If you naturally flee from physical activity, maybe you just have to focus on when you get faster at it.

Not everyone is naturally good at sports. In fact, some of us find them so difficult that we grow to dread Physical Education lessons at school, expecting criticism not only from our peers but often from the adult who’s expected to give us guidance. This can be especially rough for students in Japan: not only are you expected to partake in physical education, but also potentially join an athletics club – and even if you don’t, you’ll have to face ritual humiliation once a year or more at the school-wide sports meet. They don’t spend all that time practicing jump rope for nothing!

Twitter user @AkiraGoto_kkym was reminiscing about his own P.E. lessons back in junior high school, and shared a particularly resonant anecdote about a teacher that made all the difference to how he approached exercise.

“Back when I wasn’t so good at running, my Junior High School P.E. teacher called out the students who couldn’t manage the short-distance sprints and gathered us together for extra practice. We thought we were going to get a lecture, but instead we were given in-depth feedback about our form when running, and when all of us improved our time by a second, we were told, “This is what physical education is actually about”. I don’t think I would ever have become as good an athlete as I am today without that experience. “

He continued his ruminations in a thread of tweets, where he wondered exactly what that teacher’s motivations were.

“Of course the teacher noticed when the weak runners improved, but also told us that the most important thing is transcending your own limits, not comparing your progress to others. We were told that over and over, and we were never reprimanded for being slower. I sometimes wonder what kind of background that teacher had, even to this day.”

“I feel that it’s hard for sports educators to understand the point of view of their students who are less physically able, especially if that teacher has an athletic history where they excelled, like in gymnastics or baseball. I know that teacher in particular graduated from a teaching college, but I wonder what it was that he specifically studied there.”

“That teacher also taught us very politely about first aid techniques, and ways to train that don’t injure your hips or knees. He was a supervisor in the baseball club, where he was super super strict, but even then, it was only to the pitchers for some reason. I think that kind of guy is something special, even nowadays.”

In other words, he was a very sympathetic and dedicated teacher who really cares about giving his students a lasting love for his subject. It makes a nice change from the draconian fart-stifling of other teachers, or the textbooks’ dystopian mantras that you should toil forever without pay.

▼ It’s really about the act of exercise itself that matters, not whether you make it to the podium or not.

@AkiraGoto_kkym’s trip down memory lane struck a home run with the Internet at large; replies poured in from other adults with similar stories about kind and inspiring teachers who helped them to appreciate exercise, or their own journeys in changing perspective. Twitter user @ukopiii revealed it took her a long time to internalize the pleasant side of jogging:

“Thank you for sharing these beautiful tweets. I really liked the part where your teacher said, ‘That’s what physical education is really about!’ – super cool. It took me until I turned 50 to learn that jogging is a joy rather than a punishment… It’s really not about winning or comparing yourself to other people, it’s all about putting what you learned into practice. I want people to treasure advice like that.”

Meanwhile self-professed fitness buff @eyay4 joined in with his own story about a teacher from school that helped him along the path to becoming the health expert he is today.

“I also owe a lot to a teacher. In my case it was a supervisor at my high school club. It’s because of that advisor that I was able to become the captain of my college team. The teacher wasn’t especially polite, but he never ridiculed the students that couldn’t perform as well as the others. I really think that my life changed because of him. I might have forgotten his impact if I hadn’t seen this. Thank you so much.”

With all these invigorating words to spur you on, maybe you can tackle the new fitness sharehouse in Saitama and trim some yen off of your rent? Or maybe you just need help scouting out a regular gym here. And if you need more stories of teachers going the extra mile, try this emotional homework assignment or this explanation for why we need school in the first place.

Source: Twitter/@AkiraGoto_kkym via Hachima Kiko,
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert image: Pakutaso