• Alice Ridsdale

Who Run The world, Girls!

Updated: Jul 6, 2020

I was hesitant about writing a fitness-related post. Let's face it, who needs yet another lycra-clad gym-goer preaching that their newfound deep breathing techniques has enabled them to look past consumerism to find their authentic yogi self. Or that virtual pilates classes has transformed their lockdown work-life balance because at 5 pm they commute from the desk to the mat. We get it- your body is your temple; a downward dog is your daily ritual and you probably snort protein powder for breakfast. That said, I'll never underestimate the power of keeping fit because daily exercise has become fundamental in my quest to be as happy as I can be, within the boundaries of my grief.

I am not a morning person. I don't wake up with a spring in my step at the best of times. I wake up with a grunt and one eye closed, like a teenager who never grew out of their difficult phase. I'm not me in the morning. I'm Greta; my AM alter ego. No one likes Greta.

My Dad, who begins each day with a cold-water swim has always instilled in me the value of morning exercise for the mind. Having given up on trying to persuade me to join him and the ducks in our local sludge-riddled pond, he tells Greta that she should go on a run and get the blood pumping as 'we are all just a bag of chemicals'. Well this particular bag is like one that's been rehomed too many times on Depop; in need of some serious cheering up. Not by a savvy millennial that upcycles, but by the help of exercise-induced endorphins. In scientific terms, what Dad is trying to tell Greta is that exercise increases endorphins, dopamine, adrenaline and endocannabinoid; chemicals associated with feeling happier and less anxious.

From speaking to people around me, especially women, I get the impression that many have a strained relationship with exercise - a guilt-ridden activity they feel pressure to partake in and self-loathing when they don't. It's a shame that often, especially within the realm of filtered grids, the focus is so heavily placed on external physical results that the power to transform us internally, gets lost.

Training for the London Marathon helped reframe my perspective on fitness. Running such long millage, the focus shifted to considering the different elements that would allow me to perform my best, not how it made me look.

I first experienced the benefits of exercising after being diagnosed with scoliosis when I was thirteen. The 63-degree curve on my spine resembled more of a snake than a vertebra. I had a 7-hour correction surgery and my realigned spine was secured in place by titanium metal plates.

Attending Notre Dame school, I was thereafter nicknamed The Hunchback of Notre Dame, by none other than my own twin. I was reminded of this the other week when I excitedly forwarded an article to my Dad about the production of inclusive Barbies; a much-needed collection of dolls with vitiligo, prosthetic limbs and no hair. My Dad replied, ‘I found your doll’ with a picture attached of a dishevelled dusty doll that miserably hunched in its vintage Disney box under the words 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame'.

Following my doctors advice, I spent the months leading up to my op, joining Mum at her weekly pilates class. I was the youngest in the class and learnt from an early age the importance of strengthening different muscles, to support my back.

As soon I got the go-ahead from my doctor post-op, I was back doing cat curls and crunches. I loved feeling strong again after being frail and weak from my spinal surgery. Likewise, this year, feeling strong and able to run up to 20 miles has made me feel empowered, at the most fragile of times. Moving my bag of chemicals, will never be the only key to a happy mind, but it certainly increases my chances and keeps Greta from gatecrashing the party.

​We are Running the 2020 London Marathon for the charity Rethink Mental Illness, improving the lives of people severely affected by mental illness, in memory of our brother Sam.

If you would kindly like to donate, click here.

-Alice Ridsdale

Photo of Cindy Crawford from Pinterest

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