"No really," he countered.
"Not really." I retorted.
I hate exercise for its own sake, and I've certainly never thought of myself as a jock.I am completely devoid of the competitive gene, and frankly, I am too clumsy for team sports. I also lack depth perception, it seems, a requirement for catching softballs. I was guilted onto a team by a former lover who claimed we did not spend enough time together. We split up soon after I spent several games waiting anxiously in the outfield to be hit in the head by a ball.
Although I've always ridden a bike for fun and transportation, a couple of years ago, inspired by a friend, I decided to try my first Century ride (a hundred miles) signing up for one in Maine and the challenge was on. I researched strategies (when I say research, I mean reading publications, prowling the Internet, but most importantly, talking to other women who rode). I researched gear and nutrition and scheduled rides to build stamina, sufficient speed, and strength. Oh yeah... like an athlete.
I am not intimidated by the class of riders who practically drop me in the parking lot (where rides usually begin) because they are not my competition: I am. The Greek notion of athletics implies combatents, competion, and prizes.
Our notion of athleticism implies empowerment, a stronger, more fit and healthier body and body image that emphasizes what I can do, not what I look like. Becoming an athlete is a way of focusing exercise to make it more fun and rewarding. Declaring oneself an athlete is about attitude as much as about ability
The first step is to take yourself seriously. Own it. Talk it up with friends (they will become excited and want updates), with people at parties, and under no circumstances do you ever, ever put yourself down. Only speak in positives and what you want to accomplish.
• Set goals: They can be as simple as walking four miles in an hour or as elaborate as a full or half marathon or charity walk. There are so many sports to choose from. What do you love? Hiking, rowing, soccer, kayaking, running or power walking, basketball, volleyball, softball, marshal arts, surfing, flag football, yoga, tennis, swimming...the list is endless. How about folklorico dance classes or surfing lessons?
• Get help: Find a mentor or hire a coach or take lessons. Often there are classes or gym trainers that can help. Sport businesses like R.E.I. often offer classes that help you. City fitness initiatives and the Parks and Recreation activities can be a resource. Research equiptment, training schedules, other people's experiences.
• Create and keep a training plan. Keep it simple and doable for you. I found bike riding plans which included long daily rides. I knew I would not be able to commit to such a schedule, so I created one of my own that included interval training which help to build strength. You also might find that training is also about a regime with weights for strength and yoga for flexibility. Enter training on your calendar and keep to it. Give it the importance it deserves.
• Find or create a community. Find people to share your enthusiasm and training.
If you find a team, it is settled, but for single sports, enlist friends to form running/walking groups, for bicyclists find or form group rides, find gym partners.
• Rethink nutrition: You are fueling your body to perform, not trying to drop a dress size (although a fitter body can have all kinds of added perks). Skip processed foods and eat fresh vegetables and fruits, good oils, and lean meats or other proteins.
• Find inspiration: Memoirs, magazines, blogs, friends. Find the inspiration you need to get through the tough times.
• Celebrate your "wins." Just not by eating a whole cake all by yourself.