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In which we are surprised by pants

When I was a wee tacker and adults who weren’t me were in charge of every damn thing, we had mandatory sports participation at school. As I was only about two foot tall and not especially enthusiastic about physical motion, I pretty much hated it. I have a hilarious memory from kindergarten, where my class was compelled to run a lap of the oval. As I straggled behind the group, the magpie swooping from the tree we had to pass chose me as an obvious target and pecked me squarely on the head. The teacher took this as an opportunity to reprimand me for being last, telling me that I should have stayed with the group and then I’d be safe. We’ll gloss past the chances to discuss what the hell she was on about and why did she make a pack of six-year-olds jog around an oval and under a protective magpie’s nest, and hurry on to another memory that has ended up in family lore.

The mandatory sports carnival: a consistently disappointing day for primary school bethini, as there were no English or maths lessons or being indoors. Just bewildering running about and Serious Sports. I begged and begged Mumini to come: other people’s mothers came to cheer them on, and they brought picnics and a good time was had by all but me, as far as I could tell. Eventually Mumini capitulated, took a day off work and brought a picnic: I was very pleased. It meant I had someone to lay under a tree and read a book with for a whole day.

This isn’t to say I didn’t try. In primary school, I joined the softball team. Then I learned what softball was, and decided it was quite cool. I think I just appreciated a grownup taking the time to explain to me what the point and/or rules were. My overwhelming memory of school sports is being forced onto a field under midday sun (UV index: 48,000) and shouted at for getting it wrong. I felt like everyone else in the world knew how to sport and I knew how to book and that was that. (Plus there was a girl on the softball team who was pointlessly and consistently mean to me, so I chucked it in.)

In the first few years of high school, I wore trackpants (as did we all). Then I discovered jeans and, well, I didn’t literally burn my trackpants, but I may as well have. I don’t mean to imply an overnight style transformation: I think my first denims had an elasticised waist and cuffs that stopped a good four centimetres about my socks, but growth is a process.

When I reached the last years of high school, I realised I could entirely dispense with PE and trackpants. It was heaven. I maintained enthusiastic  inertia and a no-trakkies rule until my mid-20s. I had already figured out that I Wasn’t Sporty and it was a relief that I could finally live a life that honoured that.

A few things happened later on. One day something happened at work that bothered me: I went for a short walk to buy a coffee and took the long way back. I felt calm and relieved by the time I got back to work and began to suspect that walking might have been part of it. I started walking at lunch. I noticed that days I walked were, overall, happier than days I didn’t.  I started doing yoga at home, a few nights per week. My parents bought me some yoga pants for Christmas, at my request: and to my delight, they didn’t have an elastic waistband. They were drawstring closure. Therefore: not trakkie pants. In the mornings, I changed into my yoga pants, did my yoga, and then dressed and readied for work.

I started running in my lunchbreaks: now I had one pair of yoga pants for yoga, and one for running in. I still Wasn’t Sporty, so these were Exception pants. Changing to go for a run made me feel like I was betraying everyone who knew me as Not Sporty.

We went travelling around New Zealand: rather than schlep both nightwear and yoga wear, I started sleeping in my yoga pants. I got home and continued the trend. Yoga pants for sleeping and yoga, and running, but full maximum style at all other times.

I started riding my bike partway to work (park the car in the free parking along the lake, then ride my bike the rest of the way). Because it was only a short ride, I wore my work clothes — and then realised if I wanted to wear a skirt or dress, there was a serious chafing issue. I bought some bike shorts. Even my reluctance to buy single-purpose items (or, actually, any items at all, as my delightful frugality is just one of the many pleasures of my personality) was not going to withstand how much I loved that little burst of riding before and after work.

Yoga pants for sleeping and yoga; bike pants for riding; yoga pants for running and lunchtime walks. Not that I was Sporty.

Last year, my yoga pants wore out: I don’t know if I mentioned, but these were the exact same pair my kind parentals bought me in, um, 2006? Yoga pants 2006-2014 RIP. They wore out at the seams and drawstrings, and I nearly cried. I bought some new ones, astonished at myself. Three new sets, and hot damn if they’re not fantastic. And elasticised at the waist. Which was perfect, because I’d also taken up weightlifting and it was good to have stretchy pants to do that in.

Earlier this year I graduated yoga teacher training. I was in awe of my teacher and her splendid pants collection. I hurried to the Internet and, after some agonising over price, ordered some new baggy yoga pants, some new cozy knit shorts for sleeping in (the knit boxer shorts I had worn literally since I was fourteen were begging to be retired), and, oh, why not: some new trakkies.

A month ago, I had a brutal week. Lots of appointments, meetings, yoga things, classes to teach, and other stuff. By Thursday I was knackered. I went to my drawer and took out my new trakkies. I took off the labels and tags and put them on. All was transformed. They were soft, warm, and almost tender. I fell immediately in love with them. It doesn’t hurt that they’re completely rad, with pockets and cool trim, not the el cheapo ones I wore when I was prepubescent, but they are still trakkies. I love them so much. I have days where I can’t wait for bedtime to put them on. When I wear them, I’m convinced I look like some buff track star that’s just smashed out a personal best and needs some coconut water to rehydrate. I look rad.

Yesterday was a long and tiring day. I needed to push myself a little more to get to the end of the day, and I knew just the incentive. I went to my sports drawer — and enjoyed a moment of astonishment realising all my gear for physical activity now has its own drawer — did I mention the thermals for hiking and camping? — and took out a new set of baggy sport pants. Kind of yoga pants, kind of trakkies, baggy and comfy. I took the labels and tags off and lay them on the bed as a treat for when I got home.

Yoga pants for teaching and yoga; trakkies for sleeping and yoga; yoga pants and trakkies for lifting; shorts for sleeping and lifting; bike pants for riding: no wonder I have a sports drawer. And I still don’t think of myself as Sporty. But hot damn, I love me some physical activity and I look fucking rad in my trakkies.

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