My relationship with exercise is a funny one. From a young age, I haven’t ever stuck with anything. I was a ‘I need to try everything and use my parents as a taxi every weekend’ kind of child. Looking back, I’m incredibly grateful that they seemed to embrace the fact that all their weekends revolved around me and then my sister. Not everyone is lucky enough to go horse riding every weekend for 2 years (so middle class).
The first experience I had of proper exercise aside from family Sunday walks was P.E at the tender age of 5. I don’t remember much about being 5 but I do remember how much I hated P.E. P.E when you’re 5 usually consists of forward rolls on smelly blue mats and walking along those creaky brown benches (you know the ones? The ones that were at least 10cm wide so you wouldn’t fall off but were referred to as walking along a ‘beam’ as if it was as difficult as that.)
Anyway, I didn’t mind P.E too much when I was 5 because it was a lark and I was okay at gymnastics. It was as I got older that I realised most things we did in P.E were not for me but more on that later.
The first club I ever joined was gymnastics at the local leisure centre. I’m pretty sure it was after school one evening but it could well have been on a Saturday too. Me and my friend went along but we weren’t all that into learning gymnastics. In fact, lots of the class was spent sitting on the floor listening to the teacher and doing stretches; a bit boring when you’re 6 years old. So we chatted and messed about, got split up pretty quickly and told off for not listening. Shortly afterwards, my friend stopped going. I didn’t enjoy it with no one to chat to and gave up too.
My memory is pretty hazy on the after school clubs I joined in primary school but I do know I started horse riding at about the age of 8. A friend and I were driven to stables every Saturday and led round a riding school for an hour or sometimes we rode without a leader, often sat upon a horse that we couldn’t control. We hacked down country lanes and took part in fake gymkhanas, winning these posh looking rosettes which I pinned up proudly on a corkboard in my room. (When and why did corkboards go out of fashion?!)
We went riding for about two or three years but it was expensive and I didn’t particularly enjoy it. I’d always dreamt about being one of those horsey people and owning my own pony which I could groom every day and take to Hickstead but alas it was not to be.
Back to the local leisure centre to see what they had on offer. Dance club! I actually really enjoyed this one even the Can Can we had to perform at the end of every class to our waiting parents who would have to pretend it was the best dance they’d ever seen. Despite this, I was getting good at dancing and moved up to a higher class.
The dance teacher sat me down one Saturday and said she thought I was ready to start doing the dance competitions. But I didn’t want to do competitions. I was there for fun and the idea of standing up in front of judges and performing a dance filled me with dread. Oh but you can’t carry on in the top class if you don’t want to do the competitions. I cried like a baby ( I was about eight or nine I think). So yeah, I quit that one too.
Next up was football club. I have no idea why I joined this one, probably to please my football mad parents. They didn’t force me to go, I just had to have a go and guess what? I hated it. I gave that one up pretty quickly.
By then I was moving into secondary school and I knew, I just knew I was going to find something that I enjoyed. It turned out to be trampolining at my local leisure centre which I absolutely loved. I got to bounce about and try out new routines with cool flips and tucks. It was cool to like trampolining and as a shy, definitely not cool kid – this was my ‘look what I can do’ moment. I was also in what they called ‘the squad’ meaning I got to go to another session during the week. It was the top class and wow did that make me feel like the bomb. I had a jumper with the club logo and the words squad on it and everything. Ah, good times!
I made some good friends at the club and I looked forward to going to that hot, weirdly lit hall every Tuesday and Saturday. It was only down the road from our house too so after the class which my sister soon joined too, we would get treated to chocolate at the local shop and skip home to have lunch. It really was glorious.
I only did trampolining for a couple of years possibly three (the recurring theme here seems to be hobbies that I do only last for two years). In that time, I took part in competitions and open days and enjoyed just being a kid/ teenager.
I never intended to give trampolining up but I only went and broke my arm didn’t I? I ruined the one hobby I loved. It was an open fracture and I broke both of the bones in my arm which didn’t bode well for my confidence returning to trampolining. I think I went back for a couple of weeks once the cast was off but I was so scared of doing it again that I quit.
