When it comes to exercise, it’s all in your head

Recently, on a Sunday afternoon, my husband and I experienced a strange occurrence–we were both off work for the day and our kids were in the care of someone else (my mom). I can’t remember the last time it happened–where we were both by ourselves with no children – because it happens so rarely. So, what is a couple to do when left to their own devices?

They play tennis.

We trooped on, happily skipping to a nearby tennis court, not believing our luck. (Well, technically we drove the car, but what’s the difference?). We felt giddy with excitement, not just because we had time to ourselves during the day but also because we’ve been meaning to play tennis for awhile. It’s a sport that we can both agree on.

While in the car, I asked my husband when the last time he ever played tennis was. He replied, “Never.”

I found this hard to believe –perhaps he might’ve forgotten all those early experiences in PE in middle school, or perhaps he was more into other things, say, track and field, which is what he did in middle school to lose weight. Or perhaps he does not associate any memory with tennis because he hardly played it.

At any rate, I confessed that it’s been awhile for me as well. “So we’re both newbies at this,” I said. He shrugged.

Turns out, tennis was way more fun than we expected. Who would’ve thought? In middle school and high school, when physical education was required, I don’t remember playing tennis very much. It was usually a mix of basketball, baseball, soccer (sometimes), volleyball and track. Oh, and dodge ball. How I hated dodge ball, due to the fact that I hated being hit by a ball coming at me with such high velocity. It felt like one of those times where it’s socially acceptable to hit each other in the name of sportsmanship, when in reality, such a blow in a classroom would’ve landed you in the principal’s office.

Not surprisingly, these unpleasant experiences in PE classes are reminiscent of a recent study done at Iowa State University, recently wrote about in a New York Times article here, about people’s attitudes towards physical fitness. The authors of the study concluded that based on a long questionnaire recalling one’s memories of the past, the participants who had negative memories grew up to associate exercise with being a chore, not a fun activity. Conversely, those who had great experiences in PE grew up to enjoy exercise.

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Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

It’s a pretty obvious assumption, and one that doesn’t really require a study, I think. There are also limitations to the study, such as the reliability of one’s memories. I can safely say that I have some memory of PE classes, but not in specific details. I just knew that I didn’t enjoy being pummeled with a ball and I couldn’t hit a ball to save my life (thus, you can guess that I didn’t enjoy volleyball either), but as far as hitting a ball with the aid other things…I discovered that I can be a really far hitter in tennis, a surprising element to my physical ability.

I do think on the general consensus, we can all conclude that there is some degree of truth from our early days with the way that we view exercise as an adult. Unfortunately, many of us have sedentary office jobs; thus, those who do enjoy exercise may not get the chance to do so.

Personally, I’ve found that the process of getting sweaty is quite unpleasant and as soon as I start to sweat, I’d want to get rid of it immediately. However, after the game or exercise is over, I am always glad and grateful that I did it, because my body is filled with so much adrenaline and feel-good hormones that I can hardly contain myself.

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Photo by Christopher Burns on Unsplash

Since that first successful tennis session, my husband and I have tried to do it again…albeit with the kids in tow. However, we’ve discovered that with two kids next to us, and one of them providing background noise in the form of whines doesn’t make it a particularly fun activity. Perhaps next time we’re alone together we’ll attempt it again. Or wait until they’re old enough to be left alone together. At any rate, I’ve discovered that my attitudes about exercise in general has changed dramatically since the beginning of this season, as evidenced in this post. I’ve come to enjoy getting sweaty (to a certain degree) and would not hesitate to try again with my partner in crime.

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