Sweaty Betty

Don’t let appearances deceive you, I am actually an athlete. Yesterday I managed a whole 3k. Actually, it was 2.94k of snail’s pace jogging but it’s always important to exaggerate one’s sporting endeavours. And believe me, that 2.94k felt worthy of a podium place after almost a year of doing heehaw to get a sweat on.

That’s been one of the weirdest parts of the pandemic for me, the steady creep of physical inactivity – I’ve let myself fall into a sweat-less slump. This is an absolutely abnormal state of affairs, and it’s taking its toll. Almost a year into the Covid cataclysm and I find myself carting around several spare tyres and becoming breathless when strolling up even the gentlest of slopes. Apart from twice-weekly adventures with online yoga (harder and a lot less Zen-like than you might imagine) and a daily constitutional, my fitness-for-life mantra has more or less fizzled out. I just can’t help it, my mojo is MIA.

For me, this missing mojo is a signifier of some serious shit. In life BC (before Covid), this short, round middle aged woman was a movement machine. Not a proper athlete, don’t be daft, but someone who always kept herself active. Someone who adores the freedom of bombing about on a bike; a woman who basks in the glow gained from ploughing through 30, 40 or 50 lengths of the local pool; a mid-50s trouper who can still keep the pace up in gym or spin classes; an outdoors obsessive who made it to the summit of Ben Lomond just one wee year ago. But godammit, it’s all gone west. This absence of activity-induced endorphins is made all the worse because fitness was an integral part of my life BC, although it wasn’t always thus.

I was never a sporty kid (unless you count a few years playing left wing in Hillhead High School’s Slap Shot-esque 2nd XI hockey team – the misfit squad), and other than chucking myself about vigorously on various dance floors and being a city cyclist all through in my youth, fitness was of no interest whatsoever. Even the growing gym craze more or less passed me by, other than a horribly embarrassing episode in the testosterone-infused environs of Manchester Polytechnic sports centre. I dabbled with exercise in my 20s but I didn’t start to take my physical fitness seriously until the rock’n’roll years really began to bite me on the bum.

Coming to the gradual realisation that an over-extended youth was coming at the expense of my health was what got me up off said arse and into activity. It wasn’t easy being a late starter and I’m certainly not a natural, but I quickly discovered that exercise took both mind and body to a good place. And there were other benefits to being a late adopter. I didn’t and don’t care what I look like in my tatty old kit or sporting a beetroot red face. I don’t feel the need to keep up with the kids and I don’t need to win stuff. I am wise enough to know that exercise may hurt, sometimes quite a lot, but that it will feel bloody brilliant afterwards. Best of all? I just love being stronger in every way than I was in my youth.

So that’s why I’m trying to rediscover my mojo, by clocking up a few kilometres and getting back in the saddle. Hopefully I’ll have regained some lost ground when the gyms and pools fling open their doors – I can’t wait to sweat buckets. So far it’s bloody hard going, but it’s so good to be moving and I’m not giving up. I can’t, I’m in training for whatever a post-pandemic life throws my way.

First 10K, 2005 – aged 41