health

'We're never going to be Iron Women. But this March, we've set a fitness goal anyone can stick to.'

Cancer Council
Thanks to our brand partner, Cancer Council

This March, we’ll be walking 150 kilometres. Each. And that’s just the beginning.

In order to understand, um, why, let’s go back a few decades.

Some kids are born with what seems like an innate sense of athleticism.

When they’re five, they approach the track at Little Athletics and just… know what to do.

They jump in the pool or kick a ball or grab a cricket bat or catch a netball, and it seems like they effortlessly know what to do next. They go on to win races and competitions, be selected for all sorts of teams, and collect ribbons and medals that are proudly displayed at home.

Then… well, then there’s us.

When we were in kindergarten, we thought that maybe we might be very good at running. We had legs that sometimes felt like they went very fast, and, as of yet, we had no evidence to the contrary.

And then we got to the starting line of the school’s Cross Country.

Firstly, there were infants in sports bras. And bike shorts.

Their clothing was aerodynamic, and some of them appeared to have visible obliques.

It would… appear… others had been training for this event.

We were wearing blue sports skirts that were at least two sizes too big, loose around the middle and hanging to our knees. Our shoes didn’t have a brand on them, they were just bright white bricks, whereas others were wearing Adidas studs.

But fancy gear does not an athlete make. We were here. And in a children’s book mum had read to us once, it said anything was possible.

When the gun went off, Clare moved one leg in front of the other, but the strangest thing happened. She appeared to remain on the spot. If you’d rounded up her speed, she was moving at zero kilometres per hour.

And then before long, mum’s right hand moved up to her mouth, as she watched Clare’s oversized skirt fall down. She ran the majority of the race with her skirt around her knees, her tiny pale, five-year-old legs on display for everyone to see, running at a pace far slower than the organisers had ever thought possible.

Only a few years later, an adult jumped into the pool at the swimming carnival to rescue Clare, despite the fact that she thought she was doing… fine.

 

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Jessie fared slightly better, but not much. She could shoot a ball, but when she ran, she resembled her flat-footed 80-year-old grandmother. She was slow, but perhaps more than that, deeply unmotivated to run or cycle or swing a bat at softball.

As adults, we tended to carry this aversion to exercise with us. When other people would rave about how much they could bench (look, we can’t be sure that’s the right terminology), or how intense their circuit training was, we would smile and nod, knowing full well that we just weren’t those kind of people. We walked a bit, but more out of pure necessity than challenging ourselves.

Then something weird happened. We were living our normal lives when a friend casually suggested we try Pilates.

The first class was… hilarious. It was ‘Reformer’, a word we’d never heard before and didn’t understand until we walked into the studio and saw… contraptions. There were chains and stirrups and bars. Torture devices, if you will.

When we sat on our machines and they slid, we yelled. The instructor was horrified that not one but two people could be so appalling at Pilates.

But when the class ended, and we went home feeling sore and confused and somewhat accomplished, we decided we’d go back again. So, we started going a little more often. Our instructors looked significantly less like they wanted to permanently ban us. Slowly and steadily we felt stronger, and sensed our posture changing, as well as our sleep and moods.

We were struck by a realisation: the reason people who exercise won’t shut up about exercise is because it makes you feel… really good. You feel happy and motivated and accomplished, and that’s putting aside the myriad benefits we’ve all heard – that exercise literally extends your lifespan. That it protects against cancer and heart disease and diabetes. That it significantly improves long-term mental health.

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This March, we’ve decided to combine our newfound fitness obsession with a goal: to raise money for cancer research, prevention, advocacy and support.

Cancer Council’s The March Charge is a fitness challenge that allows regular people to have a significant impact on how cancer is researched and treated in Australia. By walking, running or moving for Cancer Council this month, and getting friends, loved ones, colleagues and your community to raise funds, you can help create a cancer free future.

Our focus for The March Charge is twofold: First, we’re committing to 25 hours of Pilates throughout the month. That’s almost one class every day (which, believe us, is not easy for us). Then, we’re committing to walking 150km throughout the month. That’s about 5km a day, or 50 minutes of walking.

We’re anticipating this to be a challenge, given that sometimes we work long hours or choose to drive rather than walk. We’re hoping walking to and from work (which means setting the alarm that little bit earlier), plus a walk at lunchtime, and some other incidental walking throughout the day, will get us there.

Some people commit to a number of kilometres they’ll walk, run or cycle, while others choose a type of exercise they know they’ll commit to.

The recommended amount of moderate physical activity per week for general health is 2.5-5 hours and being physically active can help reduce the risk of bowel cancer, breast cancer and endometrial cancer. The March Charge is so unique because it allows you to reduce your own cancer risk, promote physical activity, and raise vital funds.

One third of cancers can be prevented by following a healthy lifestyle, of which physical activity is a major component.

What we wish people told us about exercise earlier is: If you hate running, you don’t gotta run. There are no rules.

If you want to hang out in the corner and do star jumps for half an hour – you do you.

If yoga’s your thing, or squash or swimming or barre or dancing or interval training or hiking or walking, then that’s great.

Not all of us need to be Iron Women in order to get what we need out of exercise, and that’s what The March Charge reminds us. The best kind of exercise is anything you can do consistently.

So have a think. Work out what’s realistic for you. And then in March, commit to Cancer Council’s March Charge fitness fundraiser, and contribute to a cancer free future.

Cancer Council

Join The March Charge, fundraise for Cancer Council, reduce your cancer risk and feel the Charge you get when you tell cancer where to go. Funds raised will support Cancer Council’s lifesaving cancer research, vital information and support services and cancer prevention programs to reduce cancer in the community.
Sign up today to be a Charger at www.themarchcharge.com.au/mamamia

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