The Lesson of a Late Bloomer

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I was a late bloomer to the whole concept of athleticism. I loathed gym class back in junior high so much that in high school I took up band just so that I could use the fall football marching season as a PE credit. Silly as it sounds, the whole thought of donning gym attire and attempting to do what never came natural to me was terrifying. However, looking back after 30 years or so, I wonder why I hated doing what I have come to adore these days--being active.

When I was 67 pounds heavier, walking was beginning to become a chore, and tying my shoes was even tougher. There I was: age 43, with hypertension and heart disease in full bloom, feeling as though I were much older. Not only did I feel older, I looked older AND acted older, too.

On February 9, 2005, I jumped on my elliptical at home and logged in 10 minutes worth of activity. I can honestly say those were the longest 10 minutes of my life. I literally felt as though my heart was going to jump out of my chest, while my lungs burned with every breath as I slowly watched each second tick away. I did this not once, not twice, but three times a day. It was truly the only way I could accumulate the 30 minutes a day worth of activity.

I continued each week until I could log a little longer time each session. By the end of May I was able to do 30 minutes at one time. But then the dreaded plateau hit, the first of many. So I decided to up my time to 45 minutes, then to an hour.

November 2005. Nine months into my journey, I decided to join a gym. I can’t tell you how nervous I was walking up the stairs to the gym floor. I felt as though I had a sign around my neck that read, “Newbie on board. Has no clue what she is doing.” But the funny thing is, no one said a thing. Many people smiled and made eye contact, but no one remarked to me that I was too old or too fat to be there.

As the weeks and months progressed, I made lots of new friends and not one person has ever told me that I could NOT do anything. In fact I was probably my biggest obstacle when it came to trying a new activity.

When I took up running in March 2006, I was determined to become a runner. As many of my running mates have learned, when I was in 6th grade many, many years ago, I was unable to complete the Presidential Fitness Run portion that would allow me to get the much coveted Presidential Fitness patch. It wasn’t that I didn’t get the patch that hurt so much but having the PE teacher tell me that I would NEVER be a runner. She probably had no clue at the time how stinging her quick comment was to an influential 12-year-old , but it was, and it stayed with me for a very long time. Each and every race that I run to this day allows me to prove that I AM A RUNNER.

While I never knew what happened to the PE teacher, the words stuck with me for well over 33 years until I crossed my first finish line--and then I knew I WAS A RUNNER! No matter how many years pass, believe that you can knock down the roadblocks that others put in your way of reaching your goals.

And PLEASE be careful what you say to your kids...while the intentions may be well-meaning, children may not understand the context in which they were intended and this may have a lasting impression on them.

Did you have anyone say something hurtful to you that has kept you from meeting your goal(s)? Has anyone made a comment to your child that has had a lasting impression, if so what did you do to help your child through the obstacle? Do you believe people intentionally say things in a hurtful manner thinking that this will inspire you to change?

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To the gal whose boyfriend said she was too fat to kickbox -- YOU CAN DO IT -- there are some awesome kickboxing DVDs available. This is a great thread. I can relate all too well. Thanks for your honesty gang. Report
When I was in high school, I played all the sports. That fact is the only thing that makes me different in this story. If you asked me when I was 18, I'd say I was not a runner. My knees were sacrificed for everything. I was a catcher who took many softballs in the kneecaps. I slid into home plate. I slid into the bleachers to save a ball in basketball and volleyball. When I graduated, I played 2 semesters of college volleyball and then quit college. I started work and for about 10 years, didn't do anything physical and my clothes just got bigger and bigger. I joined a gym, tired of being fat and refusing to buy bigger sizes. I busted my butt working out and lost 50 pounds my first year and decided I wanted to become a trainer. I taught a group training class for a year and had my class do a 5k run for another client of mine who was head of the committee running the race. That was my first run/walk. Now, 5 years later, my goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I will be running my 3rd marathon in Disney in January. I have run enough 1/2 marathons to cover 2 walls of my dining room with pictures, certificates, and medals. No, I have never come in first place, not even in my age group. But I run, and I am a runner. I may never win a trophy or a prize, but I win everytime I cross the finish line. I win twice as much when I see my once over weight clients cross the finish line. Jay Foonberg, a 72 year old runner, once said "When I do the best I can with what I have, then I have won my race." You also can't finish what you don't start. Report
I always preferred books or music to doing anything athIetic. I played ill during gym class... especially in junior high. I was usually the last kid picked. I would write notes to get out of class and sign my mom's name. That almost lasted a whole school year until I got caught.

