My fitness journey

by Pav Wander

Physical Activity is one of those things that should have always been a part of my life, but it wasn’t until adulthood. I value it, I cherish it, I keep fitness so close to my heart, and it is always something that I continue to strive for, as a challenge to my personal self.

When I was growing up in the 80s and 90s, as a first generation Canadian child to Sikh Indian immigrant parents, my exposure to physicality came only in the form of play. It was what my dad was so good at. He played with my brother and myself, whether it was hide and go seek around the house, kicking the soccer ball around at the local park, badminton in the backyard across the fence with the neighbours, or tennis against the brick wall. We played - a lot. It was the only form of physical activity I had, other than phys. Ed in school. I was never enrolled in any sports or extra-curricular athletics programs. I never played on any teams, and I never wanted to. I had no background knowledge and I didn’t know how.

I grew up being very nervous in athletic situations in school. I feared Gym class, and I vowed in 9th grade that I wouldn’t be taking phys.ed again after that mandatory final year of activity. Something changed, however, when I was picking classes for Grade 11. There was a gym class offered that gave students “choice” to participate in whatever activities they wanted. There were about 3-4 options for every session, and 3 sessions in the semester. They included activities such as “fitness,” traditional sports like basketball and volleyball, and also some activities that I would never have otherwise tried, such as curling and golf. This class gave me so much exposure to physicality that my parents could never have offered me, and I picked up pieces from each of the sports I learned how to play.

It was my first taste of personalizing my activity in order to make it a safe space for me. It was my first exposure to my own journey. As I built a stronger foundation, I found greater importance in maintaining fitness, and now needed to know more of the science behind what movement does for the body. I was lucky in that my high school offered a few new and interesting classes I could try out, including “Kinesiology” and “The Sociology of Sport.” These were not only very interesting classes to take at the high school level, but they opened my eyes to something I could do in the future.

I went on to do my bachelors degree in Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto. I loved that program, from the theory, the learning of physiology, the biomechanics classes, to learning about physical testing in sports and training programs. I was also lucky to be able to participate in Practicum classes of physical activity, once again exposing me to physical activity I didn’t know existed. I learned to play squash, got better at golfing, ballroom dancing (which was so much fun!), and so many other great activities that continued to play such an important role in my adult life.

Fitness has always been a big part of my life since those early moments of exposure. I always have very lofty goals and aspirations, to which I rarely come close, but I suppose it’s never about the end result, and always about the journey. I love that I feel strong. I love that I’ve created for me a sense of identity with respect to health. I may not look like those that are the fittest, but I know that what I’m creating for my body is a zone that highlights the importance of health benefits. Clarity of mind and focus, improved physiology, heightened psyche and mood, and of course, an increased drive to continue to try new things that will always be beneficial for my mind and body.

In my late 30s, I started training for long distance running, I started training in Muay Thai, which I never thought would be a part of my life. I will be starting Brazilian Jiu Jitsu soon, and I’ve started trying so many new and adventurous ways to be active. And I love each and every part of this journey. My life has been so much improved by this exposure, and I want to always instill that attitude to young students and peers that I have the opportunity to teach every year. We can begin this journey at any age, and become completely devoted to bettering our minds and bodies through activity as we evolve and mature.

I’m so grateful for my fitness journey, and I’m even more grateful that it continues as I get older, changing with me as I change as well.

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