39 is fine: this (nearly 40 year old) girl can.... and so can you!
I was all poised to write a serious soul-searching post about imposter syndrome and comparing myself to all the other women I see on social media and in life. And I will write that soon because it's something I am guilty of and also it is rather taking over at the moment and it shouldn't be.
But then I went to a launch event and felt so emotional and overwhelmed in a GOOD way, I thought hey, imposter syndrome can wait a week!
The launch was for the new ad campaign for Sport England. You might have heard of it. The hashtag is #thisgirlcan and the general theme is that all exercise is good. All exercise, whatever your shape size or ability, your age or looks, is a win.
Sitting in the BAFTA theatre (I know! BAFTA! Nothing like a room of successful women for a dose of imposter syndrome...) I was close to tears as I watched the new ad and heard the women who appear in it speak on the stage. There were stories of overcoming depression with exercise, of a trampolining teen who is already a coach, of mums getting back into exercising. Roller derby, even! The power of it was phenomenal.
It ties in nicely with two exercise experiences I had this week. I went to a spin class for the first time in ages. Not just a regular one: this is called BOOM cycle. It's spin with hand weights, and at a fast pace. I left feeling energised, happy in myself, ready for dinner and an early night. Happy Days.
Conversely, on Monday I'd been for a trial session at British Military Fitness: circuits in a dark park while a man shouts at you and gives burpee penalties to the other participants if you put your hands on your hips. (I asked why this is such a no-no and still no wiser!). It reminded me of all the parts of Tough Mudder I didn't like (more on Tough Mudder later in spring). It really wasn't for me.
So here's the point of this post. I've realised this week that exercise is about what YOU want to do. How YOU get fit. Not how someone else does. I know my fave activities are spin and swim. I like swimming because rather than hating the costume, I like that it's the one sport where my boobs don't jiggle! And I love spin for the sweat, calorie burn and challenge.
Now am I saying you have to exercise? Well, yep, I kind of am. Not in a bossy way. BUT it's good for you, and we all know it. As I approach 40 I know that wine loves to creep to my midriff all too fast. And I don't want to give up the wine. It's also about mental health and 'inner fitness' as I've decided to call it. When I exercise, my gut is better (you know what I mean!) - my sleep is better. I'm pretty sure my liver and kidneys are happier when I'm more active. I am happier and therefore don't say things like 'I feel fat' in front of The Boyfriend, who has told me a) 'You're not fat' and b) 'Please don't be so hard on yourself' several times.
Exercise helps me feel in control of me, rather than my body being the enemy. And that's all good stuff.
Exercise also, of course, often helps you maintain a certain shape, and that's something I'm keen to do. The idea of #thisgirlcan is that they want us to throw off our comparisons and body image issues, and just be present, just do sport, have fun. I applaud that. We all do it for so many reasons - escape, fitness, shape and size.
I wonder if I'll always compare myself to other women in the gym. I hope I'll do it a little less now I've been reminded by this campaign. To not do a particular exercise because it's someone else's thing (those who do British Military Fitness and love it, hooray for you!), but to do what suits me.
I have a long way to go with body acceptance, and loving the body I have. But I know that exercise is a gateway to it, for sure. So I'll be jogging tomorrow, spinning again at BOOM soon. And if you are wondering whether to bother exercising this weekend, then I encourage you to go for it, and remember how good it can feel. Or to try something new if your current exercise plan isn't floating your boat.
39 is a fine time to try a new sport, or get better at one you love, to meet friends and gossip as you run, to go and escape on your own for a swim, run, or class. It's fine to have the odd day off, the odd cake, but if you want to be active, now is as good a time as any.
Let me know how you get on!