Excerpts from My Virtual P. E. Diaries

Excerpts from My Virtual P. E. Diaries

By AJ McDougall


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Right after Prezbo opened the first seal of the apocalypse (the “classes are canceled Monday and Tuesday” email, you know the one), Jeff and Anna (Physical Education coordinators extraordinaire) sent students a quick note to let them know that more information on “remote classes” was to come. And, oh boy, come it did, and come hard. Students were told that they had to submit “a record of one bout of physical activity/exercise that is a minimum of 40 minutes with reflection,” as well as a Plan for Well-Being over Spring Break (affectionately known as the PFWBOSB).

Luckily for the Federalist, the abbreviated academic code for Physical Education is “‘PHED.’” Hence, through a homonymous mixup, writer AJ McDougall accidentally sent her weekly reflections to Columbia’s Only Newspaper That Saw COVID-19 Coming.

Week 1: You Guys Realize That This Is a Fool’s Errand, Right?

  • This week I was physically active by… going to an hour-long boxing class.

  • The activity involved…  common-law boxing moves like jabs, crosses, hooks, and uppercuts.

  • I enhanced the experience of the activity by… pretending that the punching bag was the threatening specter of an email from President Bollinger. Afterwards, I enhanced the experience of my shower by pretending it was the soothing balm of an email from Dean Valentini.

  • The activity benefitted my well-being… in that every time I did the workout I wanted to throw up. It was hellish. My entire body was soaked in sweat like I’d just run through a salty hurricane. Five stars on Class Pass. Also, my abs are starting to come through as a result of all the crunches they’re making me do. But, oh god, at what cost.

  • Before the activity… I felt super-duper pumped to work out. During the activity… I wanted to die. After the activity… I got a smoothie and negated all of the progress I’d made.

  • Usually, I work out 3+ times a week, including Phys-Ed class. Given that my internship is canceled and there’s nothing decent on Netflix these days, I expect to up this to 7+ times a week.

  • I plan to restart my membership with my hometown boxing gym and begin doing Muay Thai again. I expect this to be intimidating, since I haven’t kickboxed since high school, but luckily they offer ladies-only classes for my dainty feminine constitution.

  • Also, although I gave up JUULing for Lent, I’ve slipped up a few times. I plan to start strengthening my lungs so the Coronavirus doesn’t take me, so I’ll do some workouts at high altitude.

  • This may present a problem, however, since the highest peak in my hometown is 160 meters.I will also do yoga, because my mother tells me that one doesn’t need therapy if one can perform a decent vinyasa flow.

Week 2: I May Be Projecting Some Personal Issues onto My Personal Reflection

  • This week, I chose to do yoga because it was a good excuse for me to sit in Child’s Pose for thirty minutes and have you count it as academic credit.

  • Briefly, I considered doing an at-home HIIT workout. I even watched a few Instagram Live videos of a Dogpound trainer’s daily routine. But then I got discouraged because she had two-pound dumbbells in her home. I suppose I could use soup cans, but I already feel desolate enough in self-isolation as it is. Were I to catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, baby-pulsing above my head two Campbell’s Chunky Blazin’ Roadhouse Chili-Style Soup, I might experience a total break with reality.

  • Plus, this trainer looked an awful lot like my little sister. Seriously. It was kind of freaky.

  • I paused the video and brought it to my mother with no context. Said, “Who’s this?” Without blinking, she responds, “Christina.”

  • (Christina is my little sister.)

  • If I’m being completely honest, that made me even more discouraged. Christina’s build is naturally more lithe than mine, and I’m okay with that, but it doesn’t mean I like seeing it thrown up on social media under an arbitrary tag that designates that build as 129,000 times more worthy than my piddly-500-follower own.

  • So I just tucked my legs under me and pinned my forehead to the mat. I don’t know. Maybe it was a quietly desperate attempt at controlling a situation I have absolutely no control over. While breathing mindfully? That counts as exercise right?

  • My butt doesn’t even touch my ankles when I do this. I think I’m doing something wrong.

  • Maybe all of this isn’t exactly your idea of star student behavior, but I’m 4,000 miles away. Try and stop me.

  • Seriously. I dare you. Your calves might be more shapely and toned than mine, but let’s see you use those shredded-leg triceps to sprint across the North Atlantic and force my ass onto the elliptical.