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Exercise and me


I hated PE in school. The kind where I’d see it on my timetable and feel sick as I tried to pack my horrible trainers around my textbooks.  

I really thought I was just lazy but as it turns out, I, and probably many other 13-year-olds, don’t really like being shouted at for not running fast enough. Sports day was enough to make me (unsuccessfully) fake a cold in a bid to stay at home. I hated the team spirit of it all – why should we be praised for how fast we can pass a baton?  

It just didn’t make sense to me. I would rather have found myself a sunny spot under a tree, read a book, and let the kids who were actually quite good at sports run laps around the field. It was largely down to teenage stubbornness. It wasn’t that I was bad at sports, I spent a few years doing gymnastics and trampolining, and could have probably cartwheeled my way across the field.  


Looking back on it now, I empathise with myself. It wasn’t fun. Having left school, I suddenly found myself with buckets of free time and decided maybe I’d give the gym a go.  

I hated it.  

It wasn’t until I was 20 that I finally began to find some enjoyment from the gym. I was super focused, goal oriented, and made it my mission to limit calories and push myself with cardio. I was undeniably motivated to become toned to the tune of some of the other women in the gym. Perfectly chiselled and sculpted by Davina herself.  

Instead, I found myself with brain fog bad enough to cause me to get on the wrong bus multiple times (true story). I had virtually no energy, and quite frankly, I felt awful.  

Shifting focus 

Moving forward to this year, I decided to shift my focus towards favouring my mental health instead of solely trying to lose weight. I started off by building up my cardio skills, and in the process, discovered how well the treadmill seems to help me de-stress.  

Weight training was a daunting prospect for me, and if I’m honest, sometimes it still is. I was petrified of being surrounded by men in the free weights area who clearly knew I was a complete amateur – except none of them care, one bit.  

It’s so hard to pretend you’re invisible. There is no right or wrong way to exercise (but please seek advice from a trainer or someone at the gym for an induction before you begin), which is a helpful thought as I often struggle with the very unhelpful thought that I could always be doing more, with no regard for how exhausted I get.  


Changing my focus from physical improvement towards mental wellbeing has made my gym sessions far more productive. I feel as though I’m building myself up positively as opposed to pushing myself to a breaking point, and being able to see progress is really encouraging. On top of this, I can see an increase in self-esteem – and I have more energy. I can think clearer.

 And, I haven’t had to flail around a field in football shorts 🙂

 Support for you: 

  • Visit for local mental health support and ways to keep mentally healthy 
  • Mind has an article on physical activity and mental health you might find useful 
  • Call Samaritans for free 24/7 emotional support on 116 123 
  • Call Dorset’s helpline ‘Connection,’ for 24/7 mental health support on NHS 111 

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Dorset Mind is a self-funded local charity that helps people in Dorset experiencing mental health problems access the vital support they need. The charity is at the very heart of our communities shaping futures, changing and in some cases literally saving lives.

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