I am now almost twice the age I was when I initially gave up on exercise. But I am fitter and happier than I was then
At 10, I already felt like I was behind my peers in terms of physical ability: I could not climb a rope, I could not throw a ball far or accurately, I did not play hopscotch as well as the others. I felt super conscious of my own clumsiness and I remember how my anxiety got in the way. I felt nervous ahead of every PE class and my teachers did not seem to have any ambition for me.
The idea that I simply just hadn’t had enough practice did not enter my mind. No one told me that some level of pain during exercise was normal and could be mastered, so I kept thinking that the pain I felt was another symptom of my uselessness. All in all, I believed that maybe I just wasn’t cut out for it. I know now that my mum thought that about herself too, so how could she teach me otherwise?
I had to manage all those feelings for a long time, and invested more in my academic skills instead, trying not to envy those people who seemed happy in their own skin, and physically capable. Although I managed to maintain a healthy weight well into my 20s, I was not fit nor toned. I tired easily, I was ashamed and uncomfortable in my body, I did not have much confidence or energy to get out in the world, take space, assert myself, flirt, even, with boys I found attractive. Across the full spectrum of life experiences, I set my sights lower.
I think the wake up call came after we had a serious health scare in my family, which reminded me how short and precious life is.
I am now almost twice the age I was when I initially gave up on exercise. But I am fitter and happier than I was then.
The This Girl Can campaign helped me understand that sport could also be for me, and that I should not write myself off. At my age and in my circumstances, it has meant a lot of commitment, organisation and tenacity, but has led to a transformation, the least of which is physical.
The greatest benefit has been for my mental health and confidence. I am a little slenderer, but my focus is no longer on how my body looks, but what it can do.
I never really knew what I was capable of. I thought 5k was an impossible distance to run. Now, 5k is my average running distance and I’m working to improve my pace and preparing for 10Ks and maybe a half marathon. I’ll never be great, but now I can call myself a runner!
Running makes me feel powerful. It helps me cope with stress. It has improved my confidence. It gives me the energy to do all the other things I want to do. It makes me a happier mother and wife, and much more effective at my job.
I am forever grateful to my amazing running coach, my good friend Jane who first took me to the club, my husband for the support he’s given me (he’s being repaid in kind!), and the new friends I have made through running.
Right now, with the current Covid-19 crisis, we are sticking scrupulously to the Government’s advice and have been isolating for a number of weeks. I have done a few runs since, but after a while decided I wanted to exercise alongside my family, thus making it a bit harder to go for long distances.
We go out for a walk every evening in our neighbourhood – we are lucky to live near woods and fields, so there are plenty of space to do this safely.
In addition, I do bodyweight exercises online about three times a week. The trainers I have worked with in the past have shown great resourcefulness by moving their classes online, and I appreciate every one of them.