Now in my late 40's I find I enjoy doing athletic stuff. Walking, the Wii. I'm thinking of going to LA Boxing next spring. I like the boxing and Tae-Bo type of stuff. I've slowly found my inner Misty May Treanor.

Great blog! Thanks! Report
It was clothes for me -- not having much of a waist as a child (or now). I remember shopping with my mother. I'd put on a pretty shirtwaist dress (this was in the 50's) and turn to my mother to see how it looked. I could see from her face that it wasn't good and she'd hustle me out of one dress into the next. I hated shopping and she clearly found shopping for me a trial.

It's interesting to me now that I focussed on her face, not the mirror. She was a very loving woman, but this was an area where she let me down in self esteem, although she did impart a sense of style and knowledge of quality. Now I often take my husband with me. Like most men he doesn't enjoy shopping, but can go straight to an outfit that looks good on me. Great quality in a man!

As soon as I finish here, I decided to go to Coldwater Creek's sale, which I have been putting off, not being sure just why. Thanks for the self-knowledge. Report
I too had someone say something in passing that was very hurtful and I remember to this day. My sister got us little girls a t-shirt that said "future fox" on the front. The PE teacher said to another teacher "Don't they mean future dog", of course they were laughing. I was crushed and never wore that shirt again. I remember my sister asking why I haven't worn the shirt and I always blew her off with some excuse.
I know what that jerk said was not true but if affects me still today, as I know I don't look like a model, but it is hard not to hear that recording in your head over and over. Report
Adults have to choose their words carefully when dealing with children, and treat them with respect! Case in point: my high school guidance counselor told my best friend that she was too smart to follow her passion for cooking rather than entering an academic field. Almost 7 years friend is 6 months away from either of two bachelors degrees and has decided not to finish either so she can finally go to cooking school. Some advice, right? Never flat out tell a child that she can't or shouldn't do something unless it would be truly harmful. Respect kids enough to realize that sometimes they really do know what's best. Report
Thanks! Every bit of inspiration helps! Report
What a great post.
I too remember starting out walking/running and I thought a half a mile was going to make my lungs fall out of my body! My legs used to ache like crazy. Now I am amazed at how far I can go. The body is an amazing gift. Report
It is funny how this particular article brought memories rushing in. I was never heavy and weighed about 104 until I was in my early 20's....but growing up, my mother constantly told me that I would be fat and that I would always have problems with my weight. I was wearing a size 2 at the time...makes me wonder what was going through her mind at the time. She was always heavy, as far back as I can remember. I have a sister that is 4 yrs older than I and I never remember her saying things like that to her. I still wonder how those comments affected me and my struggle with weight now. I read these stories and it just amazes me at the callousness of people. I have 4 children and I do believe each one of them can do whatever it is they want to do. They are all 4 beautiful wonderful people in their own right, and I hope and pray that they do not experience people pushing down their hopes and dreams.....anyway, just had to let it out! Report
What an inspirational story, Nancy! I was not well coordinated as a child and I remember my over-protecting Mom telling me that I was too *clumzy* for doing anything physical (I should stay still because I could hurt myself again...) and being panicked when I was sweaty from playing around...

Although I am in my 40s now, she was still acting the same way last spring - she was home visiting - when I came back from a long RUN... LOL Report
I usually played ill when I had Gym class. My Public school gym teacher was focused on sports big time and only paid attention to those who were great athletes.
When I got into Highschool I was thinner but still not into gym....I had my period 3 or 4 times a month (not sure if my teacher ever noticed)
He was a great gym teacher, gave us all a chance. But most times I was embaressed to try things. I was afraid people would laugh when I couldn't do it.

Once I hit 20 I became an exercise freak! Loved walking, aerobics, anything. I loved going to the gym so much I went everyday! Then I gained weight and didn't like it so much.

