On March 24th I will be attempting to run just over 13 miles on forest trails for no reason other than bloody mindedness; I didn’t think I could do it so now I have to prove myself wrong. Twisted, I know. The upshot of such recklessness is that I have been training pretty hard in an attempt not to embarrass myself on the day.
In the last few days, several people have assumed that I am exercising regularly because I want to lose weight. I comfortably fit into size 12 clothes – below the national average size of 14/16 – and am a healthy weight for my height, with a BMI in the normal range; why would I want to lose weight? I am strong and supple with a wonderful wardrobe that I’d hate (and can’t afford) to shrink out of. Sure, I wobble, and there are bits of me that aren’t as perky as they used to be, but that would still be the case if I were smaller, I’d just be colder and less well dressed.
If intelligent grown-ups are still buying in to the idea that women should be trying to be thinner then what hope is there for young girls? How can we show them that healthy and strong is what matters? The Olympics helped but there’s more to be done. The average person in this country is overweight so I suppose it’s reasonable to assume that most people should be trying to lose some poundage, but when skinniness alone is the goal, it is often achieved (or not) at the expense of health.
One of the things that I love about roller derby is that there is a place on the team for anyone who is fit enough and dedicated enough to earn it. The teeny blocks of solid muscle who don’t present a spare inch to hit; the long, lithe girls who pass you with one slippery step; the powerhouses of unshiftable mass who are speedy and nimble enough to always be in the way – a group of roller girls is like a campaign poster for all the different ways that strong and healthy can manifest itself.
I’ve been fat and unhealthy. I’ve been slim and unhealthy. Being strong brings confidence and happiness. Busting out a hand clap push up makes me ridiculously proud, as does knowing that I am in control of my body, it isn’t in control of me. Come the 24th March I will run that half marathon with my super fit friend and I will not let her or myself down. She’ll beat me, but that’s fine; my competition is with myself. Physical strength and mental strength feed off each other and this spiral can serve to strengthen or weaken – take control of the direction yours is going in. Be strong.