Once I was fully over the catastrophe of breaking my arm because when you’re 14, everything seems like the end of the world, I started going to more after school clubs. These were anything from netball (which I was awful at), athletics (which I was marginally better at but got bored of easily because all I did was run round the track a few times and nothing else) and rounders (which I was also bad at but did because all my friends went).
Our school specialised in sports (of course they did), which meant they put a huge emphasis on it when it came to P.E and I really dreaded those lessons. We had a climbing wall, a bloody climbing wall!! Using the climbing wall was my ultimate fear when it came to P.E. As many of you know, I’m terrified of heights and the thought of scaling a climbing wall whilst being spotted by your friend who had no idea what they were doing with the ropes and could plunge you to your death at will, wasn’t my idea of fun. I told you I was dramatic.
However, we were put through this hell for a month or so when it was our group’s turn to do their climbing unit, I found myself trying not to break down into tears as I prepared to climb that wall. Seriously, I felt that bad about it. I don’t know why I didn’t just get my parents to write me a sick note. Enough people did it for swimming units.
Swimming was one thing I did enjoy. It wasn’t competitive and I was a strong swimmer. Most girls wanted to be nowhere near the water but I couldn’t wait to be in it. I had no hang ups about my body (imagine?!) I don’t think I had started my period and when I did, it never seemed to fall on swimming weeks. I even belonged to Lewes swimming club for a while
The school also had a dance studio which was pretty cool so I didn’t mind that sort of P.E. The worst sort of P.E, aside from climbing, was team sports. I had (and still have) absolutely no hand eye coordination so anything that involved hitting a ball on a bat was a no go. I liked being active but I always felt like I was letting the team down if we played anything competitive.
I gave up with exercise related hobbies for a little while and made the move to college. I never made much of an effort to exercise whilst at college. I think I was too busy learning and failing at driving lessons.
I should also add that during my time at school and college, my parents belonged to a local stoolball team. Stoolball is a cross between cricket and rounders and involves trying to hit what is basically a cricket ball with a heavy paddle bat and running between wickets whilst the fielders try to get you out. My parents tried their best to get me involved in stoolball and my sister and I were often drafted in to play when they were short but it just wasn’t my thing. I caught someone out once and it’s still an achievement to this day. That probably tells you how good I was!
Once I started University, I joined the gym. It was the start of my new beginning and I would finally have an exercise epiphany. It wasn’t but it was mostly due to the fact that I was in a bad place mentally and dropped out of University. Exercise was the last thing on my mind for a while.
I’m lucky that I’ve never had any issues with the way my body looks and exercise has always been something that I could do in varying amounts without putting on much weight. Even when I started going out with my first serious boyfriend, I never thought I needed to start exercising more. In fact, since I’ve met Rich, I’ve done less exercise; just the Zumba class once a week. This is common when you’re in a long term relationship apparently.
However, I’ve always felt the need to be doing some form of exercise which I think comes from having a sports mad family. How did that gene skip me?
Once I’d started to come to terms with the fact that dropping out of Uni didn’t mean I was a failure, I joined a Zumba class with a couple of friends and it was just what I needed. I’d always enjoyed dancing and this was fun and you could have a laugh. We went on socials and for a while I thought this was it, Zumba was all I was going to do. But I get bored easily.
I’ve stopped going for the most part. I dabbled in another class which was a dance/Zumba class marketed as ‘like being on strictly’. I enjoyed this too but quit. I then asked for a yoga mat for my birthday and did some home yoga workouts. I do actually plan to do this more when I move out but I genuinely don’t have the space at home and the dog tries to hassle me if I do it downstairs!
So after all that, you’re probably thinking I gave up and resigned myself to the fact that maybe exercise should only be running for public transport. Nope, I have just signed up to the gym and it’s going well!
I’m not pushing myself to go a certain number of times a week and am taking part in exercise classes too. Here’s hoping I’ll finally stick with something.
What kind of exercise do you enjoy?