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Celebrating and being inspired by the women around me

To mark International Women’s Day, our marketing director and other members of our Women’s Network share their personal accounts of getting active and tackling their own enjoyment gap.

8th March 2023

by Kate Dale
Marketing director, Sport England

Launching This Girl Can With You last week was a brilliant opportunity for me to do one of my favourite things: talking on the radio.

This time, however, I was slightly shamefaced, extolling all the benefits of getting active, telling women the hardest step was the first one, and to not give a flying fig what anyone else thought.

But I haven’t taken my own advice since well before Christmas. Work, and life, got busy; the weather cold and I lost motivation. An attempted reboot in January failed, and the least said about February, the better.

I decided 1 March would be my begin-again day, something that’s often harder than starting out – so much emotional baggage!

But the chat we had at the last Women’s Network meeting -  our organisation's staff network for women that meets once a month to provide a safe space to discuss any topics of interest - gave me that final, encouraging push into my trainers.

It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes a community to get me active – and we know from our research that I’m not alone.

So today I Invite you to read the stories of some of the amazing women I’m lucky enough to work with and be encouraged by:

Garnet Mackinder: team sports and zombies!

I recently retired from semi-professional rugby and have since struggled to really enjoy physical activity again.Coming from a team sport I found it difficult to exercise on my own.

I joined a netball team - really good fun, but only every other week - and also tried touch rugby, but found the difference to contact rugby frustrating and had to travel a fair distance to get there.

Then I discovered Zombies Run!

I like things to be gamified (probably because of my team sport background) and this app does just that. I put a playlist on, and then the app tells you a story, normally going to save someone or collect food/other items in an apocalypse.

For each chapter you can select how far/how long you want to run, and if you want “zombie chases” on, which means that if your pace slows down, a zombie starts to chase you and that makes you do a short burst of speed. I really like the thrill of this, plus the stories are really fun.

I still may not love running, but having Zombies Run gives helps me get out of the house. If you fancy something different give it a try!

Cat Clements: make activity work for YOU

In the last five years, lifting weights, sweating buckets in cardio and walking my gorgeous dog became my routine. But sport and physical activity (or any movement!) weren’t always part of my day. A fear of getting it wrong and doing more damage than good, made me think I was better off not exercising.

But working with an understanding yet challenging personal trainer was the beginning of my journey. Regular gym sessions are now my priority as they help me manage chronic pain and life and work stresses.

After-gym aches and pains still appear, but more if I miss the gym sessions or my walks.

During lockdown I only had limited gym equipment at home, so I challenged myself to Couch to 5k. I did it at my own pace and the sense of achievement, the feeling of moving independently and at a speed beyond the usual walk, was amazing.

It’s challenging to ignore others, but now I focus on my podcast and realise most feel the same, are barely awake or focussing on their own journey.

My message to other disabled folks is simple: if you’re keen, sport and movement can be for you, and you do belong in those spaces!

Alex Moore: celebrating women’s achievements!

Being active has always been part of me. I used to play tennis and run, but increasing time constraints meant I’ve focused on my running.

We’re a small group of women of different ages and backgrounds running different distances and speeds. We call ourselves the Sunday Service (as in transport) as we often have a detour, go out “as and when” and if you’re with us, you should expect delays and random stops.

Our runs are our catch ups, venting, sharing everything and celebrating each other's achievements. These may not be race wins, but about managing our longest distance, getting out as planned or tackling a task we’ve been putting off.

Running is good for our physical health, but that’s only why we started, not why we keep running together. We run because it's fun, social and good for our mental health.

And running as a group means no longer putting up with men shouting things at us. It’s discriminatory and wrong and our message is simple: no comment is a good comment.

Although I’ve not trained enough due to injury, I can’t wait for the next run. In my experience, make exercise social and fun and the habit will come.

Working at Sport England, it’s easy to forget that many of us may face the same barriers as our target audiences.

That, like Garnet, we need to find what works for us. Remind ourselves, like Cat did, that no matter our health history, we belong in a gym, in sport, in being active; and, like for Alex, exercises buddies may be exactly what we need to stay active at one point in our lives.

No matter who you are or what/why you do it, share your stories and struggles with other women, so we help each other get active and close our enjoyment gaps.  

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