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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YMWONG22 3/6/2020
Thank you. Report
I was never very good at PE as a kid, teen. Last choice for teams. Very uncoordinated and maybe some balance issues. By high school, the fitness tests were exhausting and a joke. I would even have gym teachers excuse me from gymnastic parts of a class. I was eventually given a permanent Dr.s excuse when I kept getting fairly sick in high school. In college I took easy stuff to meet requirements and barely passed - like golf, swimming, first aid; As an adult in mid forties I finally wanted to inspire my homeschooled daughter and did a lot of exercise videos with her. Now, I still exercise - different things at different times. but still no teams. Strongly prefer self paced , individual exercise. Report
RAPUNZEL53 2/3/2020
Great article. Report
Thanks! Report
I not only marched in the marching band in high school to avoid PE, I repeated that bad behavior in college. That poor clarinet playing got me out of many PE classes, but now I regret it.
Sticks and stones may break my bones
...but words will forever hurt me Report
You are truly an over comer and motivator. You rock!! Report
As so many has said previously in response to this post. Yes words do sting and even now I am still realizing so many of my hang ups with weight stem from some negative childhood stigma I've carried around with me. Up to today I am still discovering things that I had no idea affected the way I live my life today. Report
I have a sister who was always very thin, just had a different body type than I did. So even though I was not heavy as a kid, I always looked bigger compared to my sister. My brothers would call me fat, my mother called me the 'bigger daughter' and that image stayed in my head. I later as an adult became very big, which doesn't surprise me, as I always felt huge as a kid. Looking back at photo's, I was not fat as a child and it makes me sad to think that I internalized those thoughts. Words do stick with you if said at an impressionable age. Report
Words that wound indeed!

Good for you though!

WOO HOO to a fellow runners! Report
This is one excellent blog post. I love exercising and moving and working up a sweat and challenging my cardiovascular system. As a kid, I hated this but I realize what I hated was gym class. Riding my bike around at home was fun but gym class was torture. Both of my husbands parents are PE teachers and talking to them, I realized that when I was a kid I was shafted in the physical education department. No encouragement whatsoever, just "you suck because you can't hit a baseball." No wonder American kids hate gym class and doing any physical activity in school. Report
Of all the posts that I have read on this site, this one has an incredible amount of heartfelt responses. Which means, hurtful and unthinking comments are a universal theme in our societies. How has our "civilized" culture, turned so nasty? Moreover, how is it that we allow other's thoughts of ourselves to manipulate our view of oneself and neglect our own ability to discern for ourselves? Peer pressure has taken a significant turn for the worse with the invention of mass media, twitter, blogging, advertising...

Yet, in all of this, there are pockets of excellence, kindness, trueism and grace... Devout yourself to one small act of kindness a day, or a smile for a stranger, this small act, can change a person's day, can cause that individual to feel better about themselves, and to pass that kindness along to another.

Merry Christmas everyone!!! Report
Coming from a VERY negative family growing up, this blog really touched home with me. Thank you for sharing and for reminding all of us that what we say to someone is far reaching. Report
Oh the words that wound ... I remember when I was in 7th grade and we had moved out of state - my mom was registering me for the new school and the guidance counselor asked if I'd be playing any sports - I remember she said to him in kind of a hushed undertone "oh she's not athletically inclined". I'm sure she didn't mean to hurt me with those words, but they have stuck with me to this day and every time I had a gym class or tried something new at the gym, those words would beat in my head like a heartbeat Report
I was lucky with teachers they were always encourging of the few girls interested in sports activity back in the pre Title IX day (in my state no school was allowed to have girls competitive teams). The boys track coach allowed us to practice with the team, other teachers helped us organize "play days" which became intramural teams. Many of my peers however were very discouraging of any activity that involved sweat. Report
During elementary school, I fell rollerblading one weekend at the park. That following Monday one of the moms said 'I saw you fall on the weekend! You need some practice' or some such disparaging comment. I was so embarrassed! It was a long time before I got back on any kind of skates. Report
NEVER saddle kids with "predictions" - these have a dangerous way of often becoming self-fulfilling prophesies.

I'm thinking now of the story of Wilma Rudolph, the Olympic Gold Medalist runner, who was handicapped as a child and told by doctors she "would never walk" - at least her family had faith in her potential and expected she could possibly walk some day; look how far she went!

