In my last day of Phys Ed in high school — I can recall the crisp December afternoon quite vividly — I gave a whoop of joy and did a cartwheel across the soccer field (and by “did a cartwheel” I mean I tumbled onto the ground without a care in the world). In short, I was never a fan of sports or physical exertion of any kind.
Now, as a rising second-year at Grinnell College, I’d like to tell you that I play two varsity sports, wake up every morning at the crack of dawn to go for a morning run, and am a health nut, but that would be too good to be true — and completely false. Although coming to Grinnell hasn’t made me an athletics freak, gung-ho about all things sports-related, it has opened my mind to a world more active than curling up on the couch on a sunny Friday afternoon. A variety of athletic possibilities within my range of abilities, and the wide range of options at my disposal, have most definitely helped me find a happy medium.
I should probably preface this with a note that the dreaded “freshman 15” (or perhaps I should say “first-year 15” here at Grinnell) did have a little something to do with my interest in figuring out how to become physically active on campus. After the initial few weeks of grumbling about aches and pains, the first-year 15 was last on my list of motivations. This past semester, I found a variety of ways to get myself (relatively) into shape. I took Beginning Weight Lifting as a onecredit course, discovered the wonders of the elliptical machine, and learned to love having easy access to the Grinnell gym. I joined the Grinnell Swing Society (a popular pastime among Ins&Outs writers, it turns out) and danced every Monday night this semester.
It was an almost Herculean feat in the dead of winter to get myself out of bed at 8 a.m. on Tuesday and Thursday mornings to go to my weight training class. But I found as the semester progressed and I started to get into it (and as the weather improved), I was actually enjoying myself. In contrast, I never had to drag myself to attend swing-dancing lessons. In addition to learning how to gracefully triple-step my way around my room when my roommate wasn’t around, I found a whole new community of Grinnellians.
As for the more random athletic endeavors I partook in? As spring set in, my friends insisted on tree-climbing at every opportunity, though the first tree I’d ever set foot in was on East Campus only six months ago. I found myself scaling (relatively) high heights before long and to my pleasure, I had the tree-climbing scratches and scars to prove it. Grinnell is also a great place to walk around, and in my year here, I’ve probably been on more scenic walks than my last 18 years in a busy city.
Though it might not seem like much, this combination of formalized, social, and random athletic activities has made me a more energetic and, believe it or are on varsity sports teams, but we all manage to find our ways of releasing stress, getting our heart rates up, and building social circles through athletics. Whether it’s learning Javanese dance, a one-credit water aerobics class, DAG practice every week on Mac Field (running around jabbing foam swords at people truly is a workout!), intramural Frisbee tournaments, Nerf wars in Noyce Science Center, or bike-riding down country roads past the cornfields, Grinnell offers plenty of opportunities to stay healthy, fit, and have fun — even if you’re a couch potato at heart, like me.
Sunanda Vaidheesh '12 is undeclared and from Mumbai, India.