Small children are active by nature. They run and jump, skip and play as naturally as adults walk and sit. In fact, small children tend to find it difficult to sit for very long.
I remember racing around our back garden with my little friend from next door, as well as climbing the tree that stood there (and tearing my clothes, to my mother’s chagrin). In primary school I was considered one of the best sprinters, and even came first in several races, both within the school and in inter-school competitions.
When I got to high school things changed. Like me, most of the girls in my class were small to begin with, but unlike the other girls, I did not grow to be tall and well-built, and have remained short and slight to this very day. I remember my father consoling me by saying that my ‘growth spurt’ would come later. But it never did.
When it was time to pick teams for the games of netball and hockey that we girls played in the summer, I was always one of the last to be chosen. We did not compete against one another on an individual basis, the emphasis always being on the team and ‘team spirit.’ That was something that did not appeal to me in particular, and the humiliation of being left to be among the last to be picked, left its mark on my psyche.
That was when I developed an antipathy towards sports, gym and exercise of any kind. The negative attitude towards me of our battleaxe-type gym teacher didn’t help, and after some years of suffering, my best friend and I found a simple technique for evading the hated activity. “Please, miss, I’ve forgotten my gym things,” was enough to excuse us from entering the hallowed parquet floor of the gym, and from running after a ball on the netball court or hockey field. This was our salvation, as we were instructed (as if this were punishment!) to walk around the playing field while the other girls played. This enabled us to engage in discussions about anything and everything under the sun, and has become one of my most treasured memories.
At university in England I steered a wide berth of all sporting groups, clubs and activities, most of which involved heavy post-game drinking in the pub. Upon arriving in Israel I was horrified to learn that undergraduates at the university were obliged to undertake some kind of sporting activity, and was immensely relieved to find that this did not apply to graduate students, of which I was one.
The years passed. I was busy with home and work and didn’t give a thought to physical activity beyond walking in and around Jerusalem’s picturesque neighbourhoods. About thirty years ago, however, the physician who was treating me suggested that I enroll in an exercise studio to help overcome a certain internal problem.
With great trepidation I did as he had suggested, though I insisted that I could only do very gentle exercises. As time passed I found that I became quite enamoured of my weekly exercise regime, and even went to the gym twice a week. The encouragement and psychological insight of the teacher, Uri Michaeli, helped me to become a real exercise enthusiast.
I moved to a different studio, Uri passed away many years ago, and today, as a retired person living outside Jerusalem I no longer exercise with a group. In my basement I have installed a treadmill, an exercise mat, and weights for legs and arms. I spend an hour every morning (except Saturdays) walking on the treadmill and performing the various other exercise routines I have acquired over the years. It gives me a chance to catch up on the daily TV news programmes and get my day started in what seems to be a positive way.. It makes me feel good, and in my opinion, without my exercise routine my body would have given up on me long ago.
And sometimes I think, if my high-school teachers could only see me now!