This Girl Can

Have you heard about this new advertising campaign from Sport England? It’s awesome. Basically in the UK, for whatever reason, women / girls do not do as much exercise as men. For example – in 2012 there were ONE MILLION more UK men than women taking part in exercise more than three times a week. There are almost TWO MILLION more UK men than women who exercise at least once a week.

The worst thing is that young girls, teenagers, are nearly half as likely as their male counterparts to do nothing. And studies show that those who exercise / take part in sport regularly as children are more likely to continue as adults.

Obesity costs our country huge amounts and it is on the rise, especially amongst young people. Conversely, eating disorders are also a serious problem affecting more and more young people (boys and girls, but mainly girls – even those as young as six).

This great report found that:

– nearly one quarter of women were put off sport by PE lessons at school (I’d be one of those)
– 2/5 feel self-conscious about their bodies in PE lessons
– A quarter of women agree with the statement “I hate the way I look when I exercise”
– A third of 18-24 year olds and nearly half 25-34 year old women feel more pressure to be thin than to be healthy

That is a really sad state of affairs. Other than the first point (more on that later), the rest don’t actually apply to me. I came to exercise relatively late – around 24 – 25 – inspired by my mum, who had taken up triathlon in her late fifties. I actually quite like the way I look when I exercise – few would agree but I enjoy being red-faced and sweaty, I love seeing the sweat pour off my arms on a spin bike. It shows how hard I’m working (this is also the message of the This Girl Can campaign). I definitely did feel that pressure to be thin rather than healthy, but as soon as I started exercising, that changed. I didn’t want to lose weight, I wanted to build muscle. I don’t workout to be thin, I workout to run faster, to swim faster, to bike faster. To feel more comfortable doing all those things.

If everyone felt this way, I think more people would exercise! And that’s where this campaign comes in – to change the way women and girls feel about sport, to show normal-looking role models having fun, to show sport as ENJOYABLE rather than a chore that has to be got through.

PE at school has a lot to answer for. I HATED PE. Not for how I looked (I was one of those annoying skinny-as-a-rake teenagers despite how much I ate) but because I was so malcoordinated. I was horrendous at hockey, netball and rounders. I was slow at running – I’m still slow at running. And that was about all there was. My personal view is that too much emphasis was put on “winning”, on competition. Now I’m not saying that being competitive is a bad thing, it’s not. But I’m never going to win this marathon I’m training for, nor win any triathlon I do. But it doesn’t mean that finishing isn’t an achievement in itself. It doesn’t mean all the training is worth nothing. It doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do it. That’s the message that is getting lost in school sports.

So I really welcome the This Girl Can campaign. For a start it’s nice to see real women, non-airbrushed women, women of all shapes and colours, on TV. And they’re not being used to sell us some “improving” product. (Read this blog for my favourite review of the ad – she talks about feminism with her niece and is funny and passionate and insightful.) Secondly – its an important message. I love my new life filled with fitness and exercise, and anything we can do to inspire more people to get involved is great!

The ad is fantastic:

But I also really like the Behind The Scenes – and in fact I think the message from here is stronger as the women talk about how exercise makes them feel. I love it!

I want more of the Meet the Girls vids – I love the look on Grace’s face as she starts going downhill – all cyclists know this feeling!

Check out the website and meet the girls here.

P.s. Janathon Day 17 – 17 miles run, 15 minutes of yoga, half an hour walking round town, one exhausted Alice.



  1. I am right behind you in the hating PE at school. I sat on my behind for the best part of 15 years as a result. I’m now right behind you in thinking this ad is fantastic – thanks for sharing! 🙂

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