Friday, September 04, 2009

I am not an athletic person - Lindquist

It's really difficult when your occupation requires you to spend a lot of time sitting, and when you relax you prefer to read, do jigsaw puzzles, or otherwise continue in a seated position. There is simply no urge to get up and run around. (Okay, now and then there's an urge to stroll around a shopping mall, but I don't think that's ever going to be enough activity.)

Now if the habit of sitting came with a reduced appetite, that might help. But as far as I'm concerned the opposite seems to be true. I like to have something to nibble on while at my computer. Preferably something involving chocolate.

Unfortunately, I know that sitting all day isn't going to help me lead a long, healthy life. I know I need to get up and move. I just wish there was a little switch I could turn on that would make me feel I need to jump up and do things.

You see, I know people who have the mindset of athletes. And they seem to have a different outlook.

My husband, for example, has been swimming three or four times a week since he was in university. And I don't mean splashing in the pool. I mean swimming hard - an hour of laps - including butterfly. He still goes to some Masters Swimming competitions and does quite well. And he's now doing weights and walking, even some running.

Three of my four sons are also athletes. One made it to the Olympic Trials in swimming. Another is on one of Canada's elite ultimate frisbee men's tour teams. The third manages to squeeze volleyball, basketball, and workouts in between coaching his kids' soccer and basketball and his job.

It's as though something in them drives them to be active. They don't mind the sweat. They don't mind running around in pouring rain. Or getting up at six to hit the pool. I remember when my oldest son (the one with the kids) was fourteen years old and getting up at four AM to swim. He was born a nightowl and still has trouble thinking before ten AM. But nine times out of ten, he was up on his own and ready to go. At four AM! (The tenth time there was a loud banging noise at our front door and then a hurried exit to join his car pool.)

What drives people to physical activity like that, I honestly have no idea. It's never been the case with me.

Of course, I grew up with three strikes against me:

1. An overprotective mother who was always worrying I'd get hurt and telling me to be careful.

2. Young male phys ed teachers who had no idea what to do with people who weren't athletically minded.

3. The feeling that I wasn't at all athletic and therefore couldn't be good at any sports activities.

There wasn't much I could do about any of those things.

But here's the funny thing. When I got to university, I somehow ended up on the badminton team. All because I ended up with a very athletic roommate who was on four teams and dragged me with her to badminton because they were short of players. Not only did I make the team, but I loved playing badminton and did reasonably well - especially in doubles. Who knew I'd have such a wicked serve!

In the following years, I managed to stay reasonably healthy by having four very active sons to keep up with, as well as houses with lots of stairs, and the odd activity. Unfortunately, an arm injury when I was forty kept me from playing anything that involved my arm (badminton, golf, bowling, curling, etc. etc. )

The result was that I eventually did what most sedentary people do - I gained weight.

I subscribed to Prevention magazine. Then I joined Weight Watchers. I started walking and eating less. And I did manage to get rid of thirty pounds. But then I started to yo-yo, putting on five pounds and losing it again, and so forth.

And I realized what I needed was a complete lifestyle change. I needed something to make me want to get off the chair and actually move. But what? I tried walking outside. Good for a while but then pretty boring. I got a tread mill and watched TV while walking. Better, but... I bought weights. So so. I even tried swimming. I'm allergic to the chlorine. Nothing really motivated me - everything I tries was more or less of a chore. Nothing I did was fun!

And then Nintendo came out with Wii Fit, Active Sports, Sports Challenge, Sports Resort, and now My Fitness Coach. And I am soooo pumped! I love them all. There are mornings when I wake up at 7:00 AM and can't wait to run downstairs and turn on the Wii!

In the past four months, I've done three-30 day challenges with Active Sports. I use Wii Fit aerobics, balance games, and yoga on "rest" days. I play Outdoor Challenge and Sports Resort in the late afternoon or evening when I need something fun to do. I just did my first workout in My Fitness Coach, and I'm happy with it and ready for more.

After all these years, I've found something "athletic" that I enjoy. And I've realized a couple of things that may apply to other people like me:

1. There were two things I hated about phys ed. One was the militant attitude of the teachers who were themselves athletic and didn't understand what it was like to be someone who had no athletic drive, and had very little patience or sympathy for those of us who felt klutzlike, or felt forced to do things we hated. But the second thing is that I don't like to do things with a group. I'm an introvert. I like to be alone. Being with other people puts additional stress on me that I just don't need. I don't like writing in a group either. With my Wii games, no one is looking over my shoulder. I'm competing against myself, and that's enough for me.

2. There are ways to keep fit that don't involve organized sports. And the Wii Fit programs suit me to a T. They are composed of different elements. I can do them at my own pace. I can customize my program. And at the same time, they make me try new things and stretch my abilities. I push myself harder because of the programs, yet it's always my choice.

3. The best way to be active is to do something you love. So don't give up until you find it. It doesn't have to be the "normal thing." Try walking, dancing, canoeing, bowling, or doing a Wii activity. Don't give up. We all need to be healthy and that means we need to move so our muscles stay in shape and we don't become overweight. Writers are definitely at risk here, as are most office workers. So look for something you will love doing.

My current goal is to be active for 2 hours a day, 6 days a week. That involves four 45-minute sessions with upper and lower body weight training, a lot of cardio aerobics, Wii Fit balance games, walking outside while it's warm, stair-climbing (we have a three-story house), and other Wii games. I figure anything that gets me up from a seating position is a good thing. :)

N. J. Lindquist is the co-editor and publisher of Hot Apple Cider, which was recently chosen as the "one book" for the Church Library Association of Ontario's "One Book / One Conference" October 3rd at Tyndale University College and Seminary. N. J. blogs at Blue Collar Writer.


Peter Black said...

Hello Nancy,
Congratulations on your finally finding "the athlete in you"!
And thanks for sharing your story.
Ah, mebbe there's a Wii bit o'hope for others of us too, to find our athletic feet.

Judith Millar said...

Boy, I really relate to this, NJ! I think some phys ed teachers were downright cruel to klutzlike kids like me. Glad the Wii is working for you. Your two-hour goal is ambitious. Because I love to read (and I too am a loner), I installed a book holder on my treadmill (the time flies by) ... and bought a BoFlex for the rest!

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