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women on the run from reality

Getting strong is not a simple exercise, writes Eva Wiseman.

I started running to impress my neurologist. I downloaded the little app, put on some simple sneakers and threw myself out the door. And adorably, I continued to do it every other day, even after telling my neurologist twice, even after finishing the application – instead I listened to podcasts on, for example, “What did this small-town American police department do wrong” and “Hey, did you know some people can smell dementia?”.

I’ve never been the PE type. I hate yoga, I find it very horrible. I lack the competitiveness necessary to practice a team sport and the idea of ​​going to the “gymnasium”, a place so aesthetically moribund, so heavy with the weight of vanity and the regrets of others, puts me off. Yet earlier this year, when the neurologist suggested I make some “lifestyle changes,” I decided to give running a try — the least bad option on a badly stained menu.

But… it wasn’t as simple as that. It was recently reported that nearly half of British women have done “no vigorous exercise” in the past year. The title bothered me. It was the same feeling of discomfort I remembered when, in those twilight months of early parenthood, I read a breastfeeding study in the papers that suggested that the longer a baby is breastfed, the more successful and intelligent he becomes. While the study was important, the way it was reported left many of my maternal peers, each desperately trying to keep their newborns alive through the spring, feeling ashamed and guilty.

This exercise study landed the same way, inspiring familiar guilt. Everyone knows the reasons why women exercise – health, fitness, losing a stone before Alison’s wedding. But the reasons women don’t exercise are rarely discussed. Doing so requires a brooding breakdown of the factors, the narrative of which grows quieter and sadder as the list grows. Why do half of women not exercise? Because it takes time, time alone, time that, if they have children, many have to pay for. Outside of office hours, women do on average 60% more “unpaid work” than men, such as caring for children or elderly parents, cleaning the house and preparing a meal for five people in less than 30 minutes. Their time is not theirs – the clock has melted.

And of those who are able to carve the recommended 150 minutes a week into their schedule, some continue to struggle with poor body image, which means they feel anxious and vulnerable about showing off their bodies. Lycra-ed to the world. Others feel ‘unsafe to exercise outside’ – world of runners found 60% of women said they were harassed while running. It seems the original headline was the wrong way: isn’t it more remarkable that half of women have exercised in the past year?

After seven months of regular running, I still don’t like it. People talk to me about the rush, the calm, how it makes them feel uplifted, high. For me, it’s still largely a slog. But aside from the impact it has had on my migraines, the main benefit of regular exercise has been the freedom I feel. Every time I tighten my sneakers and leave my house, I marvel at the fact that I created this time alone, that this piece of the world – of path, stream, park and wood – is mine and for now, for me. The dream is to run fast enough to run away from it all – your job, your responsibilities, your anxieties, your body, the news and its headlines, yourself. For half an hour at least, or until the next study drops. It doesn’t matter which comes first. — Guardian News and Media