Hang Tough

3 Miles. 2 Girls. 1 Mountain.

This Girl Can

We’re in this together!

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In preparation for our Currahee climb, as well as trying to get fitter and lose some weight, recently I’ve been trying to push harder with my exercise.

I exercise five days a week before work, generally just 15 minutes on my cross-trainer, or a quick HIIT workout, but now the mornings are getting lighter I’ve been trying to get out regularly for a run. Even though we’re not running Currahee – because we’re not insane enough to think that either of us can run up a mountain – I want to get back into running because I want to be as fit as possible by May. This mountain is a tough climb, and it’s going to be hot, so I need to be as fit as a 37-year-old with a crap spine, and even crapper knees, can be.

I’ve never been very good at exercise and I’ve never enjoyed it.

I still don’t. At school, I dreaded PE, and I was always the fat one hanging around at the back, trying to get away with doing as little as possible. I left school convinced that I just wasn’t built for physical exercise, and nothing was ever going to change that. I’m short and chubby, I have chunky, stumpy legs and very little upper-body strength – my stocky little frame just isn’t cut out for striding gracefully on a treadmill or darting athletically through the water.

Between leaving school and starting a full-time job, I didn’t do any exercise at all (unless you count shuffling backwards and forwards to Britpop in the 1990s as exercise), so when I decided to start attending a gym it was tough, and I detested it. I stuck it out for many years, but in the end I cancelled my membership because I resented paying for an experience that made me so miserable.

In the last ten years, I have tried countless types of exercise in the quest to find one that was enjoyable. I’m still looking. I’ve tried yoga, kickboxing, aerobics, cross-trainers, cycling, swimming, weights, Zumba, pilates, boxercise, aquacise, salsacise – you name it, and I have tried it and hated it.

The only thing that comes vaguely close to being enjoyable is my weekly anti-gravity fitness class, where you do stretches, strength exercises and yoga poses with the use of a hammock, going upside-down and doing flips. It gives me an extraordinary sense of achievement when I master a new pose or flip, and I do enjoy it on the whole, but I’m always the fattest girl in the class, and quite often I catch myself wishing it was over and trying to stop myself from looking at the clock in case I’m disappointed by what it says.


That’s me in the middle at anti-gravity.

The fact is, I just don’t like exercise.

If you’re reading this hoping to find out that somewhere along the way I suddenly had an epiphany, and now I can’t get enough of exercising, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. I hate it, and it’s a struggle to do it every day. But I know I feel better when I’m fitter, so I persevere. Exercise is a means to an end, and I try to remind myself that feeling fitter is worth the effort.

My morning runs are a struggle. I get up early, and I trudge solidly along at a pace that most serious runners probably wouldn’t even class as jogging. My lungs ache, my legs hurt, I want to give up. I’ve found that exercising alone is the way I prefer to do it, but this means that I lack moral support or encouragement, and it can be easy to give up.

Taking advice from a radio podcast.

This subject came up on the Elis James and John Robins Radio X podcast recently. Elis, a keen runner, said he loved to see people exercising who were clearly new to it, or who didn’t exercise a lot. He said he loved to see these people out there, giving it a go, even if they were struggling, and he always wanted to shout encouragement to them. John was equally supportive of those of us who are exercising despite being out of shape, and it was a pleasant departure from the usual comic stance of fat people being the butt of the joke, and it meant a lot to hear it.

As a chubby jogger, I have been yelled at and laughed at while out running in the past, and it hurt. I’m out there, red-faced and trying my hardest, even though my whole body is screaming for me to stop. I eye every van uneasily as it passes in case the occupants decide to yell something at me (not to stereotype, but it’s almost always two blokes in a van). I don’t deserve to be ridiculed, and it is so demoralising when it happens, it can really make you question why you’re bothering.

John Robbins and Elis James

With the hammer legends themselves – John Robins and Elis James

Hey, we’re in this together!

I have a 30-minute loop that I attempt if my legs are feeling particularly fresh, but even then there is a get-out clause. There is a point on the run at which I know I can turn back, and I only pass this point if I feel confident I can complete the whole circuit. One morning, I was pounding along at my usual dogged pace, and I was hurting. I was approaching the point of no return and I had already made my mind up to turn back, when I looked up and saw a lady jogging in the opposite direction on the other side of the road. She saw me, smiled and waved, then ran on. It sounds ridiculous, but that acknowledgement, that gesture of, “hey, we’re in this together”, lifted me so much that I somehow found some energy from somewhere and I carried on. A bit of positivity can make such a difference.

And I’ve had some positivity on my runs this week, only it wasn’t a jogger on the other side of the road that was cheering me on. When I’ve felt like giving up, I’ve tried to imagine what Elis and John would say if they could see me, wobbling along with my determination starting to waver. I hope they’d use one of their catchphrases and call me a hammer legend, and they’d definitely tell me to keep going, and so I have. And I’ll be out there next week too, pounding that pavement again.

I’ve also got to keep in mind that we’re climbing Currahee to raise money for charity, so please show us some support if you are able to, by donating to our JustGiving page. The climb up Currahee is going to be tough, but maybe it’ll be a little bit easier if I can remember all the kind people who’ve donated, and imagine that my two favourite comedians are there with me in spirit, willing me to keep putting one foot in front of the other like the hammer legend I desperately want to be. #thisgirlcan

Header image © This Girl Can

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