Thursday, January 12, 2006

The President's Fitness Exam (accent 3)

Do the school kids still have to do the "President's Fitness Exam" testing every year like I did as a kid?

Do young children still have to subject themselves to the humiliation of a group evaluation of their physical prowess, or, more pointedly, their lack thereof?

My history with the President's Fitness Award is a long and unhappy one. Most of you will not be surprised by that. Here is a little story about one year's discomfort.....


This takes place in my 7th grade year, a year of blossoming hips, burgeoning boobs, precipitous physical growth, and hormonal fluxes that could cause wine to turn to vinegar with their power. It was not my best year. It was, perhaps, a very bad year indeed for me, and not at all the best year to test my physical prowess. (as if any of them were really any good anyway)

But the President's call to fitness was not to be ignored! One MUST take the test to ascertain if one measures up to the standard of all fit young Americans, to put oneself on the sacrificial altar of fitness. All young men and women were led to the slaughter of their ego and pride, and only a few escaped completely unscathed.

Here's how I recall the experience:

First, let's do the bar hang. Stupid, idiotic bar hang. Here's how you're supposed to do it - using a step stool or boost from your teacher, grasp an overhead bar with an overhand grip (palms facing away from you). Remove the stool or assisstant, and then - HANG THERE! Simple, no? Hell NO! One needs 2 things to successfully complete the required 10 seconds of bar hang 1) triceps of steel, and 2) a BMI of about 2. I have neither, plus, I'm too big/tall for anyone to "boost" and therefore have to do a chin-up before bar-hanging, which pretty much uses up whatever strength I have in my quivering adolescent arms. I'm up and down in about 1 second, and never ever do any better.

(My bar-hanging skillz improved most brilliantly once I got to college.)

Then, the situps. OK - I've always had weirdly strong abdominal muscles, so no biggie there. Over and done with - high marks.

Next, the standing long jump, which, for me, involves the crouch-and-fling method. No need for actual effort here, just throw yourself at the far side in the hope that if your feet wind up your body's length away from the starting point you'll pass this subpart of hellish torture. Generally, this was a vain hope. To illustrate how very clever I am, and how in tune with my body I've always been, it takes my gym teacher pulling me aside to say "why don't you try pushing with your legs when you jump?" to finally switch on that particular bulb. And you know? Once I do that I sail 2 feet further than the crouch-and-fling method would allow, and actually PASS that bit of the PFE. I know! Miracle!

But THEN comes the worst, most sinister torture yet devised - the "600-yard run," which needs to be finished in some freakishly scant amount of time to achieve a "pass." Sinister, yes, because it always seems to occur after lunch on the days they serve pizza and baked beans in the cafeteria. Could this cause some trouble for some of us? You bet.

Imagine, if you will, a young girl, suited up in the most uncomfortable gym suit ever created, its double-knit polyester zipped-up-the-back misery accentuated by eau-de-sweat that never seems to wash out, waiting to start her "run" and becoming vaguely aware of a pressurized gut-rumbling that signals the beginnings of something very bad indeed. The pizza! The baked beans! Oh, the horror! The intestinal battle is begun, goaded forth by nervousness precipitated by the thought of the 600-yard run and the hormonal surges of PMS. With a distinctly knotted stomach and clenched sphincter the young girl tries to quash the insurrection bulding inside her body. But ho! What's this? She sees the starting flag lower, she must enter the breach in pursuit of physical fitness. She plods through the first 100 feet, the internal pressure building and a fine sheen of sweat beginnig to manifest itself on her upper lip and brow. As the young girl rounds the first turn, gamely pressing on in the heat with her gymsuit shorts slowly creeping up her thighs, her insides at last master her best mental efforts and a shamefully rhythmic "blap blap blap" of escaping gas, timed perfectly with each heavy footfall she makes, is heard emanating from her nether region.... "blap blap blap" and then yet more "blapping", it seems endless! For a hundred footfalls (she counts them) the girl toots her way around the first turn and straightaway, submitting to the powers of nature and an eventual gasping giggle fit of church-like proportion.......

All's I can say is - thank God there was nobody behind me.


As I'm sure will not surprise you, I did not pass the test. I never got the ribbon at the assembly, never got the certificate, and didn't really ever care, because I had kept my pride. There are more important things, when you're 13, than passing "The President's Fitness Exam."


Elizabeth said...

Well, I was determined to get that damn President's thingy so I practiced. I went to the local elementary school and I practiced that God forsaken bar hang.

Why hanging from a bar? Was that a decree from Lyndon Johnson hisself? I never understood it but it was always my obstacle.

I practiced all the stuff and in 9th grade I passed the President's physical test thingy. Yay for freakin' me!

That, however, was the end of that nonsense.

tdk said...

Something tells me I had to do that crap as well in middle school. Yeah and it sucked. I didn't really begin my hormonal peaking until 17 or thereabouts so I got smoked quite often in all field tests.
"All young men and women were led to the slaughter of their ego and prides"- now thats noteworthy

tiff said...

Elizabeth - the whole practice thing - never occurred to me. I might be smart, but it ain't common sense smart.
tdk - I never would have guessed you were a late bloomer!