Fit for pur­pose

Diva (UK) - - | Views | Jane Hill | -

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

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