By Lucy Roberts
Team sports took a big hit during lockdown, with matches being called off left, right and centre and group training cancelled due to Covid restrictions.
This experience was no different for This Girl Can’s Charlotte Lynch who plays for the London Super 5 League, a 5-a-side football league for women and non-binary people.
She had to adapt her training from exercising with her team and enjoying the social aspect that comes with that, to then keeping active alone.
Lynch explains how she kept motivated to exercise during lockdown, how getting active can help your mental health and revealed how great it felt when she was allowed to play matches with her team again.
Q) How tough was the transition from training with a team, to then not being able to when restrictions were imposed, stopping group sport from going ahead?
A) Post lockdown I was playing up to five times a week. Initially, my body appreciated the rest. Very quickly the reality of the lockdown implications hit home. I desperately missed the social side of playing football, the weekly catch-up with friends, the endorphins, and the weekly sense of achievement. Exercising alone is a very different experience than exercising in a group. I missed the motivation that my coaches and other players gave me to engage in sport.
Q) How did you adapt your training and exercise during lockdown?
A) Adapting was tough, and some days I didn't feel like exercising. The winter months were the hardest. But as humans, we are resilient creatures. I adapted by going online and looking for YouTube football tricks and skills tutorials. Then I challenged myself to recreate the videos in my own style. I shared the tricks with my friends, family, and my online following. I also did short bursts of exercise, such as 100 jumping jacks in my living room. I walked to the grocery shop rather than driving my car. I even purchased a second-hand bike and did some riding. Ultimately, I knew physically and mentally I feel better after exercising, so I was intentional about including it in my week, even if it was once or twice a week.
Q) What was that first football game back after lockdown like?
A) The first game back was amazing. The laughter began, socialising commenced, and the joy of face-to-face fellowship was incredible. We won our first game back, maintaining our spot at the top of the Super-Five league. There is a proverb that goes: "When you run alone, you run fast. When you run together, you run far." This proverb acknowledges the power of teamwork, community, and shared interest: in order to thrive and be the best version of ourselves, we sometimes need others to share the journey.
Q) How does playing football and being part of a team impact your mental wellbeing?
A) Playing football has been key in upkeeping my mental well-being. The evidence is clear - physical activity has a huge potential to enhance our well-being. Even a short burst of 10 minutes of brisk walking increases our mental alertness, energy, and positive mood. For me, doing something challenging along with other people gives me a sense of shared accomplishment and teamwork. This builds essential life skills such as self-confidence. Ironically the one thing the government allowed people to do throughout all 3 lockdowns was exercise! Perhaps, they knew the importance of sport on people's physical and mental health.
Q) How inspirational is This Girl Can for you and for women as a whole?
A) They believe that there’s no ‘right’ way to get active. However, you jiggle, kick, lift, stretch, or sprint, it’s time to get moving however you please. The message is all-inclusive and highly inspirational; it's more relevant than ever. It's encouraging as my exercise routine may look different from another's exercise routine, and it lets me know that's okay.
Q) What would your advice be to women who want to start some sort of exercise and take their fitness seriously but lack motivation?
§ Safety first, ensure you have medical clearance to exercise from your GP/doctor.
§ No one gets to choose how you exercise other than you. Your body, your call. And whatever that exercise looks like, that's worth celebrating.
§ Use what you have in front of you, a tin of beans for weights? A skipping rope? A nice walk? Can you get a trusted friend to exercise with you for encouragement?
§ There's nothing wrong with wanting to look good, get active, and being healthy for oneself, but it's so important to draw the line and remember that nobody's self-worth comes from how you look or how much you exercise per week.
§ Don't operate from a place of fear and inadequacy, you are already enough! But you are choosing to move towards a more active lifestyle.
§ Adaptive Sports: You can find resources and support for Staying Active While Living With A Disability online and via phone call.
In regard to motivation, think of your WHY. Let your WHY be important to you, whether it be just staying fit for your kids, getting involved in a community, it has to be YOUR WHY, no one else’s. And let that motivate you.
Women can access useful resources to help get active by visiting www.thisgirlcan.co.uk.
Kate Dale, the This Girl Can campaign lead, explains what was preventing women from exercising during lockdown and what men can do as allies to help women feel more comfortable when getting active, whether that be working out in parks or going to recently re-opened gyms...
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