The Return Of This Girl Can

24/02/2017 12:00 | Updated 24 February 2017

It has been just over two years since we first launched This Girl Can, and since then, the number of women doing sport and physical activity has reached an all time high. This Girl Can has become a community of over 600,000 supportive, like-minded women.

We all watched back in January 2015 as the campaign unfolded, never expecting that Grace, Alice, Sam, Ruby and all the other amazing women who danced, shuffled, and swam across our streets and screens would inspire 2.8million women to become more active in one way or another.

We couldn't have known any of this two years ago, but through our research, we did know about the 'fear of judgement', and we have discovered even more about it since then.

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We know it stops many women being active because they dread the thought of jiggling, sweating, or being red-faced.

We know other women fear being a beginner, being rubbish, or not being as good as the rest.

For other women, it's the guilt around priorities. The fear that they'll be looked at and quietly derided for taking some "me-time" when they should be with their children, not putting the hours in at work, or simply not being a 'dedicated' wife or partner.

For so many of those we spoke to, what ensured This Girl Can struck a chord with them was showing real women in our advertising, who look like them and clearly have the same insecurities and worries as them.

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The ability for This Girl Can fans to be able to self-identify with those they could see towering above them on the billboards or on their TV screens was what encouraged them to get out and find the best way for them to get active.

In this campaign, your eyes will certainly be drawn to Lizon and Cindy from our Dancehall class. It's the first time we've featured Dancehall- a type of dance class with roots in Jamaican Dancehall. It is absolutely incredible to watch - twerking has nothing on this jiggling, wiggling, beat-driven class!

A quirk of media buying has seen some This Girl Can posters positioned alongside a very famous 'beach body' brand that has been publicly criticised for promoting unrealistic body imagery for women. And, I can't say I didn't smile when I saw Lizon totally immersed in her class, with 'I am beat body ready' emblazoned across her. Flying the flag in 48-sheet glory for women of all ages, shapes and sizes and levels of ability.

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Aside from including Dancehall, we have some new additions this time around. Many women told us that This Girl Can spoke to them, they felt it was for someone like me and wanted to see their faces and ages represented - so we have now included more inspirational women in their 40s, 50s and 60s.

Catherine - our 67-year-old bootcamper - I think, will inspire everyone. She walked past the Bootcamp class in her local park every day, thinking she should join.

'Too old' was what the voice in her head told her, until she eventually found the courage to give it a go. Seven years on she attends three times a week, and in her own words ''does everything the class demands, but sometimes a little slower than others.''

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We also found out something else that has been holding women back, something women don't usually hear, and that's about having time away from being active.

This is something I know I have to battle - those times when I have skipped a class (or two), or more. Where work gets in the way and coming back to my routine is harder. We know that this is reality, but it is rarely mentioned. It's OK to take a break, to have a week off, to walk instead of run sometimes. No-one is saying this to us. Few magazines say it; sports brands don't say it - and the world of advertising by and large doesn't touch it.

It can feel like the hardest thing in the world to return after a few weeks off, when you fear you've lost ground or fitness, but we want women to say it's normal to take a break, but that shouldn't stop you for good.

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Many of the women who are part of This Girl Can and the thousands of people in our community talk about stopping, then starting again. For those that remember 'I'm knackered' Alice from the first campaign, she lost her running habit for many months, giving up being active entirely.

She's managed to work her way back to being active again, and she's run-walking to regain her fitness. This sort of experience sounds familiar to me, and it may well to you too. It's perfectly normal, and most of all it's OK - that's what we want to show people.

This Girl Can has made a real difference since it launched, with the number of women doing regular physical activity and sport is increasing all the time. But there's a lot more to do.

Our hope this time is that new people will see the stories featured in This Girl Can, and find the inspiration to managing their own fear of judgement.

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