After the three week Practicum block I was feeling really well. I had spent three weeks doing nothing but eating, sleeping, and writing lesson plans, and while I was really looking forward to a break from that hectic schedule, I was really proud of myself and happy with my Practicum experience. Stepping back into our regular class timetable I found that I had a lot of free time, so when my sister invited me to go to the Trent Athletics Centre with her, I eagerly accepted.
It’s intimidating going to the gym yourself, and I attribute that to the copious amounts of open space, so that no matter where you stand it feels like everyone can see you. I’ve always been more comfortable at the swimming pool (where I hope the Lifeguard is watching me to stop me from drowning) or in one of the private studios where I’m much less obvious. And I think that this is a common response to the gym, which is why my sister asked me to go; after all, there is strength in numbers.
So the two of us went and she led me around, giving a brief tour. We started our workout on the treadmill, increasing our heart rates. Then we proceeded to complete her Rugby Fitness Plan for the day, which nearly killed me. What I noticed during this first trip to the AC was that this odd feeling of being highly visible didn’t fade, and it didn’t matter what piece of equipment we were using. I attribute this on-display feeling to my unfamiliarity with the gym in general and with the Trent AC specifically; having returned there a few times since this first trip the feeling has diminished but is still present. I also wonder if it’s because I do not identify myself as an athlete or a fitness person. Brooke does not go to the gym, therefore she is out of place and everyone here knows. I may very well have looked out of place at times (sitting on the stability ball drinking water while my sister did stability ball planks, for example), but it is highly unlikely that everyone around me was silently thinking this and staring at me. It is far more likely that they didn’t notice me at all, engrossed in their own workouts as I probably ought to have been!
This experience has caused me to self-reflect, and try to understand how I consider myself athletic. While I might not yet be a “gym person” I am a runner, and I have never felt out of place or self-conscious doing that. I am also a yogi, and there is no place for insecurities on my mat. My goal is to keep going to the AC this year, and push myself to be more comfortable in that space. This will help me build my confidence and help me incorporate athletics into my identity.
This experience has reminded me what it feels like to be insecure as a student in physical education classes. I can remember refusing to participate simply because I knew I was below average, and I didn’t want my friends to know. My beep test was slow. My push-ups were weak. My dancing was uncoordinated. Everyone would laugh. Then we’d all be weighed and measured for height, and our heart rate would be recorded. “Brooke, your heart rate is really high. Is that normal?” Well, it’s probably because you just called out two of my greatest insecurities in front of our entire class.
Who does that to children? As a teacher of Physical Education, I will make it my goal to empower my students at every opportunity. I will never measure them, or make them think that their body defines their self-worth. I will teach them how to exercise in a healthy way, and provide them with diverse forms of exercise and physical activity so that they can find one that they enjoy. I will push them out of their comfort zones just enough that they know they can be successful in anything they set their minds to. I will value them for what they bring to the table, and for the personal growth that they show me. And I will tell them this story, because we’re all human, and we should all be athletes.