When the first This Girl Can advert hit the TVs I was contacted by friends who couldn’t wait to tell me just how much it had resonated with them and I was thrilled.
You might assume that because I work in the sport and physical activity sector that my background is sporty, and that my friends and family are enthusiastically throwing themselves around sports pitches, running miles during all weathers or cycling to and from work every day.
Not so, or at least not the ones I know outside of work.
Of all the people I grew up with only my brother is “sporty”, I’m more a give it a go type of person. I’ve tried hosts of sports and activities. What I find is that each one has fit differently into my life as and when it’s mattered – from swimming when I worked in a leisure centre while a student (it was free for staff), to joining the hockey club where I live to help me make friends when I first moved there.
Being active is a choice.
It’s not a choice that is always easy to make. Sometimes life gets in the way. I’ll make a confession, right now I am not leading an active life. I’m finding it hard to fit in, work is a 3.5-hour round trip each day, and I don’t have a car anymore so getting places at the weekend is not easy, and near me there’s not obvious things to do. If I put time into it, I could work out a solution but other things are my priority right now.
During 2017, London Sport focused on bringing physical activity to women who were finding it even harder than me to get active, but needed all the positive effects that come with leading physically active lives. We supported 10 organisations who work with women to provide physical activity through their own services.
These organisations worked with women to tackle issues around isolation, ill-health, depression. Issues that cause low self-esteem and anxiety. The organisations didn’t already offer physical activity, but they knew the benefits it could have.
We supplied, through three delivery partners (Exercise, Music and Dance UK, England Netball and GoodGym) 8 weeks of delivery, any necessary equipment and training for at least two of the group to train as leaders for after the 8 weeks were over. Delivery absolutely had to take place at the location of the organisation we worked with, and the group had to become self-sustained by its own members.
Why did we approach reaching more women with physical activity like this?
Because taking up a new activity, any new activity, is scary – it’s a step into the unknown. We wanted to eliminate as many unknowns as we could. This goes back to my “non-sporty” but excited by This Girl Can friends. One of whom couldn’t wait to tell me that she was joining the gym. I’ll be honest I wasn’t convinced she’d enjoy it, but when I asked why the gym she told me that on a Friday afternoon she finished work at 1pm, she passed the gym on the way home, knew it was quiet at that time, for her it was right time, right place, right style.
Our This Girl Can project was the right place – somewhere the women felt confident, safe and comfortable. Right time – the organisation picked the day and time that worked for them and right style – beginner, learner, wear what you want and after 8 weeks led by someone who understands what it’s like to be one of the participants.