Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Big Challenges

I just got done watching Shaq's Big Challenge. It's just the kind of TV that hooks me...it's a reality show about weight loss, which almost automatically commands "Christine, watch me." It also has some serious information about childhood obesity, which I identify with.


Tonight, the kids did the Presidential Physical Fitness Award tests. This brought back bad memories of gym class for me. As a kid, I dreaded the PPFA. I dreaded it even more than gym class in general--and believe me, that's a lot. The thing about the tests is that they inevitably confirmed my lack of physical prowess. I could almost see the "cool" kids (who by the way were banging out sit ups like they were going out of style) taking mental notes to remind themselves to pick me last for their kickball teams.

Those tests felt like they lasted forever. I can't remember if the gym teachers spread it out, or if the one session was traumatic enough to make it seem as if it lasted forever. Sit and reach, chin ups, push ups, sit ups, mile run...back then, it was all about being better than the Soviets, wasn't it. "Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down that Chin Up Bar!"

Part of Shaq's mission on the show is to get mandatory P.E. for schools. Now, I admit that when I found out that most American kids now don't have to do P.E., a small part of my inner child said "NO FAIR!" But, the adult in me said "This is unbelievable and unconscionable." 

And, another part of me is envious of the kids who are getting the chance to get a real introduction to fitness and nutrition. When I think of all the nutso diet advice I got over the years, well, it just makes me crazy. As an adult, I wish I had the chance to get involved in a sport or to get real training.

The closest I got to sports was middle school basketball. My uniform didn't fit properly and neither did the coaching. And, as if an ill-fitting uniform wasn't enough, they were orange. If I can find a picture, I'll share it. Because my school didn't have a gymnasium, we practiced in the gym of a school-turned-office building a ten-minute drive away. We were the jokes of the Catholic school league. When we were playing against Blessed Sacrament Cathedral, we were teased mercilessly. I was teased for my weight; the team was teased for how much it sucked.

In high school, I decided to join Track and Field. God bless Mr. Free, the track coach (and also, incidentally, the Health teacher). He didn't cut anyone. I think the experience I had there was positive--I actually got some real training and my first taste of weight training. I gave it a good run (no pun intended), but in the end quit about 2/3 through the season. I was "placed" in the "field" part of track and field, probably due to my slowness. This meant I did javelin, shot put, and other things that are generally seen being done by Greek and Roman statues, not honor students. It also involved a lot of sitting and standing around, which was, again, largely due to my not being good in it. The good people practiced and got trained, while the rest of us watched. Boring.

This just brings up some things I strongly believe in. I think education really needs to happen in the schools in essential life matters: nutrition, fitness (real fitness, not just dodgeball), and personal finances. I mean, when someone leaves high school, they should know this stuff that can carry them through life. I was able to give chemical formulas and do calculus and label the parts of a fetal pig, but I am STILL figuring out the other stuff, and have more or less forgotten those other things. I'm not saying the other things aren't important...it's just that having real information about these life-improving things would be a real help.

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