Children have a HUGE potential for achievement that we cannot really predict, and no skeptical adult should cause them to limit themselves.

Congratulations on now being A RUNNER! Report
I am not athletic and hate sports. I hated gym in school and was made fun of all the time. My father was abusive and said many hurtful things too. Weight has not been a major issue for me but other things have. I am inspired by your story. As an adult that wants to have a healthier life for my little angel Jacob and husband, I am trying to have a healthier diet and active lifestyle.
Thanks for story. Report
I, too, shunned exercise as much as possible for most of my life thus far. Thanks for the inspiration and telling me that it's never too late to become a fit person or even a runner. Right now, I can't imagine calling myself a real "runner" someday, but you give me hope. Report
Oh you have no idea! When I was in 3rd grade, my teacher didn't like me because I was from a "welfare-family". She regularly gave me low grades, even when I knew my answers were correct, and also encouraged the other students to make fun of me. It completely destroyed my childhood, as I became totally withdrawn and developed Social Anxiety Disorder and Paranoia so severe that I couldn't even walk, talk, or eat in front of non-immediate family. I turned to food for comfort and my weight spiraled out of control. I hated everything about myself and thought often of suicide.

Thankfully, I am almost normal now. I'm not necessarily outgoing, but I certainly don't abstain from most activities for fear or ridicule. The more I do, the more self-confidence I develop.

I'm glad you brought up the point of being careful what you say to kids. Their emotions are still developing, and they can take even the smallest comment to heart. Report
I'm guessing everyone has a story about someone in life that has told us that "we can't" or "we never will" be able to something. I think the most important thing to focus on is the fact that "we can" and "we will" ~ there is so much gratification, not to mention inspiration, in actions as opposed to words.

