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Are past negative experiences holding you (and your health) back?

Written by Sarah on

Did you hate PE at school? Did you write yourself off as someone who wasn't a natural exercise person? Me too! Sometimes we need to question the narratives and identities we've created about ourselves and whether they are holding us back.

It took me until the age of 39 to find a happy and healthy romantic relationship. After a lot of heartache (and some questionable decision making) I’d got myself rooted in a narrative that happiness in relationships just wasn’t for me. I could be successful in other areas of my life but in romance, no chance. Every unsuccessful relationship I had just added to my confirmation bias.

But that didn’t have to be my story, nothing was inevitable, I could choose to have a happy relationship if I wanted one and then one day, I did.

It's made me think about the other unhelpful narratives I’ve created and assumed are true and how we all do this with certain aspects of our lives, even when there is plentiful evidence to disprove our own theories about ourselves and our identities.

Another one for me and I think for many people is the “I’m not a sporty person” narrative.

For many of us, our first experience of formal exercise is at school. Before that we don’t think of physical activity as exercise, we think of it as fun – chasing our mates round the playground, climbing trees, clambering over equipment in a soft play area. To (most) kids exercise is joyous and something which comes naturally. What makes so many of us who find non-formal exercise a pleasure in childhood, have such negative experiences and ideas about exercise as we become teenagers and then adults?

As a kid I loved being outside, I was lucky to grow up in a rural area where I had access to acres of countryside, endless trees to climb and I was completely obsessed with horse riding. At primary school I loved racing round the school field and doing cartwheels until I was dizzy. I look back on those days with a sun-drenched nostalgia.

Exercise memories for me at secondary school though? Shivering on a hockey field watching my knees turn attractive shades of purple and blue as me and the other no hopers moped around hoping the ball didn’t come anywhere near us as we knew there was no chance of us hitting it anywhere useful if it did. Getting screamed at and written off by mardy PE teachers who only wanted to teach the sporty, naturally talented kids and didn’t want to bother with the rest of us. I remember trying to learn to play tennis and my teacher’s only interaction with me was the statement ‘you have absolutely no eye to hand coordination’ before stomping off in disgust!

I decided that exercise wasn’t for me. I was never going to have the skills needed to play any of the sports which we did at school and unfortunately it’s not seen as cool to climb trees, ride horses and run about in the fields for fun when you’re 14. The only exercise I was going to get for the next 10 years was running for the bus after I’d overslept and dancing in pubs and clubs with a pint of lager in one hand and a cigarette in the other.

Rediscovering the joyfulness I could get from exercising in my 20s was a massive turning point for me. Going to aerobics classes where the instructor was funny and inclusive rather than stern and dismissive, remembering the childlike thrill of zooming along on a bike, realising the satisfaction of a powerful punch into a punchbag. All of these experiences have led me to where I am today and made me a healthier and happier person.

If you’ve had told a teenage me that I was going to end up choosing a career in the fitness industry I would have been gobsmacked (as would my PE teachers!) It makes me sad that so many of us get written off as being ‘useless’ at exercise at school and then carry this negative view of ourselves when it comes to our abilities into our adult lives.

If you think you are rubbish at exercise or you hate it, question where these beliefs come from and whether they are actually true. We all have something we can be good at with a little practise and some kind of activity we can find joy in. If you haven’t found yours yet keep trying – it’s definitely out there, just like a happy and healthy relationship was out there for me!

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