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I Always Hated Exercise, But Now I'm Part Of The 'This Girl Can' Campaign

24/03/2017 17:52
This Girl Can

all women everywhere

Like a lot of women, I haven't always had the best relationship with sport and exercise. I absolutely hated P.E. at school. In fact, I was the one skiving P.E. to go smoking behind the bike sheds. I couldn't stand smoking either - but it seemed the lesser of two evils at the time.

This hatred of sport continued into my adult life too and I discovered that I am a person that despises the gym.

"But most people hate the gym," I hear you cry! Well, my experience of the gym was particularly grisly.

At just under 5ft, I struggled to use some of the equipment because of my height. The gym's solution? To give me a child's booster seat to carry around. Demoralising, but at least now it's a funny story to tell at parties.

So how did I go from someone who would literally rather force themselves to pick up an unhealthy habit than exercise, to featuring in a national advertising campaign for Sport England - all about encouraging women of all shapes and sizes to get active?

Seven years ago I watched a friend play roller derby and decided to have a go. I fully expected that I would try it out, then promptly give it up and chuck my skates into the cupboard with discarded musical instruments. But somehow I found myself hooked.

Taking part in a team sport feels the opposite of how I imagined it would. I thought it would feel like a constant fear of letting people down or being shouted at. And sure, it the start it does feel like that because you're not familiar with the game yet - but pretty soon things start to click.

Playing a team sport when you've practiced together a huge amount feels amazing, the way you can communicate clearly under pressure and know what your team mates are going to do next.

When things work really well it's an incredible feeling. And when it doesn't work well? You lose together, so it isn't so bad.

The London Rockin' Rollers have become like an extended family to me. We're always there for each other. When someone hears of a great job going at their work they come to the team first. We've had situations where someone has needed to escape a dangerous domestic situation and the team came together to help keep them safe.

It's a strange friendship we have with each other where we might not know what the other does for a living or how old they are, but by playing this intense sport together you know each other's emotions really well.

Because we've all known each other in the high pressure situation of a game, you know if they're someone who needs space, or a cry, or just to hit the crap out of someone.

When we play public games, there's something incredible about hearing people in the crowd chant your name. You get to feel like a rock star for the day. I've had people I don't even know make banners for me which is a pretty amazing ego boost. I've travelled with our team to play all across Europe and won many Most Valued Player awards.

But despite this, it took me a really long time to find a form of exercise that I enjoy. I never thought I'd be the "sporty" type but I'm so glad that I didn't give up after being a bit crap at school netball or not feeling at home in the gym. It just took a bit of searching until I found something that was right for me.

Now I feel really passionately about the positive change roller derby has made in my life and I know a lot of people in this sport feel the same - that's why it's one of the fastest growing sports in the UK. So, when the This Girl Can team came to a London Rockin' Rollers session to meet us I wanted to get involved straight away.

This Girl Can has been such a fun campaign to be involved in. Seeing my face on posters all over the country has been surreal but wonderful. I had a day out with a friend where we tried to find as many of them as possible - like an incredibly self-indulgent scavenger hunt.

Since the ad has appeared online, it's trended at #1, viewed more than 6 million times, and been shared not only all over the UK but all over the world.

Roller derby teams in particular have been really keen to share it.

It's been so great to meet the other women involved in the campaign too; Vanessa who plays rugby, Bisi who is a lifting superwoman and Sue who proves it's never too late to take up a new sport.

They're really inspiring women who've made me interested in trying other sports.

No matter what is going on in my work and personal life, I know for those few hours a week I get to go to training and just focus on my sport. It's made me appreciate my body in a totally different way.

My big arse is really handy for stopping the jammer. My short stature is useful when trying to sneak up on other players to hit them. It really is a sport that you make work for you, whatever your body shape.

If I can take up a sport, any girl can.

HuffPost UK is running a month-long project in March called All Women Everywhere, providing a platform to reflect the diverse mix of female experience and voices in Britain today

Through blogs, features and video, we'll be exploring the issues facing women specific to their age, ethnicity, social status, sexuality and gender identity. If you'd like to blog on our platform around these topics, email ukblogteam@huffingtonpost.com

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