But now I'm back at it. I am very active everyday and I feel great. Report
I never liked gym class because I was always slightly overweight and uncoordinated. When the class would do sports and had to choose teams I was always among the last ones to be picked. The comment made that had the most lasting effect on me though was made by a home economics teacher when I was in the 7th grade. We were discussing healthy meal planning and we had to write down what we ate for meals for a few days, then bring it in to the class and we would go over them. Growing up in a family of 9 kids and one paycheck, we ate a fair amount of pasta because it was cheap. When she went over my menus, she said that is way too much starch, no wonder you are kind of chunky. I was always pretty shy anyway and that comment embarrased me terribly. I hated that teacher after that, and even though it was 40 years or so ago I still remember it. Report
I hated PE as well, not so much because of the stuff we were doing but because of the other students. The only sport I was gifted at and had no problems with was football, if it was any other sport - I couldn't catch it or throw it or I'd trip doing it. Kids would make fun of me or pick me last because of it and I began to hate every second of P.E., all the way clear up to high school.

That feeling never left until I hit my mid 20's but still took until my late 20's to truly seep into my brain that if I workout, I won't end up with the problems my family has because of weight .

Another thing that fuels me to to find away to work out is a boyfriend once told me that I was too fat to learn kickboxing. I still want to learn it and will one day, when either by miracle someone starts teaching it here or I move to a town that does offer a class in it. Report
Wow...I forgot about that presidential patch. I think I still have mine. I got it by the skin of my teeth. Gym class was the beginning of my career as the class clown. Better to make fun of myself first...lot's of laughs. right.
Even now...I brace myself for all the klutz jokes...even though I laugh along.

Thanks for having the courage to share your story. Report
When I was about 9 years old, an uncle said 'look at the gut on that girl, she looks 5 months pregnant.' Needless to say that has stuck with me even when I weighed 102 lbs at graduation - I felt FAT. Since being on SP at 56 and losing almost 15 lbs and down pant sizes - I actually feel thin at 157. I know I have a ways to go - and I also know that I can do it... The Teams encouragement, however large or small has really helped with the self esteem. It seems strange but it helps - even when activity is sometimes low on the forums. Of course the tracking food and exercise keeps the accountability on track. Thanks SP. Report
My husband used to tell me it was okay to be obese tat I would never be thin again and that made me give up alot until I realized he was a jerk trying to keep me sick. His philosophy isn;t if you love something set it free... he believes if you love someon cripple them so they can't get away!! I don't care what he says anymore.
He also told my son repeatedly that he was a meathead until my son told me one day he couldn't do anything becaues he's stupid! He's only 4!!!
My husband and I are now separated and my constant reassurance to my son and praise when it is earned and genuine is quickly erasing those scars. Report
I used to think I was an utter klutz - until, taking a judo class in my late 30s, I was taught the right way to fall and went on to learn how to do all kinds of interesting things requiring a fair amount of dexterity, including a rolling jump through a held hoop followed by a summersault to a standing position and catching a thrown rubber knife in midair all as one move :). While I'm genetically less flexible than many, and had to work pretty hard to get to that stage, the real issue was that I had let my mental memory of grade school early failures (which stemmed from poor instruction, I believe) hold me back. Nancy, it's great you're a runner now! Report

I, too, hated PE. My best friend and I hid out in the back row of our PE class and I had a bad habit of "cramping" during the rough stuff. Now, it's hard for anyone to believe I actually WAS that young girl. (grin) Go figure!

Cee Report
I'm inspired to do better. I hated PE, but loved dancing. For some reason, I've stopped all activities thinking that I dont have time. Its probably a combo of laziness, working long hours, and raising children. As of today, no more excuses.... Report
I don't even want to begin to tell the things I did to get out of PE...I remember one time when we were supposed to be jumping hurdles!!! I slipped on something and slide under the hurdle...I was covered in mud and everyone pointed and laughed...or at least I thought they did!!! !!! I was moritfied!!! But like Nancy, today I am a RUNNER and I laugh whenever I run by that park !!! Thanks for sharing your story have no idea what an inspiration you are!!! Jackie!!! Report
I was one of those kids that was always good at the sports we played in school. Because I was a little bit bigger, I was always picked toward the end, usually just before the completely uncoordinated kids. My team ALWAYS won. I was a competitor and it always took a few weeks of gym class before the other kids started to realize.

