Anyone who’s ever been the only girl (or indeed the only beginner) venturing into the sea with a surfboard, staring up at a scary climbing wall or wobbling about on a road bike will know that many sports, and indeed the great outdoors in general, can sometimes be intimidating places, especially when you’re first starting out and learning the ropes.
Sport England’s new This Girl Can campaign knows this well, finding that 75% of women say they’d like to exercise more but are worried about what others will think of them. Girls were concerned that they weren’t fit enough or skilled enough to try new things, and were fearful of being judged.
As someone who is always keen to try out new sports and activities (and I’m not particularly great at the ones I do regularly!), these are feelings I can really relate to. I’ve definitely made a lot of mistakes in my time, and probably looked rather stupid in the process, so it’s great to hear that I’m not alone. And whilst I find the girls out there who are professional athletes and daring explorers incredibly inspiring, it’s the real-life women in #Thisgirlcan’s campaign who feel relatable and honest.
If encouraging more girls into sport doesn’t sound like a pressing problem, get this. Two MILLION fewer women than men aged 14-40 regularly participate in active endeavours in the UK. Time to change that, don’t you think?
So let’s seize the message behind This Girl Can. You don’t have to look typically fit or be athletic to get out there and enjoy exercise and the outdoors. You don’t have to be an expert, and anyone who makes you feel like you do is just plain wrong. But you do have to be brave enough to take the plunge. The first step, the first stroke, the first climb – it’s always the hardest, but it gets easier as you go, I promise. And remember, making mistakes is okay. If you’re making mistakes, you’re learning from them.
As the inspirational Clare Balding, one of the campaign’s spokeswomen, said, “Exercise changes the way you look at life. You stop seeing boundaries, and start seeing opportunities. Sport is not about getting fit or competing, it’s about being alive.”
“We want to tell the real story of women who exercise,” added Sport England chief executive Jennie Price. “They come in all shapes and sizes and all levels of ability.”
Wise words, and I’ll add some of my own. Get outside and be proud of yourself for trying new things, for getting fit, for giving it a go. If #thisgirlcan, anyone can.