I have never been so inspired by anything as I am by Sparkpeople and the endless supply of "absolutely awesome" individuals that achieve their dreams daily!! Report
I had a similar thing happen. ANYONE who is a role model for kids needs to be more careful. Especially those involved in their everyday lives. I think constructive criticism might be alright, but the words used have to be encouraging!!!! It's great that you have finally overcome this and see yourself for all that you are. Thanks for sharing your story! Report
Argh! The horrible memories! The years of healing it took to be able to walk into a fitness center without an anxiety attack! I'm so happy to know now that fitness if for EVERYONE! Report
I can totally relate! I was overweight my whole life (in a family of skinny people) and has athsma so my parents wouldn't let me exercise. My mom did the best she could with what she knew, but hurtful comments came almost daily (I think she tried to shame me into losing weight...the problem was I was 6, 7, 8 years old, I didn't know how!). I remember asking to do ballet when I was about 7 and being told I would look ridiculous wearing ballet clothes so I couldn't do it. There were songs made up and names taunted (when I was in college my brother and his friends use to stick hay on my car and moo as I walked by:) It wasn't until the past 5 years or so that I realized this wasn't how most people grew me it was normal. Now I weigh the lowest I have ever weighed since I was 11 years old (30 pounds less than when I was 15...yep I looked it up:) I completed a half marathon in January and am signed up to complete a full marathon in May. I have read, learned, eaten, sweated, lifted and run and I daily try to get better so that I can leave the past behind and make the future as fit and healthy as possible:) I am a late bloomer...but better late than never!! Report
Awesome story! Thanks for sharing your journey with the rest of us. It is great that you found some people who were supportive of your efforts towards a healthy life. Congratulations on how far you've come. Report
My sister told me, "you never change." And I resolved myself to make a difference in my life. Right then I made a decision to not let her bullying affect me. Report
This reminds me of something my husband says ....
"The one thing you never outgrow, is your childhood"
So many issues we deal with are related to careless or thoughtless things that have been said, done, or ignored(not done) when we were children. A lot of my personal body image is directly related to things said by family....not that I'm trying to lay blame, just that it's taken a lot of years to understand some things about myself. Understanding often doesn't make it any easier to avoid the negative thinking, but it does give a chance to stop and say "WAIT....I'm NOT that KID!" Report
I can definitely relate. While no one from school said anything to me, the comments I got from my mother while growing have left me with some definite psychological as well as weight issues. Even as I'm losing weight now, my friends keep telling me "You don't even look fat" but the scale is what tells the truth. Now I'm losing this weight for me and no one else. My mom will always have her issues with my weight but I let her know how her comments affect me now. Most times she just tries to avoid the subject which is fine with me. It's amazing what you live with growing up. Report
Did you have anyone say something hurtful to you that has kept you from meeting your goal(s)?
I don't remember anyone saying to me, that I could not do something/anything. I have been the biggest obstacle in my life.
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?
I have had friend of my daughter's mother call her fat. I never knew about it until they were an adult. She looks back and says funny so-so daughter is fluffy(hmm).
Do you believe people intentionally say things in a hurtful manner thinking that this will inspire you to change? Some certainly do. Possibly because that is all they know, and think will work. But adults that have not been treated that way , are less prone to project that behaviour.
Great blog entry. Seriously. I'm young but I could still relate - when I first did my treadmill, 30 minutes was way too long - was taking a small break every five minutes. I've been a member for 3 weeks and now I'm finally up to 15 minutes at a time, a break to drink a glass of water and then my other 15 minutes. I'm hoping I soon get to do all 30 minutes in one go and then can start adding time. Your story is an inspiration. Report
I didn't even know I needed to hear a story like this, but now that I've read it, I am so grateful! Thank you! When I was younger, I always said I hated exercise. I think what I really hated was the competition that came with most sports. Also, I quit my only non-competitive sport (gymnastics) when I was about 10 because I thought I was too fat (a feeling I can thank many comments from my parents for). Now that I'm pretty "athletic", I've been regretting not getting more into sports when I was younger, but this blog makes me see that I should just be happy with my accomplishments and with where I am now. I can be a late bloomer and still be a legitimate athlete! Report
Sometimes it is not even the words. I am the oldest of three sisters. I do not consider myself an athlete, but I will say I am athletic. How can this be when I am a personal trainer and a triathlete? My dad spent years years wishing I had been a softball player. He toured the country with my sister. She was on two touring teams, plus her high school softball team. She was a GREAT pitcher. My middle sister was a great player, as well. She played both shortstop, and catcher. There are tons of girls softball photos. They were on teams from 6yrs on up until the end of high school. I unfortunately chose to be a swimmer. There was no money for a private team for me. My father did not make it to a SINGLE swim meet. My sport just didn't matter. I came close to quitting so many times. The sad thing is I graduated in 1983 and it still hurts. I have figured out that he is the voice of fear and doubt. Just in the last month, I realized I don't have to listen to the negative voice. I can let all the other people who have faith in me drown it out. I can dare to have faith in myself!!! Report
Nancy, you're not just a runner, you're the most awesome running coach for the 13.1 and Runner Girls United teams! I appreciate all of the information, advice, and encouragement on your posts. You've taken "runner" to the next level! Report
The Youth Choir Director was very frustrated because I 'could not' sing.
In his opinion my efforts, while meaningful, were distracting.

Forty years have passed since then and I still sing everywhere. LOL
I chuckle to think how many people would have missed my joyful sounds if the Director hadn't said anything.

Now by most standards I can't even carry a tune but that hasn't stopped me!!

Congratulations on your successes... Report
Back when I was in middle school, a teacher (!) told me that writers are born, not made. In other words, I wasn't born a writer, and could not be taught. It's curious that someone who taught for a living basically believed that people could not be taught. My education was full of such contradictions, but I survived, and I have been proving those teachers wrong ever since. Report
This story touched me deeply, as I am forever telling my grand children that "Can't" is a bad word.. As I read your story, I realized that I was the PE teacher for myself... Always telling myself that I will "never' be thin, or I "can't" stick to a diets, and even I "can't" drink water. As I am pushing forward with my journey, I am going to remind myself that "Can't" is a bad word... and I "can" do it all and have it all. Thank you so very much for sharing. ~ Joslinda/Tx Report
What horrible, thoughtless things people sometimes say to children.
Congratulations for proving that gym teacher wrong & for becoming a RUNNER!!!
Sue/TX Report
My mother used to bless me with opinions such as 'You got the brains, your sisters got brains AND beauty', and 'You'd be best be nice to your sisters, as you're going to be taking their scraps (left over men)'. It took me fifteen years to get over that, and realise I'm just as worthy of a great man as they are, and I'm pleased to say, I've got a great man all of my own. Report
I can relate so much to this story.....I felt the same my whole life...and had different means of being hurt surrounding it....but yes, I am a late bloomer too...and here I am after another LAPSE trying to get back on the ball with my exercising.....sheesh.

