Seven Days of Positive – Day 121

In Uncategorized on March 4, 2015 at 9:21 pm


I have a complex relationship with exercise. Put Uptown Funk on loud and I will jump about like a crazed fool, as I often do, in my kitchen. Play good sounds at a party and I will dance like a mad thing for hours in high heels.

But the idea of Doing Exercise in a formal sporty context makes me want to curl up in a ball and cry. Or sulk like a fourteen year old, as I did when setting out on a glorious five mile country walk with my husband the other weekend.

‘Oh look,’ I kept saying, ‘another leaf. How fascinating…Oh! And an actual twig, thrilling…’

Several times he lost patience with me and started walking back to the car, then I’d persuade him to continue only to start doing it again (I don’t know how he puts up with me) until finally, when I thought he really was going to bail out, I realised I really did want to do the beautiful walk and shut the fuck up.

By the end, of course, it was me who wanted to go further.


I don’t know when I got so confused about it. As a child, when the weather was nice I was always outside doing something physical. Charging about on my bike, or my scooter, skipping, banging a tennis ball against the garage door, doing that thing with a tennis ball on a rope with a plastic loop round one leg, hula hooping. In between all that, I went to ballet classes.

But I already hated sport at school. When you are the smallest girl in the class in Primary 3 and no one has ever explained the rules to you, netball is a very hell. From then on, I was the one not chosen.

By secondary school sport was almost a phobia. No one ever told me the rules of anything, which didn’t help. Everyone else seemed to know. I’ve never understood that.

And on top of the nightmare of having to do anything resembling jumping, there were the showers. In the first year of secondary school, they would make us get nude and run through freezing cold, completely open-plan showers.

Half the girls had pubes, half didn’t and it would be hard to say which group was more mortified.

An obedient 11 year old, in a permanent state of bewilderment at suddenly finding myself thrown in with 1200 kids on what was virtually a campus, after a small convent junior school, I had no choice but to endure it.

But by fourteen, double sport over the last two periods on a Thursday afternoon, was an early pass for me.

So easy to turn right instead of left on the way over to the sports hall and I’d read my book as I walked home (memorably walking into a lamp post on one occasion). Oh, the sense of freedom.

Would I feel differently about exercise now if I’d been taught sport better? I think so. I had one term at an all girls school where they really explained hockey to me and even went into some possible tactics – as opposed to thrash or die at the other school.

I remember one game of hockey there when, charging up the middle of the field, with the ball fully under my control before passing it to a goal scorer, I felt the exhilaration of playing a team game for the first – and only – time.

But not long after that the PE teacher caught me reading the Little Red School Book in the changing rooms, when I had pleaded period pains (fictional), gave me a detention and confiscated it. That was the end of my brief engagement with school sport.

I’ve spent my whole life ever since not exercising enough. I love yoga and have done that pretty consistently for thirty years, but the aerobic stuff has been sadly, dangerously lacking.

But I’m trying to engage with it again. I’ve now been to four aerobics classes in ten days, which is a miraculous statistic for me.

I can’t say I love it yet, but I’m trying out different classes at different venues, looking for the one where I won’t feel like a hopeless joke and where I will experience the sense of fun and camaraderie that I know some of my friends enjoy with their exercise groups. I want to feel the fun as well as the burn.


Today’s class – the appropriately named ‘Body Attack’ – was a bit more challenging than I’d been expecting, with a marine style male teacher and not very friendly participants, but I did my best, getting a short attack of hysterics every time we had to run round the studio in a circle and somehow I was still always at the back.

But I’m not going to give up. What’s hardened my resolve? I’m getting older and I don’t want to get dementia or diabetes. I don’t want to die of heart disease as my darling dad (and both his parents…) did in their early 60s. I want to firm up my jiggly middle.


Most of all, I want to prove to myself that I can overcome the exercise phobia that has blighted my adult life.

And the other thing which is inspiring me, is this brilliant ad which I saw for the first time in the cinema the other day. This girl can.