I never had anyone say anything that discouraged me from doing anything. I was just lazy and didn't do much for exercise outside of the occasional sport, gym class or marching band. Now that I'm getting into great shape everyone is jealous of me!! Report
I agree about this article. Like the author, I also was not very active in my school years and I regret it now. However, it is never too late. I am very comfortable in the gym now and feel great when I take a class. Report
Catapos that is so funny about the accounting professor and I would like to say that not everyone is meant to be a teacher, I am taking some accounting courses now and I am having the same problem with my professor he has no idea how to teach and he says all the time not everyone is meant to be an accountant. He teaches like everyone already knows exactly what they are doing and anytime you have the wrong answer or a question he just well the answer is right here what do you not understand, there are free tutoring sessions for the course and I understand that professor perfectly well, gee perhaps because she actually teaches! Report
While I don't recall anyone saying anything about my physical appearance, I do remember a college prof telling me that "not everyone is meant to be in accounting." Yeah, well, 20 years later I can say I have made a living doing just that! She just SUCKED as a teacher. Report
I too hated the thought of going to gym class, but now that I think back it wasn't because my classmates teased me but because the teacher always gave me the vibe that he knew I wasn't very athletic and didn't want to waste his time on trying to help me get better at any athletic activities. As well, I have two brothers that are very skinny and I always felt like my mom was so much more proud of them than she ever was me and it was like she was embarrassed by me just because I was the fat kid. She never told me that but I can remember calling her at work and I had to leave a message with someone and I said it is her daughter and the lady on the phone said oh I didn't know she had a daughter hmm I just thought she had two sons, my mother had worked there for years but never once mentioned me. Report
Nancy, like you, I was about the same age when my PE teacher told me that it must be because my parents golfed that I was such a good "putter" (in the context of running). I also never thought I would ever be a runner, but proved him AND MYSELF when I started the C25k program in 2006. Now I've run 10k races and even one half-marathon. I'm not sure who's statement held me back more, his or my own after hearing his. Now I am not so afraid of setting goals. Spark People have given me the tools to take baby steps toward completing them - no matter how big they are or how long it will take to complete them.

I love SP! Report
As a child, I was always overweight. It was cultural -- my mom & dad were Chinese immigrants and thought it was good to be overweight. It meant you had more than enough to eat. Well, when I was in grade 6, I finally lost most of that fat, but I was still a bigger girl (I have a big frame). Another girl in my class said to me, "You know, you're not fat, but you're not skinny." That still stings today. Now at 5'3" and 125 pounds, there's still a little part of me that thinks I should be "thin" even though I'm so much healthier than when I started this journey on SP in June 2008. So I guess I still have a ways to go to prove to myself that I'm "athletic". Report
Thanks for the inspiring story Nancy! I have just gotten into running and unfortunately it was myself that had always said I was not a runner. I've had to prove myself wrong. Those comments, no matter who they come from, can really affect you and stay with you. Report
I was never very athletic as a child. I remember running in high school. I could run a few miles and actually enjoyed it. I wanted to run in a race, but my parents told me there was no way I'd ever finish. I quit running. Now, I have a "Little Sister" that is 12 years old. She isn't fat, but not thin either. She told me that her gym teacher told her she looks three months pregnant! She also said she told another student in front of the class that she was obese and her mother was too. We talked about how much more effective it would have been for both of them if she would have encouraged her students to exercise and made it fun, rather than making them feel bad. You would think a good teacher would realize that this is a time in their lives she could instill a positive view of health and fitness, rather than making them dread gym class. Report
Congratulations, Nancy, what a great story! I was a short kid 2 years younger than everyone else in high school and the PE teachers always wanted to flunk me but the other teachers wouldn't let her. I don't like running but LOVE classes at the gym which I started doing religiously around the age of 40. Now at 60 I kick box, box in a studio, do weights sculpting classes, cardio salsa, high impact aerobics, Muy Thai boxing, step, Pilates, skipping, plyometrics and whatever else my gym offers . Most of my classmates are at least 20 years younger and give off fabulous energy but they say I jump higher and faster than any of them. I'm finally able to admit that I'm an "athlete" in my own way. So sad that my PE teachers were unable to tap into that earlier. Report
I avoided PE class as well like it was the plague. I tried it on a few occasions and ended up being so embarrassed for messing up. People would taunt me and tease me so bad I didn't want to go back to school. I'm now 42 and I suffer from social phobias that keep me from hardly ever going out. I'm working on changing that, but the experiences of my childhood still affect me every single day. Report
I was never athletic either... actually seeing myself as completely inept and clumsy. But in the last year, I found that I have a love (and now craving) to be physically active.

