February 3, 2019

In elementary school, I got A’s in most classes. I sometimes turned assignments in late, before finally learning to use a planner in middle school, but my “creativity” earned me bonus points that made up for it.

The one exception was gym class, where I got C’s. For everyone else, it was the easiest class – for me, it was the hardest.

It didn’t have to be! But the types of games we played did not make exercise enjoyable to me, for several reasons.

  1. I was clumsy. I kept getting hit in the face with various balls because I couldn’t process their arrival fast enough to duck or catch them.
  2. I was unmotivated. Competing with others did not interest me, because it’s a social drive, and I was mostly solitary.
  3. I was distracted. I would get lost in my own daydreams, gazing around the unfamiliar gym environment, imagining it upside down, imagining it as the scene of a story.
  4. I was uncomfortable. The ache of my muscles and heavy breathing in my chest did not feel like a worthwhile price to pay for activities that weren’t even fun.
  5. I was unpopular. No one wanted me on their team, and I didn’t blame them.

None of these are problems with exercise itself, though.

One season, my school offered an after-school program to learn jump-rope, and I loved that! I wasn’t very good at it, but I was motivated by the artistic expression of getting the moves right. Then in high school, I took dance classes, and my school gave me gym credits for them. In the past 10 years, I’ve taken parkour classes, which suits me so well that I should write a whole post about it.

All of those look cooler as I become stronger, which makes me want to practice more. Also, none of them require me to react suddenly to other people’s unpredictable movements.

Exercise is important, because health is important. But gym class is hard for some kids, and I wish more schools would offer alternatives, or at least give credit for extracurricular activities.

P.S. I write from my personal experience as an autistic. What I share is not a substitute for advice from an autistic medical professional. Also, some of my opinions have changed since I first wrote them.