My Journey from the Gym to the Gym

Sponsored Content

Premium Membership, The Good Men Project

About Bill Caudill

Bill, 62, is retired and lives in Texas with his wife of 33 years. He is the proud father of two young ladies and is currently working on a novella that he hopes to complete this year.


  1. it’s nice to know i’m not alone… it took me almost 20 years to go back to exercise after high school and it’s been the best thing for me in terms of calming me, helping me focus, and keeping my mental and physical health under control…
    the sadism and ignorance of PE teachers who never actually teach that sport can be fun, that competition with others is one side of things but engaging healthily and mindfully with your body and challenging it is a beautiful pleasure, those PE teachers have failed miserably in their jobs….

  2. Thank you very much for your response, G. I deeply appreciate it. I’ve done some research on the issue of how the old P.E. has adversely affected nonathletic guys. Traditional sports-only P.E. has actually discouraged young nonathletic men from becoming physically active, just as you have just related concerning your own life. I had heard of health clubs since the early 1980s, but didn’t join one until I was 57 years old!

    I’m a strong believer in exercise to maintain good health. For example, those who have a prediabetic condition can avoid coming down with the disease if they exercise regularly. I must point out that top levels of physical fitness can be achieved WITHOUT participating in any sport. Not to mention the fact that some sports entail risks to one’s health.

    I’m sick and tired of those who seek to impose sports upon all boys. There’s absolutely no need and no justification for doing that. As far as I’m concerned, the “physical education” establishment forfeited any “right” to impose team sports upon nonathletic boys in mandatory P.E. classes generations ago. I have no problem with retaining the old P.E. for the boys who want to participate in sports. I have more consideration for the school sports crowd than they’ve ever shown towards nonathletic boys.

    I’m sick and tired of machismo, such as that of my former judo instructor many years ago when I was a teenager. (The jerk even denigrated the Soviet physicist and human rights activist Andrei Sakharov since he wasn’t a jock!) I’m sick and tired of athletic prowess being used as a phony standard of masculinity for the purpose of denigrating nonathletic guys. There are slightly built men who have not had any interest in competitive team sports, but have shown great moral courage even to the point of risking their own lives. They are not “sissies” or wimps!

    I have nothing but contempt for the sort of P.E. teacher whom you’ve referenced in your post. They never should have been given authority over kids who had no choice but to take their useless class. Over the years I’ve heard tales of bullying (including outright physical assault) in mandatory P.E. that would cause stones to weep, but these tales have been largely disregarded. If I sound bitter, so be it.

  3. Good post, Bill. The judo class must’ve been some sort of obligatory rite of passage for those of us in a certain age range who were not as physically adept as our boyhood peers and subject to bullying and humiliation as a result. Not surprisingly, I didn’t find judo any easier to learn than any of the other physical activities that had routinely stumped me.

    I think you make a great point about the lack of education in Physical Education. I remember so well the terror of being faced with one task after another I’d never done, never seen anyone do, and couldn’t imagine knowing how to do. The worst of the lot was gymnastics: “Everyone get in line to bounce off this mini-trampoline and do a handstand over this wall of wooden boxes and land on your feet on the other side. And make it quick!” I was sure I was gonna kill myself every time. It’s a miracle I didn’t.

    I’m always reminded of this routine from Jerry Seinfeld:

    Any day that you had gym, it was a weird school day, you know what I mean, because it started off kind of normal. You have English, Geometry, Social Studies and then suddenly you’re like in Lord of The Flies for 40 minutes. Y’know, you’re hangin’ from a rope. You have hardly any clothes on. Teachers are yellin’ at ya, “Where’s your jock strap?” and kids are throwin’ dodge balls at you. You’re tryin’ to survive …

    Somehow I survived and made it to high school. By then, I was finally able to figure out a couple of things (running and kicking a ball) I was able to do at least as well as the average boy my age so I could focus on sports (track and soccer) that allowed me to operate within my limitations. I still had to train harder and longer than most boys just to be average, but at least I found a niche where I could feel somewhat competent.

  4. Thanks for the compliment, Rick!

    There is a reason why judo wasn’t any easier for you to learn. Two years ago I had an extended online exchange with a martial arts expert who told me that judo is not meant for boys who are slightly built. He said a martial art more appropriate for them would be tae kwon do. He also told me that my former judo instructor had his share of detractors in the martial arts community.

    At this point I will only say there is a movement to reform mandatory P.E. The innovative program PE4Life is excellent; but as one of the leading proponents of that program (Coach Tim McCord in Titusville, PA) told me in an e-mail, the old P.E. is still with us. Sports columnists such as Rick Reilly are opposed to P.E. reform. They only care about sports, not kids.

    I’m glad you found a niche in which you were somewhat competent, but I remain adamantly opposed to forcing kids to play sports in mandatory P.E. classes. (When you think about it, “forced to play” is a contradiction.) A sport is a physical contest that requires one or more skills (that must be taught and developed through practice, by the way), not an exercise program. I’ve never understood why the sports crowd want to impose their preferences upon those who aren’t interested in them. They certainly don’t have the best interests of nonathletic kids at heart.

    I like the Seinfeld quotation, by the way. :)

Speak Your Mind