I’m not a sports-person. I blame the education system. At school we had to do gym in green pants, (yes pants in the British sense, ie; underwear not trousers) on a dusty floor that smelt of wee. I still wake sweating, to the sound of pinging elastic. But that’s another post. (Or maybe – note to self – a Christian version of Fifty Shades. Possibly with a vampire twist).
Where was I? Ah yes. Exercise. It’s actually not so bad – as long as other people are doing it. In fact I’m enjoying the Olympic coverage. Not the sport you understand, (that would be ridiculous) – but the feature pieces on the athletes. It’s fascinating to read about how they prepare for such a massive event, their struggles, their triumphs, what they think of other competitors, where they hang out etc, etc. But what’s best is reading about athletes who are strong and healthy and in tune with their bodies. ‘Able’-bodied and not – all different shapes and sizes, but radiating energy and life. Sure, they’re not perfect. They’ve got body hang-ups too. But it’s a breath of fresh air to see people in magazines who don’t look starving or plastic. Beside them, the models just look wasted and ill.
Behind the headlines, even the best athletes break. Success is brief and far from guaranteed. Sportsmen suffer injuries, tiredness and discouragement too. But when I see these men and women, I see a picture of health that’s bigger than just fitting into a bikini. I see something I want for myself and for my friends: a positive, joy-filled bodily life.
Sometimes I look at models and feel depressed – perhaps because they often look depressed too. But these pictures of sports people fill me with hope. Why? Athletes are, arguably, just a different kind of perfection – but I don’t compare myself to them in the same way. I see in them the beauty, not of rippling muscles or ripped bodies, but of each part working together, doing what it should, to its very best. The sheer joy of physicality and the wonder and complexity of the human form.
It’s something that’s helped me challenge anorexia too. For a long time, I tried to motivate myself to ‘put on weight’. It’s a goal,but it’s subtly negative.What’s much more positive – and motivating – is aiming to be healthy, full and strong.