So yesterday we learned from a survey carried out by the mental health charity Mind that over half of women are too embarassed about their bodies to exercise in public, even though it’s apparently better for us than antidepressants. Whilst this is sad it’s not exactly surprising in an age where most people judge others far too quickly by their appearance, and we’re constantly bombarded by images of celebrities who are apparently too fat or have too much cellulite!
I can totally understand why some overweight women feel far too paranoid to take to the streets to get fit. I guess they feel that passers-by will laugh at them, point, make unkind comments or whatever. But you know what? Most of the people who do that are just jealous. They haven’t got the bottle to do it themselves so they want to bring down those who have. People who are into exercise themselves would never criticise someone else who’s just getting started, they’d be happy for them and encouraging. If I see someone who’s obviously new to exercise jogging down the road or in the park I think “Good for you, you’re doing something to help yourself”. When I first started running I was embarassed. I wasn’t fat, but I wasn’t thin – and I certainly wasn’t much good! I had to stop and walk quite often, and I thought that made me look useless. I’d try to stop on the quietest parts of my little running route so as few people as possible would see me walking! And I’m still not thin now by the way – my bum and thighs wobble a bit when I run, but I just don’t care because it makes me feel good.
The best bit of training advice I’ve ever been given is not to care what anyone else might think, say or do when I’m out and about. What do they know? I know I’m maintaining a healthy body weight, reducing my risk of developing type 2 diabetes or dying from a heart attack and feeling generally more happy and energetic. Beeping white van drivers? Just ignore them – or choose to take it as a compliment! Twenty years ago I’d probably have given them the finger, but I’m more chilled now (mostly).
It’s a great time of year to start exercising outdoors – showers permitting! But if you still feel apprehensive about it try to rope in a friend as a training partner. It also really helps to have a goal to motivate you, which is why I try to do a couple of running events each year – otherwise it’s too easy not to bother! One of the best programmes for novice runners is the NHS Couch to 5K programme, which aims to get you gently to running 5K non-stop in nine weeks. Go on, give it a shot, you won’t regret it. The more you exercise the better you’ll feel about your body. And stuff what anyone else thinks!