This week I’ve been in contact with lots of brilliant women who’ve responded to my call out for Endurance Women stories. And their stories will be coming over the next few weeks.
Here’s my Endurance Woman Story
For me being an endurance women is in my DNA (literally), but it’s not just about sport, it’s about how I live my life. And that’s about getting the balance right: balancing doing what I love with the mundane stuff; working hard, and knowing when to rest; successful highs, boring plateaus – and thudding lows; PBs and PWs.
Yesterday morning I woke up to yet another headline about Britain being out of balance. Once again we’re called the ‘fat man’ of Europe. The Times report that ‘obesity rates have doubled in two decades, meaning that Britain is the sixth heaviest developed country, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), up from tenth two years ago.’
The health pendulum is swinging to less healthy and how we live our lives is making us fatter. Binge drinking from teenage years, sugary snacks in hospitals, children being kept in at playtime because it’s raining, huge portion sizes everywhere, and exercising only to solve a problem (i.e. get slim), not to enjoy for the sake of it.
As a child I loved sport, especially swimming. I was always outside, climbing trees, running about, fighting with my brothers, playing football (yes I was a Tomboy). I kept active and did sport because it was part of my DNA. As puberty hit, and puppy fat settled, I started to focus negative feelings about myself and insecurities on my body and, particularly on my weight. A sensitive kid, one comment about me being a ‘hefty’ girl when trying on my secondary school uniform sowed a seed. As hormones kicked in, and sensitivity became more like depression, I became obsessed with my weight and from the age of 15 to around 25 I battled with disordered eating, too much smoking and quite a lot of drinking.
Ironically, I stopped exercising in the difficult times (I think I did a Swimathon and a bit of aerobics in that time) and I turned my back on the thing I loved, not using exercise to control my weight, as many do. But as I recovered, being active was my refuge. Initially, it did start as solution to a problem (i.e. an easier way to control my big appetite), but if weight control had been my only motivation I wouldn’t have got very far. The more I moved, the more I started to remember and feel the joy of just doing it, of the freedom of exercise, and soon I remembered the real joy of racing (first experienced at Watford Swimming Club). Moving, motivating myself to get up and get out, setting new goals (other than weight) meant any feelings of depression were managed and neutralised. Activity is the best anti-depressant.
By the time my children arrived, I was exercising because I loved it. I cannot deny that I was also motivated to lose the baby fat, but exercise (back then aerobics) became part of our family routine, an hour at the creche whilst I did my aerobics, followed by the park and toddler groups. I did loads of walking and loved loved getting my babies out in the fresh air (and now they’re 17 and 21, I still do). With young children, I found running the most flexible way to train (no need to drive to a gym and get changed). In 1998, I decided I wanted to use my valuable time to inspire others, and earn money, and began the process of education needed to be a personal trainer. For the next 10 years I combined teaching fitness with journalism – all part of my ‘portfolio’ career.
As a mum and a gig economist, training (no longer exercise) became a key part to helping keep me focused and to continue to send out pitches and ideas, and work on new businesses. I’m very fortunate as I do have amazing stamina, which you need to juggle, kids, work, looking for work, doing lots of different projects at the same time, all with the ups and downs of day to day living and no job security.
Running and now triathlon have always been my way to stay positive, motivated, work hard, play hard – and I hope I’m inspiring others when I teach or write. I was born with endurance, but it’s very trainable and training can help anyone feel energised, keep going and, ironically, achieve a balance in life.
As well as physically being all out about endurance, I’m quite an extreme person, which in the past attracted me to the energy of start ups and long working hours – and like a magnet draws me to the challenge of an Ironman. I definitely don’t think that this is something everyone should do. In some ways I have to work harder to achieve balance as I’m prone to go one way or the other. And we live in a culture of extremes, with growing obesity at one end, obsessive exercisers and endurance junkies at the other.
But the balance, the equilibrium, is much easier to maintain when you’ve been out in the fresh air, swam in the sea, or being exploring on your bike with good, supportive friends who share your positive ‘can do’ attitude. Just getting outside helps me to stay in the moment and not over think – a burden of the sensitive soul. And training helps to add structure and discipline to a very untraditional working life – and I sleep very well.
I still have to keep a check on my inner barometer and not let training become something I don’t enjoy, either pushing too hard, or giving myself excuses to not do it. But my life has that balance now, and I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by loving, like-minded, and supportive close friends and family. I’m now surrounded by cheerleaders, not critics and importantly I’ve learnt to support myself. As an endurance woman, the process of getting up every day and getting out in the fresh air, ticking off one more session on the way to the next race or goal, having a routine and discipline make for a happy, healthy life.
#endurancewomenstories #realwomen #justdoit