When I was a kid, I used fake asthma flare-ups to get out of gym class.
Yesterday, I ran my first 5K despite a legitimate asthma flare-up.
I never thought I’d be the sort of person who voluntarily decided to take on 3.1 miles (or, in the case of this course, 3.4) at a fast clip, but I’ve learned a few things about athletics since gym class.
“Teams” aren’t for everyone.
Our middle school was arbitrarily split into the “blue team” and the “white team.” Your team never switched during your four-year stay. Your younger siblings inherited your team by default. At the end of the year, different academic and sport accomplishments that each person accrued counted toward their team’s total.
It was like Hogwarts, but shitty.
You’ve never seen given people so much of a fuck over something so arbitrary. People were proud of their teams. People got dead serious about Blue vs White field hockey, basketball, volleyball, etc in gym class. I was like “Can’t we all see how dumb this is?” And no. They could not.
And it’s not, necessarily, that the Blue/White system didn’t matter. It actually spurred a lot of hard academic and athletic work from a lot of middle schoolers. It’s just that group activities are not much of an incentive for many introverts.
My introversion didn’t make a lot of sense to me when I was younger. I didn’t want to fight over something I didn’t care about. I didn’t want to bond with people just because they were on my “team.” Which leads me to…
You can fly solo.
There are days I just want to listen to my headphones alone.
Guess what allows for that? Running. Lifting. Taking the dog on long walks.
I think that a lot of things would have been different if a sports coach and given me a no-skip CD player (remember those?) and said, “Go at your own pace. See how many you can do. Then, next week, see if you can do more.”
You don’t have to win.
Here’s a sporty tip: Sometimes sucking is okay.
I woke up Saturday morning (the day before the run) with a chest of painful mucus.
I almost cried.
“I won’t be able to breathe. I’m going to hold everyone back,” I thought sadly. “My friends that are running with me are going to be bummed that I’m going to completely kill their time.”
And now for a day-of surprise: when I had to walk, my friends walked with me. When my lungs let up, my friends ran with me. It wasn’t a good time at all (I’ve been able to run much farther, much faster), but it didn’t matter.
Which leads us to…
Groups can rock.
Sometimes it’s better to go with a bunch of people.
Your friends can talk to you. They can shout encouragement.
They can make you laugh when all you want to do is hack phlegm into the grass and take a nap.
(This is a true story. I was super-sick.)
Even introverts need a support system every once in a while.
Athletics can be its own reward.
You know what’s kind of nice? That day-after delayed-onset muscular soreness. On the surface, this obviously sucks, but you know that you did something the previous day.
Also nice: a solid, well-earned night’s sleep.
- Being winded less often.
- Looking leaner. (Look how tiny my waist is in pic #2. I swear I didn’t ‘shop that.)
- Being able to talk to people who are into athletic endeavors.
There’s also the knowledge that — barring a zombie apocalypse, a plague, an alien invasion, a resurgence of dinosaurs, etc — you’re likely to live longer.
(I’ve watched a lot of sci-fi. I’m aware of the possibilities.)
Athletics can be fun.
I had a great time.