From time to time, I will feel the need going forward to write about other things than poetry.
According to the way in which BMI is measured I am, right now, eligible for the above programme.
Except, I am in the best shape of my entire adult life, can deadlift 65 kg and bench press close to 45 kg. I still get breathless going upstairs at certain times of the day, because of the way my body works. In essence, I’m a train: it needs a while for me to get going, and then I can work for hours. It’s also taken nearly six years of incredibly painful, mental and physical challenge to get this far, and to understand what one body is capable of achieving. 12 weeks of support, to be honest, seems like a bit of an insult. Being healthy needs to become a full-time commitment, and trying to make schemes best fit for most people is often doomed to failure.
Exercise is also not the answer for everyone. Throwing terms like ‘fat’ and ‘thin’ about is insulting to so many, and using BMI as a benchmark is increasingly being cited as a damaging and dangerous. The key, undoubtedly, are measurements like biometrics, and a genuine understanding that not all human beings are born the same. I’ll never be ‘normal’, after all, because my body’s a lot longer than most people’s and my legs are shorter than many others, and it is high time that we stop using old-fashioned labels to try and define fitness. I really hope in the next 10 years that there’s a move away from ‘wellness’ as a visually-defined ideal. People are not all created equal.
Since I started at my gym, as you can see, I’ve put on nearly 10 kilos. Most people go to exercise in order to lose weight as a path to health and fitness. Not me. I’m here to fulfil my weightlifting ambitions, and become a better cyclist. In the last six years I’ve completed numerous bike events (including Ride London) and last year I completed my first 10 km run. In all this time, there’s been a running battle between body and brain, one that has lost me friends and caused numerous amounts of emotional grief. You are not exercising to fulfil someone else’s idea of happy, or indeed fit. You should be doing it to give yourself happiness, with an improved quality of life.
If exercise does not do this, the answer may not lie in being what other people think is acceptable or beautiful, and this is why I think more Gyms need to be putting mental health front and centre in their wellness plans. What is it that stops you from achieving your goals? Why do you eat in the first place? What changes would you like to make, not only to be healthier, but to feel mentally more capable of changing your life? Just giving someone 12 weeks to change and no support or motivation to do so is not helpful. I’d love to see more Personal Trainers with Mental Health First Aid qualifications, and more Pharmacists with the same.
This has never just been about eating less and exercising more, even though that’s basically the point you need to reach to succeed.
At the start of the month, my Gym awarded me the title PT Hero after deciding that I’d worked quite hard and deserved some recognition. They presented me this in a packed exercise class, which was good practice for the day when I do indeed win a Poetry Award and I don’t crumble to dust with the attention. It also made me realize that, in all my adult life, I never really felt I’d achieved something until someone else took the time to tell me so. I have medals, I’ve fundraised over £1000 for mental health charities, but nothing thus far feels as important as this, and that’s odd when I spend a lot of time not getting worried about other people.
It makes me ask the question: why does this matter? Normally I’d take time to work that out but not today. Achievement and representation are not the same thing. For decades, I hated exercise, found it hard and stressful, because I could not push past the idea I had to look and act a certain way. Once the tyranny of appearance was dealt with, and once I started seeing women like me being given greater prominence in the wider world, it was easier to believe that this was acceptable, that I could be the strong, capable woman I had always wanted to be but never known where to find.
All the awards in the world are not as important as being respected and encouraged as a strong and capable person.
I am tired of the manufactured Influencer outlook, so many people have, on life. I want to hear about failure, and stress and concerns because only by knowing other people feel like we do does anyone ever get anywhere. It’s not about being at the top of a pile and looking down: we all need to lift each other up, help collectively to improve life and wellbeing for everyone. If my Award inspires someone, if my exercise chat makes someone thing or maybe just sharing the Sky article changes someone’s view, it’s worth talking about. I am also tired of people shouting at each other, as if knowing the ‘right’ answer will help everybody in the long run anyway.
We need to stop telling, and start showing what matters most.