This week's article is courtesy of Barry's colleague Joanne Dowds, MISCP
I was in Morocco recently, I had a great time. It is beautiful and warm, not too far away flight wise yet culturally extremely different.
I had a great time; but...I was surprised how I was objectified as a woman, yet not physically see many local women.
I am different to what Moroccan women look like. I was, and remain very white, (if I’m very honest it is more a very milky pink). I was modestly dressed — more mindful of sunburn than cultural sensitivities — yet my appearance was remarked upon within minutes of leaving where I was staying.
The ‘I’, what I call me, my voice, my thoughts, had no interest or value, only my external shell prompted comment.
Catcalling and unwanted comments is not in any way complimentary, it recalls how a body is rated against someone else’s values. Being judged solely on how you look is superficial and sort of damaging for everybody concerned.
It is hurtful and neglectful of the intrinsic value every individual person holds. A body is something that carries you around. It serves a very important purpose, therefore you should take really good care of it.
Move it regularly, fuel it well but what that looks like as an end result is not the most important outcome. Health should be the aim.
You, as the person who occupies and owns that body, is the only person who should judge it. That’s the rational explanation.
The emotional thoughts connected to having so much attention on my physical appearance are more complex.
Like almost everyone, at least every woman I know and some guys too, my body has been a war zone of neglect, vengeful diets, extreme eating and punishment, with the occasional spa treatment thrown in.
I sometimes feel like a fraud, contributing to something like this, because I am no lean mean running machine like your regular running columnist Mr Kehoe.
I have been in better physical shape than I am now and much, much worse.
Each time imposter syndrome kicks in I reach out to learn more — to science, to books, to people — to gain knowledge and it is enough to remind myself of those rational thoughts.
Health, physical activity and mental wellbeing, exercise for health benefits regardless of physical appearance or outcome is what I am trying to promote and I put those thoughts back in their box.
Whether it is age, maturity or the stars aligning, I am (slightly) more accepting of what my body can do and what it looks like than at any time previous to now.
My relationship to my body is not perfect, but then neither am I.
I am learning to appreciate the imperfections, while being thankful for what my body can do, and I am striving to be grateful for the achievements that mean more.
I like most others, have spent years thinking my body was less than some and much more than others. Comparing my body to others is the way to hell through an Instagram black hole.
I have given the poor thing plenty of hardship over the years. Self-care is a choice. It is not one I get right always, but I have slowly learnt what better choices are, and then with intention making more productive ones.
However, that is not to say that I am watching it sink into a soft middle age without action. However the motivation is coming from a different place. I would like to be as fit as I can for as long as I can — knowing that I am my body’s mechanic, driver, petrol pump attendant and passenger all rolled into one.
I am as guilty as anyone else of reducing others to their attractive (to me) body parts, but it isn’t how I value people; or how I want to be valued.
We are not what we weigh or what we look like. Decide for yourself what is important to you and then move towards it.
If you decide a six-pack is really important to you, great, I am happy for you, but you are not my people.
If you are trying to move, exploring your body’s potential, focusing on improving not on a finished product and trying despite all of modern life’s challenges, you are in my club — the welcome pack is in the post .
Local physio and Newbridge AC member Barry Kehoe offers advice to runners of all levels. See www.kehoephysio.com