Monday, 21 September 2015

On Exercise

I've never been a runner but I've always wanted to be. I have a romantic image of pulling on my trainers and flying along, clocking up the miles, feeling fit and strong, sunset and scenery behind me.
My overwhelming memory of PE lessons at primary school revolve around "cross country" running - laps of the neighbouring high school's football fields. I hated it. I hated how our teacher spent the class standing in the middle, yelling at us for stopping or going too slowly. I was always, always at the back, struggling and panting, trying not to throw up in a bush, embarrassed.
High school was a little better, but the downside of going to a school where much of the reputation is built on how many girls make the Yorkshire hockey squad is that if you're not the athletic type, it's a constant game of catch up. When I was fourteen I rebelled, in what I still consider to have been one of my finest hours. I refused to do the Bleep Test. I refused to drop out first and be humiliated, and I refused to acknowledge that running up and down in time to an electronic metronome was the best way to determine our health or fitness. I still do. The thing is, as a teenager, I swam. Not competitively as speed was not my forte, but long distances. I did my bronze, silver and gold badges, working my way up to swimming a mile, and I qualified as a poolguard. I could swim a mile, but I couldn't run a kilometre.

As an adult, not much has changed. I still can't run. I am exactly the target audience for the This Girl Can campaign, and when it came under fire from university sports lecturers I laughed at how much they missed the point. Those critics? They will have been the hockey squad girls who teased me for my inability to keep up.

A couple of years ago I started Pilates classes after the sports therapist sorting out my joint pain suggested it. Slowly my strong swimming muscles started to come back, my aches went away and I felt good about exercise for the first time in years. I started walking the 2 miles home from work instead of getting the bus. I started weight training. And I love it. The more I get the hang of finding the right exercise for me, the more I'm learning about my body. I have a new found respect and gratitude for how it moves and for the fact that, despite the physical flaws, my flat feet and troublesome joints - it works

A couple of weeks ago my friend Smidge asked if I fancied doing a 10 mile charity walk with her to raise money for Maggie's Centres. I immediately said yes, quietly panicking the next day when she reminded me. Three weeks to train? Starting at 6.30pm on a Friday night after a week at work? I suspect I'm going to find it hard. But sometimes hard is worth it.

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