Apologies! This has nothing to do with fandom unless exercising or reading is your fandom. I had a thought and needed to tell the world and that is how the internet is meant to be used. – Kat
Lately I find myself watching Masterchef or similar cuisine battle shows and cruising the Internet looking at Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) sites (after job applications of course). It’s not that different from this time last year really, except I wouldn’t have been looking at BJJ sites and I don’t have a job.
I’ve learned a lot in this span of unemployment, which I hope, ends soon. I decided early on that I would challenge this whole notion I had of myself that I couldn’t be physically active. I’ve never been physically active. With the exception of a brief stint (two weeks max) playing rugby and floor hockey as a pre-teen I’ve never “done” sports. My family didn’t have the money, my family almost never had a vehicle and I just didn’t have the interest to go and get sweaty and kick a ball around when I could come home and read. I had a brief love affair with karate when a friend was in it but money became the deciding factor and I lived through her instead of joining myself.
Reading became my oasis then and it still is. I already knew how to read; as of now I’ve been reading for over twenty-four years and I think I’m damn good at it. Now I wanted to be good at exercising. Now I have time, some money, access to public transit, resources for research and many options. I decided enough was enough and set about doing healthy things like eating better and ditching fast food. I was going to enjoy this “exercise” that everyone I looked up to seem to do. I joined the YMCA and set about being a runner. I didn’t realize then but I was clay. The clay that now was running in the gym couldn’t hold a shape when I tried and where I wanted a beautiful vase I ended up with something that, maybe, could be an ashtray?
It wasn’t my body’s fault; not really, it had no idea what the hell I was doing to it. Running?! Lifting weights?! This was surely torture! It wanted to go home and cry. Go hand a book to someone who can’t read and demand they read it. Don’t allow them to sound out words or fumble for pronunciations, make them believe they need to do it now and properly. They will probably get frustrated, won’t get very far and they may even give up but there’s a great chance they won’t enjoy the experience. It makes perfect sense though doesn’t it?
So why couldn’t I understand that? That’s what I did to myself! Running on a treadmill was my book but I couldn’t read. There is so much pressure in this world, especially from the Internet, to exercise and do it well and maybe even enjoy it. I’m not thinking of the weight-loss groups. I’m thinking of the professionals that say we need to do it in some way, the friends who enjoy exercising, and the inspirational stories we hear from the media. They tell us we should exercise because it’s good for us, and it is! Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying you shouldn’t exercise; I’m saying that not everyone is the same. I’m saying that if you have never exercised don’t beat yourself up for being horrible at exercising at first.
Some of us aren’t in good shape and have never exercised and that’s okay.
As Ralph Wiggum says “my legs don’t know how to be as long as yours!”
You may laugh and think: ‘I know that, it’s common sense! I have to keep going and I won’t be good at it the first time but someday I will.’ There are different types of people in this world. How will you cope with that failure when your brain tells you that it’s pointless? What about when that failure happens for the eighth or ninth time? What if you’re the type of person who prepares for everything and have ever since you passed your first test and now you fail on that treadmill every time?
Picture that kid that always got picked last but spent hours in the library. Picture the kid with his or her inhaler. Picture the student who never wanted to play soccer and that was all his school offered so he or she opted not to exercise. They decide enough is enough for whatever reason and Google “beginner workouts.” A certain type of person will read the pages and pages that the internet spits out at them. They’ll learn about the right shoes and the right clothes and which gyms give you a discount during which month. It makes them feel secure because they are doing what they do best. They are researching, analyzing, absorbing the data and making decisions.
You can read running tips until you’re blue in the face and not understand it. You will understand many things about it and you might be better prepared than someone who just starts running one morning, but you still probably won’t have the coping mechanisms needed to pull yourself back up when you fail horribly at running. Don’t say you won’t fail though because it’s as likely as a Wilhelm scream in a Star Wars movie. There is an excellent chance that you won’t run nearly as fast as you thought you would or as far as you want to. Does this mean you should give up? No, the opposite! I’m in this step right now.
That physical exercise journey I mentioned at the beginning of this article? Joining Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was just the first step on that journey, but I hadn’t expected that in less than two months I would be thinking of all my physical activity up to this point or rather lack thereof.
I went into BJJ after reading a lot of material and watching a lot of videos. I researched every gym in my area and knew what to wear during that first class, what to expect and that I wouldn’t be the best in the class. I hoped I would have some innate talent though and hoped that I wouldn’t make an idiot of myself. I also hoped that the other people in class wouldn’t be mean and laugh at me. One out of three ain’t bad. The other guys in the class were very nice and treated me as an absolute beginner as did a great instructor.
Guess what, two months later I’m still an absolute beginner. It’s been two months and I still have trouble with a lot of things. People have come in since then and done better than me. Am I frustrated? Of course I am. Today I broke down crying after class because I just can’t seem to do what everyone else is doing. Have I questioned why I’m even doing this when I suck so badly at it? Yes I have. Did I quit? No, I didn’t. I’ve come close though and that’s the reason this idea, this concept dawned on me. I have over twenty years of reading experience and I’m great at it. I have zero years exercise experience so that’s why my body has no sweet clue what it’s doing. I can research, watch techniques and read motivational pictures but it won’t get any better. I can’t control every variable. I have to keep trying even if I get upset.
If you love something like a sport or physical activity, don’t let it go. The movies lied. It won’t come back to you and you’ll only end up chasing it or wishing you had. To get better at jiu-jitsu you need to do jiu-jitsu. To get better at Zumba you need to go to Zumba. You have to read to get better at reading and sometimes doing something we are really good at won’t help us get better at other things.
Maybe this is common knowledge to everyone but it took me twenty-seven years to realize this terrifying fact. If you suck at exercising or whatever sport you’ve chosen to spend your time and money on but you are trying as best you can, keep trying. It’s okay to get help but you need to keep doing it to get the experience. Remember all the things you take for granted and do very well every day. You might not remember all the failures to help you get to that point as you might have been very young but there were failures. You kept trying then and you can keep trying now and someday you’ll reach an okay level and the frustration will fade a little and the failures will seem a little less embarrassing.
That’s in the future! Now stop reading this and go do that something! (I hear Verity! Podcast makes a wonderful exercise accompaniment.)