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I can’t be the only one who exercises for their mind, not body

Forget the weight loss and the winners' medals, Bryony's discovered what getting active is really about
Forget the weight loss and the winners' medals, Bryony's discovered what getting active is really about Credit: Isabelle Maroger

One of the most surprising things about getting older is not the emerging wrinkles, nor the stiff back upon rising in the morning. It’s not the realisation that I have turned into my mother, nor that I think most young people’s music is nothing but noise. No. One of the most surprising things about getting older for me, as a woman, is this: it’s that I actually enjoy exercise.

As a child at school, I learnt that exercise was a sort of state-sanctioned punishment. Through the brutal humiliation of never being picked for the netball or lacrosse team, I understood that you should not bother doing exercise unless you excelled at it, which, now I come to think about it, is like telling someone they shouldn’t cook unless they happen to have a Michelin star.

Then, as a teenager and 20-something, I discovered that exercise was a necessary evil if you wanted to lose weight or stay trim. A moment on the lips meant a lifetime on the hips. Unless, of course, I worked out, in which case I could ‘treat’ myself to a bite or two of chocolate.

It was only in my 30s, when I found myself running as a means to escape my own head (running away from myself, in a way), did I realise that I could enjoy exercise. That when it was something you did for your mental health rather than your physical health, it could, in fact, be really rather glorious indeed.

2020欧洲杯足球即时比分The revelation was life-changing. Suddenly, exercise was not about the losses – the inches on my hips, the pounds on the scale – but the gains: the endorphins, the mental clarity, the time to myself.

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I2020欧洲杯足球即时比分’ve found myself able to do things I had previously thought were beyond me, including marathons, triathlons and, most recently, skiing (yes reader, despite last week’s column, I have given it a go and been partially converted to the cause).

As a consequence, I have realised I am growing in confidence and self-esteem in an absolutely immeasurable way. Exercise is not a tool to beat yourself with. It is a gift.

Every week, without fail, I run around 20 miles and do two weightlifting sessions. These are non-negotiable. Without them, I am invariably less motivated. The more I do, the more I am able to do: at work, at home, in life generally.

It is not about my weight – I am still a size 18 to 20 – it is about my well-being, the wonderful feeling that my worth is not shaped by my, well, shape. I may not be the fastest, or the strongest, but I am definitely the most content I have ever been. Exercise is the time that grounds me. It is my moment to breathe deeply and remember that I am alive.

Don’t believe me? Then give it a go. You may remember that last year, we created the Celebrate You movement and encouraged almost 1,000 women (many of them Stella readers) to join us by running a 10k event through the streets of London in their underwear – the point being to prove that exercise is for everyone, not just the athletic.

This year, we are doing it all again, though this time you don’t have to run in your pants. You can sign up via the link below. I hope to see you on the start line, for a joyous day of exercising and celebrating the wonder that is you.

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