I have never been one of life’s natural athletes. (This, as far as understatements go, is up there with ‘the coronavirus is causing a bit of bother’.) Being an Australian child made this a particularly tough cross to bear in my school years. I couldn’t throw or catch balls. I rarely managed to whack them with any degree of accuracy with the relevant bat/racket/stick. A very long line of PE teachers and I came to view each other as nemeses. In fact, to my young mind, they only really liked the kids who were already brilliant at sport and the likes of me were a shameful blot on the sporting prowess of an entire nation. I was the girl who always came last, had to stop for a quick wheezing fit halfway through a cross-country race, and who always had the other kids fighting over who wouldn’t have to have her on the team. Add to this the onset of puberty and its crippling effect on a teenager’s body confidence and, well… I couldn’t throw a javelin but I became brilliant at forging parental permission to skip PE.
I was 32 before I dared set foot inside a gym. I’d hardwired into my brain that I couldn’t do it and I’d look stupid trying. I worried about silly things like wearing the right gear or whether I could use the equipment. But I learned that so many people in there are grappling with the same confidence issues and no one is giving anyone else a second glance. I started to rewrite the messages I’d played myself for all those formative years. I have to thank leading trainer Matt Roberts for inviting me to just try the gym. His patient guidance helped me realise that even eight-stone women with puny arms can grow to be stronger than they ever knew possible. I came to view fitness not as a chore, but as a gift we all deserve.
This is why I’m so behind the philosophies of the fitness influencer Krissy Cela, featured in this week’s issue. She understands that for so many of us, issues around exercise are rooted in a lack of confidence – in our feeling that everyone else just knows how to be good at it, or fitness is only for marathon runners and pumped-up muscle gods. Krissy is so motivational because she’s not at all like the ferocious and bitterly disappointed PE teachers I remember from my youth. Don’t worry about running marathons. Just move – in a way and in a time frame that works for you. It really can be life-changing, and I say this as someone who rolled their eyes at fitness freaks for decades. But now I’m one of those annoying people myself, because my commitment to exercising has given me so much: good health, stress relief and – one thing I would never have thought possible – body confidence. And I don’t mean that I look in the mirror and think I look amazing. I just mean I’m proud of my body’s strength and what it can do. It’s a privilege and one we are all worthy of. If you’re toying with the idea of trying to get more physical activity in your life, Krissy’s words might be the inspiration you need.