Fit for purpose
We’ve all had a while now to consider how well we’re sticking to our new year’s resolutions. Mine could be more creative; they include a commitment to living a little more healthily – being vigilant about not drinking alcohol three nights a week (a self-imposed rule that went out the window in December), and more disciplined about gym attendance. I can’t be alone in finding it difficult on a dark winter evening to get home from work, get changed and go straight back out to an exercise class? Yes, I know I’ll feel so much better afterwards, and I’ll sleep better too – but it’s cold and wet out there, and I’m warm and cosy in my flat…
So, you could describe my new year ambition as modest. But at least the commitment I made on 1 January is building on a reasonable foundation, because I’ve been a regular gym-goer for the best part of 20 years – longer than I’ve been out. I love exercise now, because of its obvious physical benefits of course, but even more for its hugely positive mental impact. A good work- out quite simply makes you feel better about yourself – and it was one of the few constants I had when going through the turmoil of coming out. Yet I’ve been reading about the barriers to LGBT participation in sport. For example, LGBT Youth Scotland conducted research about the legacy of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, and heard how bullying in PE at school made LGBT pupils less likely to participate in sport; and the study pointed up the extra practical barriers for transgender youngsters, including gendered teams and changing rooms. Stonewall figures in 2012 showed 66% of LGBT people believe there is homophobia and transphobia in sport, which led to a barrier to taking part.
I was lucky, I discovered exercise almost by accident. I’d been rubbish at sport at school, the pinnacle of my achievement being one season in the hockey team, and even then I spent every match terrified of being hit by a heavy ball travelling at high speed. But when I bought my first flat, I discovered there was a gym around corner – and ease of access was the catalyst. I started with swimming, and when, after a few months, I realised that pootling about in the pool was perfectly enjoyable but did little for my heart-rate, I graduated to some of the tougher, weight-bearing exercise classes. I loved them, and throughout my 30s would regularly get up early and do a class before work. No- one pushed me, no- one encouraged this, it just happened. “There’s no better way to start your day,” I would cheerily tell colleagues in the newsroom, most of whom asserted that they could think of plenty of things they’d rather be doing at 6.30 in the morning.
Sadly my shift pattern these days rarely allows for a pre-work work- out – and as most readers in their 40s and beyond can testify, one of the worst aspects of ageing is the drop in your energy levels. But exercise is still a boon, both physically and mentally. Work by Stonewall Wales shows that while lesbians are significantly more likely than gay men to be a member of a sports club, they are less likely than gay men to be a member of a gym. Again, I was fortunate, I joined a gym around the time I was starting to deal with my sexuality, and found it was one that while not marketing itself as Lgbt-friendly nonetheless welcomed all- comers. Everyone should have that chance; we should all be involved in the sport of our choice at any age, without barriers – real or perceived – being put in our way, not least because it can be a real support through tricky times.
I was rubbish at sport at school