January can be an overwhelming month, where we feel pressure to reflect on the year gone and form expectations...
What does sport & physical activity mean to you?
Sport for me was always something I always just did. I loved sport, enjoyed competition and wasn’t too bad at it either! I never really thought about why I played. But it's only been in the last few years that I’ve really thought about this personal relationship between me and being active. I started to explore what sport and physical activity has meant to me over the years.
‘Life changes’ can effect peoples engagement and participation in sport & physical activity. Looking back at some of my own life changes, there’s been some very obvious and common reasons why I have or haven’t participated in sport & physical activity. At the time I didn’t think much of it, but it was only when one particular event occurred that it made me look at sport & physical activity in a very different way.
Some of these life changes include;
- Moving to a new area for a job – competitive sport and a large social club was important for me, enabling me to continue my love of sport whilst making new friends.
- Weight loss! – sport & physical activity is a great way to be healthier and lose weight. Various activities across the week helped me achieve this.
- Injury - this forced me to find a different activity. Rather than pounding the concrete, I found less impacting activities in swimming and pilates.
- Motherhood – this had a huge impact on my participation levels; I found I didn’t really get back into playing or doing anything. It was too easy not to bother!
All of the above life changes hugely impacted on my participation levels and unfortunately the last two eventually ground me to a halt.
It wasn’t until the next life change happened that I realised I needed to change this and found a new reason to get back into activity. And from that day sport & physical activity has meant something completely different for me. I now participate for a reason I never thought I would need to.
Life was going to plan until a few years ago. I experienced a loss that totally rocked me. The pain it caused was huge and hard to explain. But I truly believed I would get past it and be able to move forward, or at least put it to one side and try and carry on. I knew the loss would always be there but never thought for one second it would affect me to the extent and the way it has.
It was probably 5 months after the loss that one day I just hit a wall. It was a day at work, working on a project that I was developing. I felt completely out of control and just started crying uncontrollably. I have never felt this way before and felt it was totally out of the blue.
I knew it wasn’t to do with work, it was all connected to what happened 5 months previously. Through work and family support I went and sought help, getting diagnosed with depression and anxiety during the process.
If I'm honest, I was shocked! Me – anxiety – depression! This was something I wasn’t expecting to hear. I realised over time that this was not going to just disappear and it was going to be a long road, and something I was going to have to find a way to manage. This is something I still struggle with today and have to work tirelessly to ensure I stay on top of.
What I soon realised was that it had to be me that made the change. I had to take control (with support), to find a way through this. It had to start with me doing something for myself. Not my family or others.
It was then that people suggested I get back into sport; they knew I used to love it. I was asked "why don't you go back to netball?" But I wasn’t interested. I didn't want to be part of a team sport, I didn’t want to play competitions, I didn’t want to have to think about anyone else at that point.
However, there was a big part of me that still liked taking part in sport & physical activity and how it made me feel. I decided to find an activity that would allow me to do something just for me. At this point I hadn’t done any exercise for about 3 years. I was overweight, and alongside my anxieties I didn’t want to go to a gym or where there were lots of men and very fit people!
I ended up researching female-only activities near me. Boxfit was something that jumped out at me as a class that I was interested in. It was something I hadn’t done before, but would be a new activity for me to try. The session was run in my local community hall; when I walked in I saw the room was full of about 30 women, all shapes and sizes. I was so nervous, but I told myself "you've got this."
The first session was incredibly hard; I walked out after 30 minutes and burst into tears. All my worries and anxieties had just got too much. The instructor was amazing and came to check on me, eventually persuading me to go back into the class for the last 20 minutes. After this first class, I thought "no, this isn’t for me, I'm not going back".
However, within an hour of getting home, I already had a message from the instructor that filled me with confidence. I ended up going back. Over the next few weeks I gained confidence in the class and started to fall in love with it.
It was exactly what I needed. A focused hour on myself. I lost the weight and was able to get rid of any frustrations I had through the pads. It soon became the 1 hour a week where I could switch my brain off and not think or worry about anything. I only had the space to concentrate on what I was doing and keep breathing!
I very quickly found a new reason to do sport and physical activity. Sport & physical activity can play a huge part in helping people with their mental health. It provides a reason for some time out and time for yourself. I have been attending these boxfit sessions for 2.5 years now and I try really hard to ensure I go to one session a week. It makes a massive difference to how I feel that week and I recognise the effect on my mental health when I don’t.
Today, in this strange world we are living in with COVID-19 and lockdown, I’ve found it really important to find a way of continuing this exercise and find time for myself. Being at home, with myself and husband working, plus home-schooling and entertaining a 5-year-old, is stressful enough! I know that continuing to exercise is something I need to do to ensure my anxieties don’t take over. Fortunately, my boxfit instructor found a way of continuing our sessions online. Virtual fitness sessions via YouTube is now my weekly activity. It's not quite the same- there are two others in the house! But these classes allow me to stop and do something for me. And actually, taking part virtually has allowed me to up my activity and do 2 sessions a week, which is making a huge difference to how I’m coping with this new way of living we are in.