim team, although my music activities precluded that.
So now, I'm learning to love becoming fit and being active, but sometimes I still have these scripts playing in my head, about what I "should" be able to do and how I fall short of that. Running is one example: I enjoy the Galloway method, with frequent walk breaks, and it makes sense to me, but I still have the nagging sense that I'm not a "real" runner if I can't run the entire distance without walking, even if it means I barf up a lung. When swimming laps, I have to stop after a few laps and catch my breath, let my heart rate come down a little, and take a swig of water. (Sometimes, I admit, the swig of water is just to make me look like I am not stopped solely to catch my breath.) The guy in the lane next to me was swimming nonstop laps when I got in the pool, and when I got out half an hour later he was STILL swimming lap after lap, like a damn goldfish. Why can't I do that? I'm doing it wrong!
The better question for me at this point is, why am I looking at his lane? Why am I not competing with MYSELF only? It's natural to compare ourselves to others, but often counter-productive. The fact is that most of what I'm doing these days was unthinkable last year. Usually I can keep that in perspective and celebrate that, but I have days, too. I have to remind myself that I'm miles ahead of my former self, who wasn't inactive, but certainly wasn't running, swimming or strength-training 5 days a week. Right?