  1. I will always treasure my CD pieces even though I too chubby for them now…..

  2. Ballet and shaolin kung fu are my exercises of choice. I am lucky to have such rad teachers:

    But yeah, I hate cardio. I like to claim some grande allegro, and some swift kung fu is just as effective as 20mins of jogging. No proof, but who cares?

  3. Oh Maggie, thanks for sharing that great TVC/Cinema commercial. It really sends some fantastically positive messages. I HATED sport at school too. The very thought of having to get on the netball court with Sister Mary Bossyboots reffing with Acme Thunderer on a thick rope around her neck – still sends shudders up my spine. My issue with school sport – I am essentially NOT competitive, so any team sports – I was useless. As a friend of mine’s 5 yr old daughter commented to her Dad while they/he was watching a game of World Cup football on the tele “Why don’t they just get two balls”. Isn’t that priceless?
    I thought our Sisters were tough – but yours making you run through the cold showers naked – hooley dooley – for a very early developer like me – that would have been a DIE ON THE SPOT ordeal. I started surfing at 42. Wish I had done it so much earlier (always meant to learn and then suddenly 42, panicked and took classes). I will never be good but my oh my how I LOVE it … never to late to make a great discovery, right? BX

    • I was only with the Sister Marys until 11, then it was off to a terrifying high school with 1200 kids, many of them enormous young men. The only advantage is that it was easy to hide … x

  4. 1.My best friend Pam and I were the only ones who couldn’t do a forward roll in the first year of high school
    2. When I got off the bus at Dapto High School in my teens as part of the visiting hockey team their PE mistress banned me before I even hit the field. She’d seen me play before. I wasn’t deliberately dangerous, just totally unco-ordinated.
    3. The only sport I’ve ever been any good at is skiing. I don’t regret my shot to hell knees or my arthritic feet at all.

    I’m with you, Maggie. I want to live a while longer so am doing something about it.

  5. Hi Maggie. I’m just like you – love dancing but hate exercise. I’ve just discovered No Lights, No Lycra and love it. It started right here in Melbourne and is now all over the world. You dance for an hour in a dark room and walk away feeling fantastic. Here is the website – so you can read all about it.

  6. I always loved sport at school but as I’ve gotten older too many injuries have stopped me doing things like playing netball.

    I adore that ad and the whole ‘This Girl Can’ campaign. Brilliantly done.

  7. I also was never taught the rules of netball or volleyball or hockey. We were simply expected to know, and all the other girls did seem to know. To this day I don’t understand that – was I off the day it was all explained? It put me off all team sports for life. What a shame. I wonder if those teachers realised the sad seeds they were sowing?

    • This makes me feel SO much better! Tennis was particularly mystifying. They’d send us off with racquets and one ball, no instruction of any kind. I used to pretend my racquet was a guitar and do Hank Marvin’s dance … Were you at school in the UK or Australia?

  8. I totally understand how you feel. I love a good ol’ dance class! I did a Beyonce class last year and I just recently heard of a ‘Vogue’ class in Sydney, too. I have never been athletically inclined, but I too feel that my fear of exercise is largely due to my fear of sport at school.

    I’ve recently started going to bootcamp and I actually enjoy it, but it’s taken me a long time to learn how to motivate myself, have positive internal conversations with myself and calm myself down when I’m forced to run around the park. A lot of the anxiety I’ve often felt as an adult when it’s come to exercise is that same familiar feeling of dread that I used to feel on sports carnival days!

  9. I had to do remedial PE at my very sporty school in year 7 – I thought I was too cool to do the ‘test’ but was also fairly uncoordinated! I did dance as a teenager which I loved, then nothing very sporty other than cycling to work after that. Now at age 44, I am a black belt in aikido (gained when I was 41). Because I love that, I now run and do weights to make my aikido better!

    I think the trick is to find something you love, because that is very motivating. Plus I haven’t bought anything that gave me more of a thrill than buying my fancy practice sword (iato) and choosing all the bits you can customise on it.

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