I tried out for the field hockey team in ninth grade because I wanted to make friends, I wanted to be a part of a team and I wanted to have a cool Under Armor jacket to wear around school on game days. Fortunately, everybody made at least junior varsity. Unfortunately, all the girls were very competitive and none of them really wanted to be my friend. Also, the printers screwed up our jacket order and we never even got them.
I was the slowest person on the team. By a football field’s length. Literally, when we would run ladders (25 yards and back to the end zone, 50 yards and back, 75 yards and back, 100 yards and faint), I would glance back from the opposite side of the field to the rest of the team staring at me and questioning if maybe I had just walked the whole thing or something. We were suppose to complete this in under two minutes. I never made it quicker than 2:30. People don’t ever believe me when I talk about how slow I was, but I have a team of witnesses to explain how it worked: I made the face like I was trying to sprint, my legs and arms were pumping like I was trying to sprint, but the ground below me just didn’t get covered. It was like that cliche dream where you’re running and not getting anywhere, except I wasn’t in my underwear and nobody was chasing me.
What I lacked in speed, I made up in the ability to run forever like a madwoman. I got put at midfield, where my job was to run and run and run and run around the field the whole game and occasionally pass the ball to somebody and more occasionally just get in the way of the other team so somebody else on my team could do something athletic.
We went to field hockey camp at Penn State for a short week and I was the only girl on the team without a roommate. I spent my first night at a college campus alone in my room crying to my mom on my pay-as-you-go cell phone until it ran out of its loaded minutes. (I should mention, however, that I spent my second night exploring State College by myself and meeting some really cool strangers which made up for my horrible first night.) I worked my ass off in field hockey, and I ended up just falling on it. I don’t know if people didn’t like me because I was unbelievably slow, irrationally positive, or awkward and said things nobody understood through my mouth guard all the time.
In the long run, I thank field hockey for introducing me to the incredible feeling of pushing my body to do things my tiny thighs and lack of fast-twitch muscle fibers never thought they could do. I loved the feeling after a circuit run. I loved the idea that I couldn’t run a football field in August and by October I was pushing five miles a game. I loved that different feeling that lingered in my lungs hours after a tough practice. I fell in love with exercise. (Eventually people realized I wasn’t competition for any starting spots and I was really good at making up funny names for everybody, so I became an important asset to the team’s morale and they kept me around for a couple more years.)
When I turned sixteen my sophomore year, I got a job at a new fitness club that was opening down the street. This club boasted healthy living and it was contagious. I saw people of all shapes and sizes doing things that made them feel good. It was about the inside, that awesome feeling of accomplishment and noticeable improvement in ones own abilities. (Don’t get me wrong, there are some BABES at this place, but a tight booty is just an external perk to the magnificent joy that partners it.) I was learning something new everyday and I was learning that it didn’t take that much coordination to do some of these things. I took what I knew I was good at, endurance sports, and I used it to help me in what I was really (really really) bad at.
Seven years later, I’m kind of more coordinated and a little bit faster. But I’m stronger and I’m healthy and I’m not afraid to test my limits. This summer, I ran my first two triathlons, backpacked on the Appalachian Trail, swam across a whole lake, got lost in the middle of the woods and practically pooped myself as I sprinted out six fear-miles, I squatted the most I’ve ever squatted in my life, climbed the hardest route at my local climbing gym and I’ve gotten to do it all with my boyfriend and friends.
I’m still a clutz. I stubbed my toe and broke it (then ran a triathlon on it and hiked on the Appalachian Trail). I slammed my hand jumping up onto a plyo box bruising my right wrist beyond usability and gashing my palm open (then finished the rest of my box jumps and leg workout). While doing pullups, I let go of a resistance band that had been on my feet to slap me in the crotch (then kept doing pullups with the resistance band in my crotch). But I still did it, right?
I love motivating others to get healthy. And I have gotten to meet some amazing motivators in my own fitness journey: the moms at my gym with bomb booties and gorgeous smiles; my former co-worker, Stephanie, who continues to push herself (including biking across the country, completing a half-iron man, and being one of the sweetest women I’ve ever met); my friends Kelly and Rachel who have the most contagious love for the outdoors I’ve ever seen; my friend Maeve who taught me that swimming can be great, because you’re out of this world; my SCUBA instructors who taught me that the only way to succeed is to stop being such a damn spaz; and my super hero boyfriend whose idea of an “off day” is hot yoga and rock climbing.I like to think that the gym could use a few more people like me, who lack athleticism but don’t use it as an excuse. The gym needs somebody who isn’t afraid to turn to the body builder next to her and joke about the resistance band that just smacked her in the between-legs. I’ve met amazing people in my fitness journey, which to be honest, just like field hockey, is why I started in the first place. Everybody should know the feeling after a good workout, “good workout” being a completely relative term to the exerciser him/herself.
One day this last summer, my boyfriend, Chris, and I went to my high school track to do an interval workout for our triathlon training. But before I could do that, I had an old score to settle with the football field: the ladder. With Chris timing me, I finished that sprint in 1:45, the fastest I’ve ever been. Maybe I would have rather made that time in high school because then maybe I would have maybe made Varsity Field Hockey (let’s be honest, probably not). However, the amount of work I’ve been doing ever since high school ladders, the amount hours I’d spent with salty sweat down my face is really what made that time so damn sweet.