So, in my ongoing quest to try physical activities I’ve never done before, I’m signed up for a dragon boat team. BMI provides the opportunity to participate in a bunch of different things, like triathlon training, nordic walking, running, and yes, dragon boating.

BMI has two teams, one co-ed, and one women only. Did you click on the link for BMI? I think we can safely say that these are two of the heaviest teams in the competition. Possibly two of the strongest, mind, since every single person on these teams works out regularly, and mostly with weights. (Working out is a core component of the BMI program).

I’m on the co-ed team. We had a first, disastrous practice where we were suctioned to each other and almost tipped the boat every single time someone breathed. So, in the interest of safety first, our drummer (and BMI’s fitness director, whose 8 year old son kicked my ASS in the triathlon last year) petitioned to let us use one of the old, wooden, and most importantly, wide and deep dragon boats. Dear Dragon Boat Festival: Thank you. I love you.

So, we’ve had a couple of practices in the new boat. I have the following observations about dragon boating as a result:

  • Um, totally different from canoeing. The whole motion is, well, totally different from canoeing. It’s like a sit-up while tilted to one side and with your arms up or out straight and over to the side. Think about that for a minute. You practice the motion while sitting on the side of your sofa and holding a broomstick. You lean forward and sit back up.
  • Everyone follows the lead of the front two people in the boat. Those two people must stay in sync, or the boat lurches from one side to the other.
  • Our front people are white guys who aren’t very rhythmic. This causes a lot of paddle clashing. And a lot of splashing.
  • Our drummer (who’s sposed to call the strokes) is also not very rhythmic. Her calling often conflicts with the paddling that’s actually happening.
  • The pace that you’re aiming for is 58-60 strokes a MINUTE. Can you do 60 situps a minute? With the resistance of water against your paddle?
  • You’re in the race for about 6 minutes and paddle about 500 metres in the race, and probably another 500-700 before and after, to get to the start line. Let’s have a moment here, shall we? I’m not like the world’s greatest arithmetician (that was for my friend John, who’s an actual mathematician), but I’m pretty sure that’s about 360 situps during the race, and another 350-500 or so on the way to and from the race.
  • And you do it twice on Saturday with several hours in between races.
  • The top 75 co-ed teams and 25 women’s only teams make it to Sunday. Dudes. We’re not making it to Sunday. 
  • I know we’re not making it to Sunday because even though we are entertaining, we’re 22 people whose average weight is well over 200 pounds (including our 90 pound drummer) and whose boat is at least twice, if not three times as heavy as the fiberglas competition boat.
  • But that’s okay, because I find it fun. 

My best friend and I were discussing one of her kid’s lack of ability at a team sport the other day. Some people are not designed for team sports, and that’s okay. I’m not really designed for any sports, but that also really doesn’t matter.

I think the main point of physical activity is that you’re going to do it more often if you do something that you enjoy. You’re also going to do it when other people are there waiting for you to show up. You’re going to participate when people holler your name when you arrive and who do a wave when you do something better than normal.

So yeah. I’m in a tournament. A tournament where if we don’t come in dead last in two races I will frankly be considering a total win. And I will take my advil between races (cause I really am not good at situps and cheat by using my shoulders and back and damn, that’s hard). And I will hydrate and cheer people on and enjoy myself.

I spent about $100 on this activity, and I consider it to have been totally worth every penny. Any time you try something new and you like it, you open yourself up to doing it again. And that’s pretty cool. I’ve heard more than one person at the start of their BMI journey telling Kelly that they just don’t like [insert activity name here]. Or that they can’t [insert movement here]. I get that. I do. But I wonder how much of that is fear?

Someone in my life asked me if I knew anyone who was selling a treadmill. He wanted to lose some weight, but didn’t want to join a gym because that would just end up in lifting weights and getting hurt, and didn’t want to run outside because he didn’t want anyone to see him run. I think this is why BMI activities are so awesome. It’s a bunch of people who have been on your journey, who have the same struggles as you do, and who’s fighting it. We are living our best lives.

And for those of you on this journey who aren’t comfortable enough to work out in public, I encourage you to read this blog post. I hate the title, but I totally appreciate the sentiment. There are women at my gym (loaded with athletes and tight, toned women) who I high five when I see them there, because they are gutting it out, red faced and sweaty like mad, every time I’m there. 

I am not skinny, but I am strong and I am fit. My belly jiggles when I run. My knees ache after squash and my feet are always stiff. And you know what? I am proud of myself because I am moving.

Be proud. Be active. Live your best life. Explore. Find your dragon boat activity.