Losing It: The Burden of Being a Superior Summer Camp Athlete

Robin realizes that her lack of athletic prowess as a teenager might have something to do with her aversion to exercise as an adult.

Summer Camp cabin

Oh, the days of summer camp! Photo from iStockphoto

So here’s the thing: I’ve had a fat two weeks. I could make all sorts of excuses about it being the holidays, New Year’s Eve, my daughter’s birthday party, etc., but I won’t. I got lazy and gained (see weight tracker below). I am now back on track.

Moving on …

With very little sarcasm or irony, I have always referred to myself as a superior camp athlete. For those of you who didn’t attend overnight camp, let me enlighten you:

Superior Camp Athlete (n): one who excels in Jew vs. Jew athletic competitions. Antonym: Actual athlete.

While at overnight camp from ages 10 to 21, I was a dominant force on the fields and courts. Basketball? You’d best watch your back as all five-foot-nothing of me drives down the lane and to the hoop. Swimming? I’m winning the freestyle sprint and then taking the diving competition with an impeccable pike. Gaga? Watch it, Shoshana, ’cause I’m sending your ass over the wall and then kissing my bloody “gaga knuckles” up to God. Does anyone else hear “Eye of the Tiger” playing in the background right now? But it’s, like, the Yentl version. Being played on the clarinet. Inspiring.

When September came around, however, it was like I got sucked through the reality black hole and was rendered suddenly powerless by the Colonial School District athletic program. I rode the bench in seventh and eighth grade volleyball. Got cut from the eighth grade lacrosse team. When asked to choose between riding the bench on the ninth grade volleyball team and participating in student government and the school plays, I did what any self-respecting Superior Camp Athlete would do. I hung up my barely-used knee pads, became class president, and bid my non-camp athletic career a fond farewell. Does it make me more or less pathetic to admit that I was a cheerleader in eighth grade and can still remember our halftime dance to Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation”? Don’t answer that.

It is only upon reflecting back that I realize how traumatized I must have been by the realization that I couldn’t compete outside the confines of camp. I didn’t mind gym class so much, because who doesn’t like a quality game of Greek Dodgeball, but the high school Physical Fitness Tests produced anxiety within me worthy of a large-mammal tranquilizer gun. I wouldn’t sleep the night before the mile run. The bent-arm hang? Shoot me. The flexibility test? Was negative-12 a good score there? (I blame my inflexibility on my crazily out-of-proportion body. It’s fair to say that 4’6” of my 5’0” length is legs. How am I supposed to reach my toes with those odds stacked against me?) So while my friends were doing their field hockey/lacrosse/tennis thing, I was doing jazz hands and ensuring that the hoagie sale was running smoothly. We all have our talents, I suppose, and mine obviously did not lie in non-camp athletics.

This has all carried over into my adult life, as I am not such a fan of working out. Hence my quest to find a form of exercise that doesn’t bore me, give me an inferiority complex, cost too much, take up too much time or effort, doesn’t require tons of equipment, isn’t a weird cult, and doesn’t have people telling me that if I can just picture myself doing it, I will be able to do it. Because I can picture myself walking on a tightrope over a swimming pool filled with razor blades, but I’m not jumping on that bandwagon just yet. Freak.

Robin’s Weight Tracker
Starting: 130.4 pounds
Current: 126.1 pounds
Last week: 124.9 pounds
Goal: 113 pounds

What I Did This Week
Walking into the Lithe Method studio in Old City, I felt like I was entering some sort of Medieval torture chamber. There were weird things hanging from the ceiling and a closet filled with all sorts of interesting apparati. What had I gotten myself into? Christian Grey, are you in here somewhere?

As this was their Lithe 101 class, instructor Kim started us out with an explanation of Lithe, which is a combination of, as they call it, Cardio Cheer Sculpting. Yessssssssssss. My eighth grade cheerleading prowess was finally going to pay off. It’s a good thing Kim had a very soothing voice, as there were points during the class when I wanted to punch her in the mouth for the hell she was putting my body through.

We started off with ab work, which was not so bad. Next up was barre work, during which my legs were shaking so badly it must have registered on a Richter Scale somewhere. Last were the bands—those weird things hanging from the ceiling. My inner-cheerleader was trying so hard to show off, but I’m pretty sure I looked like a sweaty, defeated, wet noodle by the end. Lithe, I like you … but only as a friend. I’m going to have to try you again to see if we’re meant to be.

Next up: Cleaning out my closet and Piloxing!


Robin Raskin blogs about her weight loss journey every Thursday on Be Well Philly. Catch up on the series here, and follow her on Twitter at @RobinRaskin.