I was digging around in my basement recently and found a shiny old patch from my elementary school days.
I posted a picture of it on Twitter and asked, “Does this cause pride or anxiety?”
It was my one and only Canada Fitness Award.
The response was overwhelming.
The Canada Fitness Program ran from 1970 until 1992 and was designed to get schoolchildren more interested in physical fitness.
The idea was to have children participate in a series of fitness tests.
These embroidered patches were the reward.
There was gold, silver, bronze, and for the elite, the Award of Excellence patch that came with a certificate signed by the prime minister.
The tests included situps, a shuttle run, a longer distance run, a standing long jump and the dreaded flexed-arm hang.
While some people who responded to the tweet felt pride, many felt anxiety just seeing the patch again.
The childhood trauma of being lined up and tested when fitness was not a forte had a lasting impact.
Some said the program made them hate fitness for life.
There was also a participation pin that everyone got.
For me, it was a sad reminder that you came up just short of a bronze.
I don’t remember feeling shame, but decided to start my own primary school-age training program.
Fifty sit-ups in bed every morning failed to equate at test time when I found out the gym floor was not spring-loaded.
My first flexed-arm hang lasted about five seconds but that slowly improved.
I was amazed some of the non-jocks could stay hanging on the bar forever; they were the first Ninja Warriors, where slightness and grip strength were more important than big muscles.
In my final year I managed to get a bronze.
I figured out the initial horror of the long run was not that bad, I sort of enjoyed jogging and still do.
Maybe that is why I kept the patch.
I might even go try a flexed-arm hang, when the crime scene tape comes off the local playground.
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