It’s time I confess. I’ve been silent for too long. For the sake of other sufferers and the welfare of humanity as a whole, I am coming forward.
As long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with a debilitating condition, a condition that affects my daily life and the lives of many others. It’s a prevalent, often snubbed and painfully embarrassing condition known as Gymophobia.
Gymophobia is a serious disorder affecting a person’s ability to function in school PE classes, in gyms across the country or walk anywhere near the fitness equipment aisle at his/her local big box store. Symptoms of this condition include a hive like rash when exposed to physical education classes of any sort including those in the school system and those for adults, i.e. “aerobics”, “step classes”, “zumba” etc. Fainting may occur when near athletic facilities. The affected person will likely use stealthy ninja skills to avoid athletic activity. In the most severe cases, victims (who shall remain nameless) have resorted to self-inflicted injuries to avoid anything to do with a ball.
Gymophobiacs have a fear of athletic endeavors, athletic facilities or anything that remotely resembles any of the above. They run from anyone with a whistle around the neck or muscles larger than an average person’s fist. Those who suffer from early onset Gymophobia often have coexisting conditions such as clumsiness and lack of coordination. In severe cases, the person is unable to distinguish fitness equipment from everyday items such as paint scaffolding and step ladders.
Rest assured athletically gifted people, Gymophobia is serious. Even work out videos have been known to trigger episodes of rage and frustration often leading to broken VCRs and further injury to self-esteem.
I’m here to dismiss the naysayers and the myth makers. I’m here to tell PE coaches everywhere that we are people too. Gymophobia cannot be taken lightly nor can you motivate a Gymophobiac by insisting they “just give it a try”. Multiple injuries have occurred from these types of “interventions”. And believe me, you CAN get hurt playing ping-pong and it is possible to get tangled in a badminton net. And no, not everyone can play kickball without kicking another person in the head.
So why now? Why now would I bring this condition to light? Because I, lifelong Gymophobiac, joined a gym. The extra pounds won the battle. They actually motivated me to face my fears, address the problem and fight for those hidden under the benches in PE locker rooms across the country. I signed the appropriate waivers, closed my eyes, and forced myself to step through the doors. I waited for the shocked onlookers to compose themselves. But I could have never imagined what happened next.
I completed a 60 minute workout including weight training and cardio and did not die. Believe me when I tell you this was a real possibility given my intense Gymophobia. I only got stuck in two machines, tripped over my own feet once and mistakenly thought all the stationary bikes were broken. (In my defense, who knew you had to start peddling for the digital display to come on? Seriously.)
When I was done, I heard cheering in my head. I just knew I was going to get my name on the wall or at least be asked for my autograph. But while the departure from the gym was uneventful, in my mind I was having one heck of a party. If only for a season, my Gymophobia was in remission. All it took was deciding to face a fear that had held me captive for years. Proudly I embraced the new me and vowed to help my fellow Gymophobiacs by showing it can be done. We just need to be motivated by something other than field day, school requirements, or team building. And we may need to wear bubble wrap to the gym itself.
If my PE coaches could see me now. Someone give me a whistle. It will go brilliantly with my cape…which, incidentally, I did not wear to the gym… yet. J
Greater is He Who is in you, then he who is in the world. 1 John 4:4 (KJV)