Monday, August 3, 2015

How badly do we want to win at sport?

Running in the park yesterday morning I spotted a squad of teenage girls warming up for football* practice. It made me smile cause you just know how many stressed out mums n dads were behind getting them there just after 9am. It was inspiring to see.

But later in the morning I read an expose done by the Sunday Times UK on doping in athletics. Grim and grimmer is all that can be said. If you missed it a whistleblower handed over a database of over 12,000 blood tests from 5,000 athletes and shockingly so many are positive for doping but nothing was done about it.

The last time we had such a huge doping scandal it was men’s cycling and it had a terrible impact on women's cycling. But this time women have to put their hands up too. The pic above is from the 2005 1,500m when Ethiopian Maryam Yusuf Jamal lost out to a suddenly accelerating Russian pack. She now knows she should have won.

British runner Helen Clitheroe (10th in that race) told the Sunday Times team: ‘I didn’t think there was any cheating going on. After that race  I just thought well, maybe I’m just not as good as them. It’s disappointing because perhaps I was as good as them after all. That’s the disappointment. But that race is something I can never change.’

And there it is. No matter how many acres of newsprint are given over to this scandal, women like Yusuf Jamal lost out. Their names are not written in the annals of the sporting greats, but the cheaters are.

It’s a wakeup call for women’s sport. We are not as pure as the driven snow – women want to win in just as many devious and nasty ways as men. We can point the finger at the athlethics body for not acting on these tests but we also need to start asking ourselves – how badly do we want to win?

(*that’s women’s soccer for some of you!)

Friday, July 31, 2015

A personal trainer and her Mojo

Have you ever wondered where a personal trainer gets her Mojo?

Australian Shelley Lask is a former couch potato, a former MuayThai fighter in Thailand and now battling negativity in the fitness industry.

In school I just hated it. I got teased about my knees turning in when I ran and I now know I had undiagnosed exercise-induced asthma. At the time I figured everyone's chest felt tight when they ran.

As soon as it was no longer compulsory, I stopped. As far as I was concerned my body was just a thing that carried my head around. But when I was 21 I saw a video of a Pride FC (MMA) promotion and I was transfixed!

I decided to go to an MMA gym by myself (after asking friends to no avail!), and try to learn MuayThai and Brasilian Jiu Jitsu so I could fight.

I started out doing two sessions a week, then three, then four, and then next thing I knew I was at the gym almost every day, loving the training more than anything else in my life. Mind you, it never occurred to me that it was a sport, I was just going to learnt to fight.

When they told me I had to run before training if I wanted to fight, I started running. Looking back, I had zero background conditioning and some pretty glaring postural issues but I just kind of willed my way through everything. I was blissfully unaware of my own limitations.


Training taught me I was capable of even more than I thought. Every time I thought I'd exhausted myself my trainer would ask me to do ten more kicks and they were always there. I became amazed at how powerful my body really was.

It was nice to be doing something where my natural aggression was a virtue, being sturdy was a virtue, not being afraid of being hit was a virtue and being stubborn was a virtue. As someone who'd always struggled with depression and anxiety I also noticed my mind was clearer and my mood was better.

(Shelley fell so in love with MuayThai that she quit her job in Melbourne and moved to Thailand to train. That’s where we met. She spent 18 months there; training, fighting and eventually working with the World MuayThai Council (WMC). She then retrained at home with the Australian Fitness Academy.) 

It was kind of funny being "the fit one" after having been known as the person who hated walking to the train station. But by then being physically active was such a huge positive part of my life that I knew I'd changed forever. 

Exercise is now just a fun thing I do to keep my mind positive and my body energetic and strong.

Combat sports gaining popularity even with women who don't want to fight is really exciting to me, because often women aren't encouraged to display aggression or physical dominance.

Getting a feel for how much power and force your body can generate using proper technique can be very empowering. Of course you can build strength and fitness but I think what's really magic is that feeling of being "in the moment" with those more primal feelings and movements. You feel really alive!


When I was doing MuayThai and boxing, I didn't really have an understanding of how physical conditioning works. I’d always just trained as much as I possibly could, as often as I possibly could. I thought if I was physically capable of keeping going, then I wasn't done yet. If I saw someone else doing something, then the only reason I couldn't do it was because I wasn't trying hard enough, or being tough minded enough.

I got all the classic overuse injuries, like shin-splints and Achilles tendonitis, and they plagued me every six months or so. I saw that as a failing of my body not keeping up with my will. I've got a much greater respect for and appreciation of my body since taking the time to learn about how it really works.

I've seen and experienced first-hand the body-shaming culture the fitness industry is dominated by and the harm it can cause and I think we can do better. I want to see all kinds of people experience how awesome exercising can make them feel. It shouldn’t be a punishment for not assimilating to the dominant aesthetic ideal.

When the only images we see in these "fitspo" pictures are thin, conventionally attractive women and muscular (but still lean) conventionally-attractive men, it can seem like maybe that's the only way that fit and healthy should look. But it just isn't.

For more Body Positive inspiration, find Lask online at: 


Facebook: Bodypositivehealthandfitness

If you have any questions for Lask, leave a comment.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday - photos via PaddleSurf Ireland Facebook: at the World Championships 2015.
                                    Ireland came 4th in the team comp.

 More Wordless Wednesday bloggers here.     And here on Image-in-ing

(Disclaimer - family member involved #proudsister) 
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