I know where you are coming from, I felt so much better then, when I was doing this....and I needed to read this today to remind myself why I need to start back up. Report
“Did you have anyone say something hurtful to you that has kept you from meeting your goal(s)?”

Yes of course. During school years it was all day, every day, year in, and year out. It was so constant and extensive, from both children and adults, that it became a form of torture. It was the kind of thing experienced and recounted by so many that I’m loath to even try to begin a recounting. It was the kind of thing that crushes whole lives… Let alone things so fragile as goals and dreams... It’s the accumulation of countless thoughtless and malicious acts that lead not only to the tragedy and horror of child and teen suicide, to violence and even mass homicide, but untold scores of lives stifled and only partially lived.

“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?”

I have no children. Children of my own are no longer a possibility. It’s just one of the things lost in my stifled and half-lived youth.

“Do you believe people intentionally say things in a hurtful manner thinking that this will inspire you to change?”

I believe people intentionally say things in a hurtful manner to gratify some selfish need of their own. Some of them use ‘tough love’ as an excuse for their behavior, true. But it is a lie. They do it because it in some way gives them pleasure to think they have the power to inflict pain on others.
I just crossed my first finish line! at 58 years was time !!!!! Report
This is a lesson I wish my dad would learn. He often told us we couldn't do something or something about ourselves (Like telling me I need to lose weight). He says he's doing it to be helpful, but it just hurts. Report
You ARE a Runner! You go Girl! Sorry that you had a mean PE teacher, she was a discredit to her profession! What a terrible thing to say to an impressionable young person. I'm glad that you were able to overcome the negative vibe! You are an inspiration to us all! Thanks for sharing! Report
what u say - leaves an imprint on heart
its not only kids but even to grown ups
please when talking to someone about anything, dont pass personal remarks - it really huts and stays for decades and decades
Great job nancy!!!!!!!!!!!! Report
I had the same experience, and only in the past few years have I found a love for being active. I never would have tried if it were not for my husband telling me I could do anything I wanted, and that I was being an athlete. I still struggle sometimes with feeling like I am back in school, and don't belong out with the "fit" active kids. I still have work to do weight and fitness wise, but who doesn't.

I had the same problem with PE teachers, I was asthmatic, and back then that meant no running. They said that I was just heavy (aka fat) and should try harder. That feeling that it was a personal shortcoming always stuck with me. I hope that teachers are more understanding now, especially with all the pressure girls are under to be thin. Report
Oh, Gawd, I hated PE! It was all about the stupid Presidential fitness award, and competitive sports, and I was a very tiny weenie-weight person who could never keep up. Only in high school, finally, did I get to try fun things like Jazzercise, swimming, and archery.

I did four years in marching band, and always maintained that it should count for PE credit. I gained 10 pounds my first year of college, just becausse I wasn't out there marching my butt off every morning. Report
Let's all do this: go find a pre-teen girl (whether you know her very well or not) and tell her that what others think of her is not that important! Tell her to follow her heart. Tell her that she can be whatever she wants to be, even though she may have to work hard at it and sacrifice sometimes. Let's not have another generation of girls growing into women filled with pain and regrets. Report
You reminded me of how much I really hated school. Back in the late 50's school was a lot different than it is now. I was raise by my grand parents. I never knew my fathre and my mother wasn't around much. So as far back as I can remember I was all ways fat. So nobody wanted to be friends with the fat girl, plus I wans't very pretty. So I was really an out cast growing up.I too hated gym with a passion. I was all ways to fat to run, I couldn't do most of the execises any ways. Then nobody wanted me on there team because I was to feeeat. Can you imagine being 9 years old having one friend, the kids would ask my friend to play but never me. I hated my myself back then, and my grandparents didin't understand why I was so unhappy. I think better of myself today, because this week my husband and I will celebrate our 43 anniversary.My husband has made me realize that it doesn't matter what people think about us. As long as we love each other nothing else matters. I also have had a girlfriend for 42 years, and she has all ways been there for me in the thick and thin prblems in our lives. Today we are both 61 years old and we still enjoyor lunching dates. Report
wow, thank you for sharing Report