Exercise and I have never been close bedfellows. I spent most of my P.E. lessons at school sneaking off with to loiter on benches in the woods during cross country, making fart noises from the sidelines as the other girls scissored over the high jump bar, or – on one occasion – getting sent home for sort-of-inadvertently throwing a javelin in the general direction of our Mrs. Trunchbull-esque, obese, teacher, after she failed to respond to my requests to demonstrate a suitable overarm technique.
And things didn’t really improve from there. I think it’s safe to say that sport at my school wasn’t a particular priority; we were allowed to spend our GCSE year either doing sport or getting changed into jeans (a true thrill for a 16 year old girl trying to get attention from the local acne-covered talent) and heading to the bowling alley up the road to fling the balls down as quick as we could before congregating at the local McDonalds. Ah, the heady days before Jamie Oliver lisped himself into a frenzy, when it was perfectly acceptable that our school canteen stopped selling home cooked meals and turned swiftly into a (undoubtedly horsemeat-laden) burger bar.
At the time, I really didn’t care that sport was such an inconvenience; something that had never interested me; a time to muck about or to try every excuse in the book to get out of wearing our lampshade-esque P.E. skirt. You know the ones – 22 inch waist standard that cut you in half as you struggled with crippling puppy-fat issues, royal blue pleat, with matching sports knickers that would give you thrush if you so much as looked at them.
But as a grown up (supposedly), I look back wistfully and wish that sport was something I’d really been able to get my teeth into, or just that I’d recognised that sport has a valuable part to play in your development and your physical and mental wellbeing. My adult relationship with sport has been one which in human terms would be a disaster; sport needs consistency, regular attention, and commitment. I’m flaky, unavailable, and a total commitmentphobe.
I tend to exercise when I hit the point of despair. When I’ve put on half a stone and decide to undertake a – usually short-lived and suitably pointless – diet. I get the old exercise DVDs out, or maybe go for a couple of runs. When I don’t see instant results, I get bored and give up, convincing myself that my 20s are supposed to be a time for debauchery, and reminding myself of the endless quotes I’ve read from actresses in magazines who are ‘just so much more confident’ in their own skin their 30s.
It would be easy at this point to just give up on exercise. ‘It’s not you, it’s me.’ I could say, shrugging my shoulders and deciding to come to terms with a life of struggling up flights of stairs and bemoaning my muffin tops and bingo wings in the tone of someone who has already been defeated in the body battle. But balls to that.
I was thinking long and hard about exercise recently, and my own attitude to it. As with most uncomfortable topics, when people talk to me about exercise, I give a self-depricating, jokey response. I talk about how I make all these plans to get fit then sack them off for tri-weekly pub visits because I’m ‘hopeless’. But then I realised that getting out there and doing something active isn’t about your attitude to exercise; it’s about your attitude – full stop.
In the other parts of my life, I’m determined, ambitious, strong, resourceful, and organised. I set myself professional goals that I know will be a stretch because – as I always say in job interviews – I relish a challenge. I generally work consistently hard to achieve – and ideally overachieve – because I want to prove that I can grow into my role, to gain gravitas, to constantly learn from my experiences and to use these lessons to reach my goals. I evaluate my progress, I think about new ways I can develop myself, I welcome constructive feedback, and I deal with the mistakes and the blows with maturity – because any other way is futile.
So I got to thinking; why would I let there be a discrepency between my atttitude to life and my attitude to being active? Setting out to get fit or achieve a fitness goal is no different to setting out to reach a career goal, and it uses all of the same skills – ones I incite regularly during office hours. And I decided, enough is enough. I have the great fortune of working with some of the most successful women in the country on a daily basis, and I’m damn well willing to bet that they didn’t get to where they are today by giving up at the first hurdle – pun fully intended – but by pushing on through the uncomfortable parts, dusting themselves off after a fall and getting straight back out there for round two. Even when the doubts creep in.
So here I am; a big ball of determination and plain stubbornness, refusing to be defeated by my own self-doubt, shunning my commitment phobia, and giving laziness the finger. I have a place in the Royal Parks Half Marathon in October and a pretty big fundraising target for the incredible charity I have the great privilege of working for (insert cheeky Just Giving page plug here).
I also had the great pleasure of cheerleading at the London Marathon today; 6 hours of whooping, cheering, screaming, and blowing a whistle to help tens of thousands of people achieve the goal they’d spent a year of long, cold, nights and sweaty Saturday mornings training for. Giving up hundreds of hours in the process, and raising hundreds of thousands of pounds between them.
As I watched the raw emotion on the faces of those at mile 21, some crying in pain, some grinning as we called their name, others relieved as they spotted a loved one and stopped for a much-needed sweaty hug, I felt truly thrilled. Thrilled to be a part of something so special and awe-inspiring, but thrilled because I knew that if all of these ordinary people could achieve something amazing, I could too.
So in the words of Monica Gellar; ‘Stay out of it; this is between me….and ME’.
BRING. IT. ON.
PS – all inspiration welcome; whether books, blogs, personal anecdotes or training tips. What gets (and keeps) you moving?!