I have begun running and it really just happened slowly and sort of incidentally when I bored with walking, I wanted to go faster... so I just started until now I can run 3 miles! Report
This story reminds me of my high school music/debate teacher. He was the one teacher I actually learned from. He knew that books and tests didn't tell us what we needed to know, so he taught us so many more things about life in general. One day we were all frustrated with ourselves so he told us the story about one of his teachers. She told him he would never amount to anything and that he shouldn't even bother going on to college. So what did he do when he became a teacher? He actually called her, and said "You were right, I didn't amount to anything. I became a teacher, just like you!" Of course, it made us all laugh... but more than that, it made a point. Report
As a child I was diagnosed with deslexia. My Mother always treated me as if I was unable to do anything. As I grew up she continued. When I decided to go into the medical field she didn't incourage but, told me I didn't know what I was getting into and that it wasn't a good idea. Well, I decided to go for it. I did and finished the top of the class. They also used a few of my papers as teaching tools. When I graduted one of my teachers walked over to my Mother and told her that just because I had deslexia just mean that I was dumb or not able to do anything that I put my mind to. From that point on my mother realized what I could do. I am now a Office Manager of a Doctors Office and I love what I do and helping others.
Just because someone looks different or the skin is different dosen't mean we are. We all hurt the same and feel the same when someone does something mean. Since then I have incouraged my son. Telling him what ever you set your mind on you can do and remind him of the little train said " I think I can!"
You really hit the nail on the head. I remember the agonizing fear of gym class, and now I wonder why I was such a baby. Still its not easy but I am taking those first steps and hopefully someday I will be running along side you!! Report
What a great, great story runner! You have gumption and spunk and look what you made happen! I wasn't an athlete either - until I was in my late 30's - and after I had gained weight and was diagnosed with breast cancer. I've been a runner for the last five years. And, I'm so thankful that we can run! All the best - Kathy Report
I never got it from PE teachers. In fact, most of them really appreciated how hard I tried. They knew that if they turned their backs on the track, everyone else would take up walking, while I would jog for as long as I could, walk a leg, then start jogging again.

My main thing, I think, was my father's "compliments". Somehow, he could give a compliment in such a way that instead of building you up, you felt worthless. Backhanded, I guess you'd say. Like "look how pretty you're getting, now that you've lost those 15 lbs." Like I was hideous before and weight was all that mattered. Given that he's the one who started me on the Clean-Your-Plate Club, it was really a hard thing to deal with. Report
Um, yeah. I remember cruising down the slide at the hotel pool, and splashing into the pool at the bottom. When I surfaced, my dad was cracking up. "All I saw were these thunder thighs coming down the slide!" I was mortified. That was 15 years ago, you'd think I could let it go. Sadly, I will probably always think my thighs are too fat. Report
Although I'm not overweight now and haven't been for years, when I started developing as a pre-teen I became heavy and ungainly almost overnight. I was an ungainly, fat teenager and didn't lose the weight until I entered college. I think that age is the worst time to be fat. As a young, developing girl hearing hurtful comments such as "thunder thighs" and "chub wub" have stuck with me up until now. I got it from kids at school and from my own siblings. The irony is now I am, by far, the skinniest in my family, but I am still obsessed with my body and my body image. I think it's because of what I went through back then. Yes, those hurtful comments will stay with you for life. I don't think I will ever be satisfied with the way I look.

