Over the last year or two I’ve written a lot about my relationship with food and my weight, but I’ve hardly touched on the other half of that ‘appearance’ conversation – exercise.
Last year, sometime in those jumbling weeks of OMG GIFT GUIDES and HOW MUCH MONEY CAN I SPEND ON MYSELF? that come before Christmas, I was approached by the people behind the This Girl Can campaign.
And I am ashamed to admit, that I ignored the email. And the next email they sent after that, and maybe even another after that.
Y’see, I wasn’t purposely being rude and I wasn’t too busy to reply and I wasn’t being lazy and just drowning in a sea of duvets dragged down from beds onto the sofa and 16 And Pregnant repeats. I was, admittedly, just terrified.
Fucking terrified, if that makes it any better.
The campaign sets out to target people like me. Women, who, get put off leading a healthy, active lifestyle and participating in exercise because it makes them feel nervous and awkward and embarrassed.
People that don’t try out a new Pilates class because they’re worried there’ll be cliques and they’ll feel socially awkward and out of place, people who don’t swim at their local pool because they’re worried they don’t know the unwritten rules set by the regulars, people who don’t join a weekly netball team because they don’t want people to laugh behind their backs at how hideous their technique is.
That person is me.
That person might be you too.
I was shit at PE at school. I went to a bloody SPORTS school. AN ENTIRE SCHOOL AND SIXTH FORM DEDICATED TO SPORTS and I’m still shit. Always have been, always will be.
My lowest GCSE grade was in PE. And I’m pretty sure I only got a C in that because y’know, let’s not let the sports academy down. Gimme an English Lit essay to write or a big art project or a history exam and cor blimey, I’m top of the class. But try and make me play hockey and I will whimper and moan and do everything I can to scamper away to the warmth.
In my head, exercise has always meant negative things. It’s meant me coming last, me not getting picked for teams, me feeling uncomfortable and in pain.
I AM LITERALLY FEELING SICK TO MY BELLY REMEMBERING THE SUDDEN PANIC AT ‘DUE TO A SHORTAGE OF STAFF, WE’RE GOING TO BE HAVING A JOINT PE LESSON WITH THE BOYS’. I DIE. I ACTUALLY DIE, GOODBYE.
Because if there’s one thing you want at high school – aside from y’know a sturdy C cup and blonde highlights, it’s to be good at PE because boys like girls who can do sassy lil things like somersault on trampolines.
(Thank god I had the C cup and the highlights to make up for it…).
But anyway, in my pursuit to look like a member of The Pussycat Dolls, I accidentally stumbled into a love for swimming, which seems like an odd choice for someone so self-conscious about their naked body.
Also an odd choice for someone who swims a bit like how Phoebe from Friends runs. I’m not cute and elegant and awwww look at that mermaid. I’m like a hippopotamus just trying to have a wash whilst drunk on sambucca.
But I liked the fact it didn’t make me hot and sweaty and I liked the fact it didn’t make me wheezy and I liked the fact I could do it at my own pace, away from the prying eyes of mean boys and girls at school. I liked the fact that it could be soothing on the soul rather than hideously competitive.
And that love affair has stuck, because I swim every single week. I have three grown-up lady swimming costumes on rotation. And I feel entirely broken if I don’t go for a week or so, a bit like how I feel when I haven’t checked my emails in a few hours and I’m like OMG THERE COULD BE ANYTHING LURKING IN THERE.
I’m also pretty over-excited about Pilates these days. I like the mental side of it. I like that it is a gentle, non-aggressive exercise that makes your mind feel all nice and at peace.
I’m trying to make my brain remember how I got into Pilates or why but it’s like there’s this big chunk of memory missing. At some point, just after buying a gym membership for the gym next to the Time Inc offices in London, I must have had a burst of I’M A STRONG, INDEPENDENT WOMAN AND I CAN DO ANYTHING. It’s the only possible answer.
Because I used to go, completely alone, to Pilates, Yoga and PowerPlate classes and not give a single fuck of what anyone thought of me.
And then when I moved to Ipswich and joined a new gym and I had enough confidence in myself to sign up to similar classes because I knew what to expect.
I am, however, yet to venture into the actual gym.
Mate, I would love to do weights. I would love to not have my exercise regime determined by my hair wash schedule (love ya swimming), but it is so far out of my comfort zone. Everyone else doing weights is either as into fitness as I’m into cheese, or just wants to look hot for the girls in Nando’s on a Saturday.
I could get a gym induction or a personal trainer, but I don’t want people looking at me like LOL LOOK AT THAT NEW GIRL. Y’know?
Anyway, I’ve gone and done that thing again where I just jabber away and forget that there’s supposed to be some sort of point to this post and lol I’mma just list every exercise I do like and hope that someone’s still reading this at the end.
Basically, exercise is a bloody minefield.
It has always felt scary and like a chore I just can’t squeeze into my schedule.
But y’know what? I like swimming and Pilates. I like them a lot. I like them about an equal amount to how much I like colouring in and drinking coffee on my own in Starbucks. They are good for my soul and my head as much as my body.
And I *think* I might be sticking with them weekly for the long run. I *think* I’ve found my exercises. My way to a healthier body that don’t make me want to sob into my gym kit on a Monday evening.
My point is, make your exercise work for you. If it feels horrible and makes your belly feel all swirly with dread then it’s probably not the right exercise for you, and guess what playa? You’ll end up quitting before you’ve made any real progress.
Exercise, just like men, is all about experimenting and perusing what’s on offer before you work out what you like and what you don’t like, rather than just settling and being unhappy.
Wow, that was a great metaphor. Pat on the back Hannah. Wait, is that even what a metaphor is? Maybe I should go to bed.
But yeah, I would LOVE to be more confident, just strutting about the gym like hey bitches, whaddup, but it’s all about building up slowly.
I’m comfortable and confident in my swimming and Pilates sessions, and maybe one day soon I’ll branch into Yoga (omfg, groundbreaking), or maybe I’ll get Chris to discreetly give me a tour of the gym and the equipment.
So yeah, here’s me admitting I hate exercise, or at least DID hate it. Hats off to you girls slaying it on those weight machines day in, day out. I’ll trade you my dedication to killing cacti if I can have just a slice of your dedication and confidence to fitness?
And on that note. I’m off to reserve some Pilates class sessions for next week. Don’t hate the playa, hate the game.