A Love Letter

It had been at least 5 months since I last even thought about you, and at the time I was pleased to have you out of my life. No more evenings dragging myself of the sofa, out of pyjamas into something more appropriate. No more pain and tears when it was tough going. No more early mornings to get it out of the way before work. But this week something has changed. I never thought I would say this, but I MISS YOU EXERCISE!

Yesterday was a very special day - I got to meet my friend's baby for the first time. I drove to her house, held her beautiful baby boy for a while and then enjoyed a lot of tea and good food. I woke up this morning with pains in my legs from working the clutch and pains in my arms from holding the baby. An infant! I am so weak I am currently too weak to hold a 6-week old baby. So maybe I should explain myself. 

Exercise was a HUGE migraine trigg6er for me. As my migraines were "silent" this only ever manifested as nausea and dizziness after a session as well as 'exercise intolerance' - a sort of overwhelming fatigue completely disproportionate to the amount of exertion. My consultant warned me strictly off of doing anything physically tiring following my diagnosis, advising I only start again when my symptoms are significantly improved. For that reason I haven't done anything resembling exercise for nearly 5 months. Initially hearing that advice felt like such a relief - finally a legitimate reason to stop what had felt like self-torture for so long. But why had I ever even tried to continue through all the horrible side-effects?

I mainly ignored my own body not because exercise is good for you, which is of course true, but because I felt it was socially unacceptable to abandon it. The solution to all life's ills seems to be brunch, yoga and squats. If Instagram taught us one thing it is that. 

In a world where "strong is the new skinny" there is a lot of pressure to exercise. Scrap that. There is huge glorification of women to look 'like they exercise'. 90's "heroin chic" has been replaced by girls with abs and muscular definition, girls who would rather be in a spin class at 5:30am than at a warehouse rave. And on the whole this is a huge, powerful and wonderful improvement of attitudes. Except if you don't 'look' like you exercise. 

And that is where this idea falls down. If we were truly celebrating health we would know that this is not always linked to appearance. I know plenty of girls who slave away at the gym and never see anything like the results that have been subconsciously promised to them by anonymous headless gym-bunnies, tanned and tensing in their dayglo gym kit. Those friends do not take solace in the fact they are "strong not skinny", they beat themselves up that they don't look like the poster-girls for that phrase. I also have friends who have never broken a sweat and accidentally have a washboard stomach and a pert bottom. 

If we really want to celebrate the trend for health then we need to abandon this obsession with a singular vision of what health looks like. The only person you are in competition with is yourself, and if you are becoming stronger, faster, better than you were yesterday, then that is the only thing that matters. Sadly you can't put a Valencia filter on that. 

So I will come back to you soon exercise, and I will enjoy every minute of you, and I shall test your benefit not by how defined my stomach may or may not become, but by my ability to hold a baby without losing the use of my limbs the following day...

 

If you haven't already checkd out #ThisGirlCan you absolutely should

 

 

 

**Amendment: This article originally neglected that the aforementioned baby was the best one ever.