I do have to say one thing though. I did not let the negative comments stop me from being active. In fact, it may be that they spurred me on to become very fit and active and thus lose the weight. Even as an overweight teenager, I was very active but I loved food too much. Now, I eat much healthier. Report
I don't like the gym, I still hate sports, I despise running. I am not an athlete. But... I am a dancer. I always wanted to dance as a kid, but my parents wouldn't let me take dance classes. They would've let me take any sport if I wanted to, but no dancing. I started taking belly dance classes five years ago and I adore it. I AM a dancer. I've learned that being active and living passionately is the key to being healthier and happier. If running makes you joyful, then run, if dancing makes you joyful, dance. Just find the thing you want to do and do it as often as you can. When you're busy living life, then you're not thinking about your body's flaws. You're enjoying life and that's what we're here to do! Report
Wow this really brought back memories. Thanks for sharing. Report
Thank you so much for this post. I have been told by my mother ever since 2nd grade that I was fat and not good enough. Finally, after college I was able to move 200 miles away. This distance has allowed me to break down some of the emotional barriers to my success and have since lost 30 pounds (since May). I am happy for that accomplishment, and I hope that I too can become even more of a late bloomer and prove to her and myself, that I can overcome. :) Report
thru out high school I had a bunch of girls that would pick on me i hated school so bad so when it cam to phy-ed when we had to swim i would say i had my period so i didnt have to swim. I was teased alot because the way i looked and dressed.kat 10-24-08 Report
I hated gym class, but the teacher was supportive. I felt like we were both outsiders, because she was a gay woman and I was overweight. (She had to be way careful about everything, never came close to the locker room, never provoke the girls, because they were always saying among themselves that they could just say she was looking at them and get her fired.) She never made fun of me, and often tried to encourage me even when I came in last after every run. I started high school over two hundred pounds. The girls made fun of me so much that in the locker room I changed inside of a bathroom stall. Even at 150 pounds, I was larger than every other high school girl. Amazingly, my attitude then was extremely positive. I never felt like I was just a fat person, because I accomplished academically and socially. Even though I know more women my size now, I feel like my unhappiness about my weight has more to do with a deeper unfulfillment about being an adult, and losing the opportunity to go to school and learn so many new things every day. I've started taking night classes in website design, and I've noticed it's allowed me to also take better control of my weight. Report
I have always been into sports, although I had problems with my bones, broke three before high school. I could not pass the physical to play on the school team, put I play outside the school. However, I think my dh was the real one who cause me to get off my plan. He would laugh, make fun, ask why I needed group meetings, etc. if I knew what to do. Looking back, I realize he just didn't care or just didn't understand. I am so thankful for SP. Report
Wow. It's heartbreaking to hear so many stories of how we were "beat up" as kids... what a lesson for me, for all of us, to think before we speak. I remember when I was about 12 (what an AWFUL age, regardless) my beloved grandma (from whom I totally get my body type--shorter and curvy) squeezing my bicep and making a comment about being a bit "husky." I was 5'3" and probably 115 lbs... hardly overweight! But it's stuck with me, forever; I'm pushing 40 and STILL very self-conscious about my upper arms. Amazing. May we all think before we speak, especially to the beloved children in our lives. Report
I didn't recognize I liked to exercise till I was 38. I was one of those 'always picked last' people on the teams. That definitely stuck with me and I did feel it was an all or nothing type of mentality- you were either great or terrible. I live for exercise now, but I think the adult world of exercise is much friendlier. Report
I, too, did all I could to get out of PE. To this day, I dislike organized sports. I don't have a competitive bone in my body, and I dislike watching or playing sports more than any other activity on the planet. My response when people try to make small talk about sports: "Sports don't exist in my world."
For that reason, I shied away from the gym for years. Now I'm finally gaining confidence. Just because I'm not a competetive athlete doesn't mean I can't be fit.

Teachers can and do say hurtful things. When we were drawing the 3 wise men on their camels in the 4th grade, my teacher told me mine looked like dogs. In our class spelling bee, I came in 2nd. She told me, "I KNEW you couldn't win!" I wish I knew where she was now. I may not have won my class spelling bee, but my daughter went to the National Spelling Bee twice! Report