By Paula Bianca Abiog

I say “athlete” because I don’t think I am one in its strictest sense. I don’t follow a really strict training routine, or compete in tournaments. I’m not even excelling in a particular sport. But my friends say I’m an “athlete” because I’m into tennis and running. And I’ve tried (and loved) boxing. Now I’m learning to swim.

I never thought I’d end up an “athlete.” I wasn’t a very active kid. Sure, I was able to try volleyball, softball, and a host of other games and sports during my PE classes in grade school and high school. But outside of PE, I pretty much just sat in a corner and read books. I started tennis lessons when I was 13, and I loved it, even if I only got to play in the summer. My only other hobby that involved movement was dancing, and I didn’t even do that often enough.

Things changed, though, when I started working. The long hours spent researching, interviewing, transcribing, and writing articles, and fast food lunches and takeout coffees that had more sugar than actual caffeine, have taken their toll on my body. Ballooning to almost 170 lbs wasn’t pretty, and I had to do something about it. So I signed up at a gym.

At first, I hated it. I couldn’t lift weights properly. I was exhausted after five minutes on the treadmill. I got cramps when I first tried the cardio martial arts class. But as months passed, as I got stronger and my endurance improved, I began to love gym more. I looked forward to attending group classes, even on weekends. After about a year of going to the gym, I went on the tennis courts again. And shortly after that, a friend introduced me to boxing.

I was enjoying my newfound love for sports, that I didn’t even notice the pounds slowly melting away. I just started feeling more confident and more content in my own skin. What started as a way to shed the pounds has led me to discover how I loved being active. It also gave me enough encouragement to try running (which I originally didn’t like, as I didn’t see the point of running just for the sake of running, and not because I’m trying to escape from criminals or zombies), and then swimming.

Sure, I still don’t have that 24-inch waistline (given my body type, I’m not sure it’s possible at all) and there’s still (lots of) room for improvement with muscle tone. But I’m proud of the 30 lbs or so that I’ve lost so far. I’m even prouder of myself because I learned that I can last seven rounds in the boxing ring with my sparring coach, that I can finish a 10K run in less than 90 minutes, and that I can hit pretty decent forehands and backhands.

Being the accidental “athlete” has led me to a new passion; one that I never thought I’d be able to, or have the guts to do. For a very long time, I was branded the “chubby nerd” and “the inert one.” Discovering that I can do sports now, in my 20s, made me realize that you’re never too old to try something new, or discover an aspect of your personality that you never thought existed.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

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