January 20th 2015- Day 1, Week 1 of C25K
You're unlikely to ever see me posing in an Insta-fitness-guru style before and after of my squishy tummy next to me with shredded abs. I'm not a poster girl for marathon running (oh the things I wish I'd known...), and I'm not preaching. But as someone who gets down and dirty with her own sweaty self to exercise 4-5 times per week, I do think I'm pretty well qualified to tell you what I learned from embracing fitness, having been the teenager that found any and every excuse to skive PE at school and the one who thought that the very best way to maintain a weight that my peers thought was acceptable was to skip at least one meal per day.
1. Thinking more isn't always a bad thing
Longer runs and cycles give me a lot of headspace- whether I'm doing those things with or without company. Many's the time I wish I could hit the shutdown button on my brain and stop churning through the endless lists, the concerns, the should I have done this differently doubts, but for mystical magical reasons unknown to me, the simple act of moving about a bit more usually gives me some clarity to see solutions, the anxieties I create for myself in perspective and I focus on things I can do, rather than the many, many things I can't.
2. Grown ups didn't start out grown up
That girl who always used to throw the netball really hard and high so I couldn't catch it, because my inability to catch a ball in normal circumstances, the ones who used to comment on how disgusting my fat legs were, the woman who cheers for me when she sees me putting in sprint effort at the end of my training run, the people I ask if they fancy joining me for a ride, the person who compliments the power I have in my strong legs.... they are a little bit the same. Those people who picked on you at school or laughed at you from a bus stop, most of us grow-up someday and that's not to say they were right to do it, but the sooner you can surround yourselves with the people who did grow out of judging and name calling and disdain, the sooner you'll realise that amateur or pro, most people who enjoy sports or fitness take sincere enjoyment in seeing others improve and reach their goals, regardless of their own level.
3. But don't hold everything up to the same measure
For every good experience I've had in gyms, swimming pools, whilst out running solo, running races taking classes or going to group training, there's probably been at least one bad one. the guy who jumped from foot to foot right behind me the entire time I was using a piece of gym equipment because, clearly I was taking too long for his taste, the overheard mutters of how tight my swimwear was, people yelling at me from vehicles. But it's worth it. It's worth it when you find a trainer who gets that you understand you need to be a healthy weight but you're not prepared to be defined by the number on the scale. When the people you see once or twice a week are the ones cheering you across a finish line, and they mean it. When you can ignore those nasty judgey little comments, because they don't know who you are or where you came from to get where you are. It might take a while to find these things, but go in open minded because not everyone or everything will be as bad as your worst experience, or as great as your best one.
4. The value is not in what you do, but how you do it
If you train, run, swim, cycle, play, tackle, shoot or whatever it is that you do, do it with energy, do it because you can and because you want to. Do it to improve, to encourage and to b able to do it as much or as little as you want. Don't judge people's achievements, don't judge at all, but the ones who give it everything they've got, they deserve a special mention because I can virtually guarantee they're getting the most out of it.
5. Every step counts
One of the most disheartening thing I've seen more recently is people's (mostly women) need to dismiss their goals because someone else is doing something harder, faster, further, longer or bigger. For everyone who is proud to run a mile, there'll be someone you know who's completed a marathon. But it isn't about them. It's about you. If you set yourself a target or a goal, and you achieve it, celebrate that. And remember that we all have to start somewhere, none of us were born running, dancing or scoring goals, and we don't all have the same priorities either- just because you can do something, doesn't always mean you want to.