Let's Get Physical
Originally published by Standard Issue Magazine in January 2015.
The dawn of 2015, a new year, a new start, many of us will vow to finally get physical as we eye discarded Chocolate Orange wrappers with regret. But let’s face it, no one’s really done very much to sell sport to us, over the years and frankly, we’ve got better things to do with our time than face the embarrassment of the sweaty crack mark imprinted on the rowing machine under our ghastly pink leggings, right? Wrong.
The year is 1995 and I am shivering on a sodden all-weather pitch, staring glumly at my chubby, 12 year old’s thighs. I long for the warmth of my carpet coat, cruelly locked away in the changing room, even though its garish pattern has earned me the attention of a rather unpleasant girl in year nine. The humiliation of my cycling shorts weighs heavily on my mind, though I’ve narrowly escaped the regulation uniform of industrial pants endured by previous big-school inductees. Scarlett O’Hara style, I internally vow never again to suffer this indignation, my thighs now a sort of mottled puce from cold.
17 years later, I find myself in St James Park, watching grown lycra-clad men pedal furiously, vowing to write a blog about trying loads of different sports, despite having no a. innate ability at or b. interest in sport. Probably the only exercise I’d had that week was brushing the pastried-remnants of a sausage roll off my lap, but I wanted to see what all the fuss was about and how the Olympics could inspire an old, fag-smoking, cider-guzzling generation as well as all those young ribbon-twirling whipper snappers Seb Coe was on about. Unbelievably, I actually had a whale of a time and have since formed what appears to be a heart-felt and committed relationship with sport.
An alarming number of young girls drop out of sport at around the time I did, and no one ever tries to draw them back in. Society wants women to be thin, but we are told we can achieve this by eating 6 raisins a day. In the absence of positive representation of women’s sport or really any sport other than men’s Premier League football in “the media”, as I believe is the collective noun for “stuff on telly and that”, our associations with sport remain tied to that miserable hockey pitch. The problem here is that these associations are impacting on our health both mentally and physically.
But it’s not just “the media” - we don’t help ourselves. Apparently we don’t want to get sweaty because we’ll have to wash our hair (it is a ball-ache, to be fair), and we don’t want to be muscly, because it’s “unfeminine”. Balls to that - having muscles is almost my favourite thing about sport. Sure I’m never going to beat Arnold Schwarzenegger in an arm-wrestle, but I feel physically strong, which makes me feel empowered, and I have a cracking arse, now. There. I said it.
Sport makes me feel mentally well, too, because these endorphins are racing around my body and because I do these sports with other people in a sociable environment.
Making the transition to an active lifestyle is not an easy one. I’ll be honest with you, there is pain to begin with but it won’t hurt for long if you stick with it, and there are a billion different sports to try, one of which you will likely find less painful than others.
You will initially feel like a numpty, like everyone is watching and laughing. But they’re not, because they’re far more bothered about whether or not they look like a numpty, and in January there’ll be approximately 8000% more people filling gyms and parks, worrying if they look ridiculous – schadenfreude is your friend, now.