I made the most amazing discovery last week; so amazing that I was still thinking about it at 6.20am the next morning, as I bounced on a mini-trampoline in a room full of sweaty strangers. No doubt I had a strange smirk on my face, a combination of child-like glee at being on a trampoline before breakfast and remembering my discovery.
Last week, I joined a new gym (hence the trampolines at dawn). The lovely instructor took me through the sign-up procedure. I explained that despite usually having a reasonable dedication to exercise, I was probably quite unfit at the present as I’d injured my leg at the end of November. December is, of course, a fantastic month to barely be able to walk. As long as there’s a bowl of scorched almonds and some feel good Christmas television in reach, you’ll completely forget that you ever willingly left the house for the specific purpose of getting sweaty and uncomfortable.
The instructor explained that I would need to undergo a fitness assessment, so they could know quite where I was sitting on the couch-potato to gym-rat spectrum. The thought of any sports based assessment or test is a good way to get my cortisol levels soaring. You see, the talent gods can be cruel, and they smote me when it came to allocation of sporting ability. I have practically none. It’s not just a case of having average-person ability at most sports, it’s more like ‘oh dear god step away from the ball/bat/rink/field before you hurt yourself or others’ bad. This affliction is genetic. For a long time, I was under the mistaken belief that my father use to be on his high school first XV rugby team, until he confessed that he was actually the waterboy. My mother, bless, has often lamented that schools do not offer remedial sports classes, in the way they offer remedial literacy or numeracy classes. The unfortunate thing about being terrible at sports while you are at school is that such shortcomings are made very public. At least when you completely flunk out on a maths test, you do so with a little privacy. Failing again, and again to hit the ball at softball is a very special kind of public humiliation. I think my P.E. teachers found me quite an oddity. Not that I was poor at sports, that in itself is not unheard of, but that I kept trying. Every school report I have has something to the effect of ‘Freya tries at P.E.’ (with the implication ‘Freya tries, which is jolly commendable, but quite frankly we’re getting sick of leading her off to the sick-bay every time she takes a ball to the face.’)
I can swim however. I’m not necessarily fast, but my technique is good and I can go for while. It’s the only sport where I’ve felt ‘in the zone’ rather than just ‘in the pain’. Since high school, I’ve been actively searching for one other sport for which I have some natural ability. Volleyball ended poorly when I kept instinctively running away from the ball, handball was just too violent for me even to enter the court, and ice skating equalled bruised knees, shins, butt and ego. Skiing? Ask my poor friends who were with me a couple of years ago when I was so terrible at the beginners class, I stormed off before the group lesson had finished. Storming off a ski field in skis you can’t use is hard work, but as my friends said later, my feelings were made pretty clear.
And so, it was with great joy last Wednesday that I discovered something sporty that I’m actually quite good at. My fitness assessment included a stint on the rowing machine, which I had avoided for years because, well, it looked like hard work. My results though, prompted the instructor to be quite impressed. It seems I’m naturally good at the rowing machine. Apparently, even in my unfit state, my results were up there with an ex-rowers and generally sports-inclined people. Who knows, I may have had a fine career as a rower. But then maybe not. A talent for the rowing machine may not transfer to a boat, water, oars and other people. Best to take the victory as it is, and not risk adding more embarrassing stories to my repertoire of ‘Freya’s Sporting Follies and Failures’.