Your Stories

Helen's
Story

I enjoy feeling like I am a useful part of the team, which I never thought I was or would be.

I didn’t like vigorous exercise. I always seemed to run out of energy no matter how fit I thought I was and I got an unpleasant burning at the back of my throat.

I never felt I would be good enough for a team sport, that I would be the weak link in a team and let the team down. That everyone else would be a lot better.

I remember being talked into doing a mixed team assault course for charity when I was about 16. One of the lads on the team told me, “If it wasn’t for me, they could have won and wouldn’t have come last!” I told him “If it wasn’t for me, he wouldn’t have had a team”. But it stung and stuck with me for years.

Helen kicking a football outside

I was very aware that I need to be active and do more exercise to benefit my health and well-being. I did some activity but during the pandemic, this reduced and I found it difficult to get it back up too. At the same time, I hit menopause and that mucked up every aspect of my life including exercise.

In trying to manage the menopause I became aware that physical activity is important.

I kept telling myself to do more but found it difficult to motivate myself and all my usual activities were individual: walking/swimming/pilates etc.

Then I saw a Facebook post in my town looking for women to join a walking football team so they could play in a tournament. I remembered playing a taster game on a work-away day and really enjoying it. I thought if I can go to make up the numbers and for them to get into the tournament that’s better than them not being able to go.

I started Women’s Walking Football a couple of weeks later, so nervous I tweeted about it! For the first time ever, I had joined a team sport.

They were such a welcoming relaxed group of ladies and a couple of male coaches.

Helen standing with a football outside.

Fitting in exercise into my busy daily routine as a working Mum with her own interests is difficult. For some exercise, I try to make it part of my day through things like active travel: cycling to the station or walking to meet friends.

I also took a leaf out of Michelle Obama’s book when she wrote about being annoyed with Barack for tagging a gym session onto the end of a trip and not asking permission to come back later than planned. Men don’t tend to ask permission, they tell you they are going or have gone. I realised my husband was the same so I changed my language and instead of waiting to ask permission I wrote Pilate 8pm on the calendar and assumed I was going unless someone raised that this was an issue.

I tend to opt for pay-as-you-go programmes as I can rarely go every week (usually fortnightly) and walking football was the same. Then I’m not paying for what I’m not using. I have a long-term health condition and generally need to assess on a weekly basis if I’m well enough to go.  This way going is a celebration of when I can achieve, instead of not going is guilt-ridden and makes me feel like I’m failing.

Juggling the transport can be an issue too as we are a one-car family so sometimes I ask for lifts or miss out sometimes.

I enjoy the laughs and the chats with other women as I live in an all-male household and the pandemic reduced my social interactions with my girl friends.

I enjoy the commitment of timing etc of the team exercise, it also physically pushes me which is good and encourages me to develop my skills.

I enjoy feeling like I am a useful part of the team, which I never thought I was or would be.

When we went to my first tournament, however, I got very upset as the burning in the back of my throat started up and I was feeling drained of energy. A teammate noticed me coughing and asked if I was OK. The result of that chat was her encouraging me to speak to the GP Exercise-Induced Bronocspasm (which used to be known as Exercised induced asthma). I was given an understanding of my condition I had had since school and not realised. The treatment I received means I can maintain my energy levels and no burning.

I am enjoying exercise so much more than I ever have in my life before.

This has made a huge positive difference for me.