Mumaleary's Blog

Cheaper than therapy

Supporting our Sporting Sisters… (or why physical activity is so important for us girls)

Over the last couple of months, probably since I ran my first race of the year, The Wirral Way half marathon on 8th January, I have been thinking more about what sport means to me…by sport- I principally mean running, yoga and the odd few lengths whilst the kids are swimming.

At school I wasn’t a natural sports woman- my hand eye coordination is aabsolutely awful and I was forever trapped between the option of pitting everything into swinging my rounders bat and hitting fresh air anyway or ‘styling it out’ and barely raising my wrist before slinking off to ‘sit off’ with the cool girls.

No- my early experience of team sport taught me that I prefer the stuff where I can only embarrass myself as opposed to letting a whole team down. The memories of missing an all important and ‘easy’ catch in netball, numerous air shots in tennis and totally spooning it in front of a wide open goal still make my cheeks flush almost 3 decades on and yet running with friends, a serious session of hot yoga or a silent swim are things that I absolutely LOVE and make my cheeks flush in a totally different amd all together more welcome way.

As a child mum used to run in the mornings before our dad left for work (obviously after he died this was off the agenda) but she played badminton every Friday which meant Film nights for my sister and our two bessies, Sarah-Jane and Rachel. At almost 74 she still plays at least twice a week and regularly goes walking with a group; Being active was normal in our house. Our dad played squash and went windsurfing every Sunday and we were forever being ferried to swimming and gyming and the rest of it. Gymnastics was my absolute favourite thing and going on a Friday with H it is all I can manage not to get up on the beam or crack out a cartwheel- it felt like magic  and I wasn’t even that good!

I know that this isn’t the experience for everyone and, since running the London marathon in April, I am realising just how many women feel that exercise is an unreachable goal… When I crossed the finish line at London this year I had 131 messages! 131- WOW. Lots of congratulations from men and women but many more from women- mainly mum’s, saying that they could not imagine being able to run 10km, let alone a marathon. Many went on to say that they can’t remember the last time they did anything more physical than running after a scooting toddler (and I am not for a second saying that’s not physical but it’s not a 100% reliable or safe form of exercise is it!)

I have written before about how, when I was at one of my lowest points- signed off work and living back at home with my mum- we swam. Every single day, come rain or shine we got up (or to put it more accurately, my mum got me up), we drove to the pool and both swam. Slowly, slowly; stroke by stroke, I got better. Don’t get me wrong- I was also speaking to a counsellor and taking medication but, I know categorically that the swimming helped significantly- me and my mum. The incredible documentary Mind over Marathon and the strength of the Heads Together campaign is making it more and more normal to talk about mental health and, a part of the discussion is happily focusing on the part physical health and being active play on being mentally well. If exercise wasn’t a part of my life, I know that I would be in a very different place and not a good one.

Now, as a mum of 2 wonderful daughters I want to be at my best for them. Exercise keeps my head out of the shed and they see that it is something that I do. Something that I prioritise and make time for. I love taking them swimming and gyming and now B is trying her hand at tennis (thanks to the free LTA initiative) and is already better than me but, the main thing is they enjoy it and, I hope that in laying these foundations early they will foster a love of sport or, at the very least not fake period pains every PE class…

It is important for me that our girls grow up knowing that they have access to any job any sport, any hobby that they want to pursue. That there isn’t such a thing as a boy’s game and yet sadly, at the moment that simply isn’t the case. At the school sports day this week I was absolutely gobsmacked when the father’s race was longer by a good 10 metres than the mum’s race. WHAT?! Why?! Women run the same distance as men in athletics meets, the kids all ran the same distance in their races- what message does that send out? Mum’s can’t go as far? aren’t as fast? Aren’t as strong? I totally do not get it. I am going to pluck up the courage to be the pain in the ass parent that asks those questions…

and, on that note-

Today, whilst having a long over due hair cut I was reading “Eat Sweat Play by @Anna_Kessel . Initially I was photographing paragraphs that resonated with me but I pretty quickly realised that could amount to around 70% of the book. It is amazing and horrifying in equal measure. Nodding enthusiastically whilst getting a new do isn’t recommend and crying in a packed hair salon ain’t the best either but it is an brilliant and really important book which highlights how women are still marginalised in sport- ok to be the pit girls and the ones giving out the teddies at the Tour de France but not good enough for the big roles…. I would urge you to read it. It goes through a whole host of life experiences- pregnancy and being a mum are just two that can mean we as women drop sport and, once we’ve ‘thrown in the towel’ what will prompt us to pick it up again? Pressure about the way we look or a positive desire to feel fit and strong?

Wow- that turned into a bit of a rant- apologies for the ramble, there you have it- another blog post…perhaps I am getting my mojo back. 😊

I would love to hear your experience of sport and exercise and any book recommendations are always welcome.

Lots of love,



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