Commentary: Even a chronic klutz can get fit in 2010
Some people are born to run and others are made to run. The last time I was made to run was in fourth grade.
It was, in retrospect, the heyday of the Kennedy administration. The young president had translated his athletic family values into presidential physical fitness tests created with the best intentions and conducted at public schools including mine.
Fourth grade was the year when my feet and my brain were on different frequencies. Bloody scabbed Band-Aided knees were the casualty. I was fat, uncoordinated and physically awkward. The last one picked for the team; the permanent ender in jump rope.
The various physical fitness tests, from what I can recall, confirmed the worst. I was unfit and ill-equipped to compete physically. Duh.
My attitudes about physical fitness were ingrained further by years of humiliating PE class. While PE-For-The-Unfit-Klutz builds character – the daily humiliation and endurance are preparation for the stresses of grown-up life – it does not instill a lifelong love of physical activity.
This year, a new young president is making physical fitness a priority. President Obama is encouraging Americans to become healthier through physical activity of any kind. The Web site http://www.presidentschallenge.org suggests, “There is a wealth of scientific evidence showing that as little as 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity (equal in intensity to brisk walking) done on most, if not all, days of the week has substantial health benefits for adults.”
It doesn’t have to be walking. From aerobics to yoga, lacrosse to motocross, snow shoveling to skydiving, handball to hacky sack, Pilates to paddleball, the President’s Challenge offers nearly 100 activities. The challenge, through the Web site, is a six-week competition beginning in May to record activity. But it also is a handy Web-based tool to help track progress made toward better physical health.
Walking: That’s exercise that I do enjoy. And so does Peter Orszag, the director of President Obama’s Office of Management and Budget in Washington, D.C. In October, when he rang in the federal fiscal New Year, Orszag launched a voluntary office-wide competition to log pedometer steps and beat the boss at his fitness game. Pedometers can increase physical activity by up to 27 percent, according to a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The bean counters of government are now walking the talk.
The struggle to become fit is ongoing, never an accomplishment, always a goal. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” said Lao-tzu. In my new year, the journey toward physical fitness is beginning with a single step, recorded on a pedometer.
• Abby Johnson is a resident of Carson City, and a part-time resident of Baker, Nev.