I AM a middle aged woman. When I describe things as happening 30 years ago I am talking about when I was a teenager but I remember many of these things as if they were yesterday.
I remember, for example, being in an athletics lesson in PE at school and being told by my teacher (a small angry lady called Mrs McCann who I could have put in my pocket) that I should be doing the shot-put because I couldn’t run very fast. I remember feeling humiliated and frustrated by that. I remember being okay at the shot-put, but not really trying all that hard because no one else was doing it so there wasn’t anyone to compete with and all the pretty, cool girls were sprinting down the track with their bunches swinging in the air behind them. I remember all of this.
These days girls are encouraged to do all kinds of sport, and are told being strong is GOOD rather than something which relegates you to the corner of the athletics field next to the sandpit where the tall girl from class is leaping around making a mess. I’m happy about this development.
Regular readers will know of my ongoing ambition to do a handstand, and I can report that I am closer to my goal than I have ever been before through a combination of yoga, weight loss and a consistent and regular attendance at my CrossFit classes in Santa Ponsa at CrossFit Mallorca. You can find me there every day, except Sundays when they’re closed (I can’t promise that I don’t occasionally drive past the building though looking longingly at the gate).
I haven’t yet attempted to shot-put anything, but in the meantime I have discovered something I’m getting quite good at. I have started to get reasonably okay at lifting things up from the floor and putting them back down again, not always as gently as I lifted them up admittedly, but dropping a 100 kilo barbell makes a very satisfying noise. This week we have been working on the snatch (an Olympic lift), deadlifts, and back squats. None of these things come easy to me, and some require a lot more technique than others.
When I started training last November with Rob Martin (an excellent coach and experienced professional athlete with the patience of a saint and a sharp sense of humour) and the rest of his team, I had no confidence in my own abilities, and no real understanding of how to do any sort of weight lifting. Six months on and things are quite different, I think even Mrs McCann may have a different opinion of me. Not only am I improving all of the time, but I am capable of out-lifting some others in my class (and no, they aren’t on death’s door or one-legged, thanks), and even out-rowing some of them.
There’s a deeply hidden streak of competitiveness in me that has begun to show itself slowly, but I’m not competing against the other people in my class, I’m competing with my younger self, who, if she had had the right motivation and encouragement at the time, might actually have amounted to quite be a good shot-putter after all. Is it too late for Rio?