Unexpected Inspiration and Empowerment from P.E.

Warning: This blog may make you sweat or at least inspire you to get physical and we hope so even if it’s the Olivia Newton-John type of physical. In honor of National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, Go Inspire Go’s board member Marcia Estarija Silva was inspired to share her personal experience in hopes that you’ll be inspired to get your move on. I already went on my morning run today, but this inspired me to go on an afternoon walk and be in the moment while enjoying the 80+ degree weather. Bring a friend along for your journey and connect while getting some exercise. Then, share your experience in the comments and tell us how you’re getting your move on…

I recently did research at work on physical education (P.E.) in California’s public schools and what struck me most was that most schools don’t meet the state’s P.E. requirements. This problem isn’t unique to California. Budget cuts and the shifting of resources to help students get high test scores are big reasons why schools provide inadequate P.E. Many students aren’t getting the physical activity they need to develop good habits and maintain a healthy weight. There are also mental health benefits that students are missing out on.

This research project caused me to reflect on my own relationship with P.E. I had a chubby period in elementary school. I constantly ate candy and drank soda. I wore the same outfit for multiple days and had an awful poodle perm. Yes, I was a self-loathing pre-teen.

In elementary school, a game of kickball or “Red Rover” counted as physical fitness. It certainly didn’t seem like enough.

I had no idea that P.E. would be a big deal at my new junior high school. There was a “striping” awards program — if students passed fitness tests, they were given a white or gold fabric stripe to proudly affix to the side of their P.E. uniform shorts. I was not a “striper,” but I felt very connected to another P.E. activity.

We ran one-and-a-half miles every Friday and were graded not on speed, but on improvement. I wasn’t the fastest runner and it certainly wasn’t easy for me to run that distance, but it was worth it. I eventually lost those pre-teen pudgy pounds and my self-esteem improved. I felt optimistic and focused. Every aspect of my teen life improved, from increased extracurricular activities to stronger friendships to better grades. I knew that I owed some of this to that darned weekly run.

I talked to Javy, my friend since junior high, and we agreed that that period in our lives, ages 12-14, was one of our most impressionable. For him, it was a particular basketball game and the relationship with his coach. Javy missed ten foul shots and his team ended up losing the game by two points. He felt that the loss was entirely his fault. His coach didn’t disagree. Instead, his coach made Javy do an exhausting basketball exercise everyday, which seemed like a punishment. However, Javy’s self-esteem got a boost and he learned how to handle criticism and manage expectations, both internally and externally.

Who knew that physical fitness could be so complex and life-changing at age 13?

Whether your memories of P.E. are good or bad, hopefully you can step back and see how those experiences were essential to becoming who you are today. If you think today’s youth should have those same opportunities to be active and grow, inside and out, check out First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign to get ideas on what you can do in your community.

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