It is 7am on the morning of Peebles Highland Games, my final Games of the 2012 season. I am padding around the bedroom in leggings and a Care Bears t-shirt with the words ‘Who Cares?’ blazoned across the front, assembling my Games gear.
The air coming in through the open window is cool, with a snappy autumnal edge to it that wasn’t there a week ago. In the garden, yellow is creeping into the leaves of trees and shrubs, and beyond the hedge arch, the town is a blank of pale morning mist, only vague shapes of trees and roof-lines showing here and there. I think it’s going to be a good day: we live in the bottom of a river valley here, and in the autumn and winter it often fills with creamy mist, looking like a vast bowl of milk from the hills above. The mist usually burns off as the sun gets higher, and sure enough, today the mist is turning pale gold towards the east: sunshine, or the promise of sunshine later. Good enough for me!
Pretty, isn’t it?
And at this time in the morning, with sound muffled by the fog, it’s easy to believe that the fog on the Tyne is all mine, all mine. ;p
Getting back to my purpose in posting today, though – partly due to circumstances beyond my control, and partly due to my own congenital lack of focus and terrible, terrible time management, I haven’t been to the gym in months – I think I last darkened their doorway sometime in June. Since then, my state of fitness has been coasting along, and my weight has gone up a couple of pounds, which is irritating but inevitable. Confession: yes, I do know that ‘coasting along’ isn’t really something fitness does. If you don’t use your muscles, they dwindle away. And in addition to not making it to the gym, I’ve done barely any proper throwing practice over the summer either. So I’m guessing that when all the scores are in, I will have managed the dubious achievement of ending the 2012 throwing season less fit than when I started!
Yeah, really not there yet.
OK, confessional over. One of the many things I really love about Highland Games is that you don’t have to look like a trim, toned, tanned gym rat to take part.
Ack. No thanks!
Actually, I believe the official national skin colour in Scotland is greenish off-white, so I don’t feel too bad about my lack of perma-tan. And I have been greatly heartened throughout the summer by the basic shape of many of the Highland athletes I met, which is to say… chunky. Muscular, but definitely not skinny minnies. And that was just the ladies!
The guys are even more impressive. You can’t call most of these boys weedy.
The mighty Jason Young and Sebastian Wenta: hardly weedy at all.
So when walking on to a Highland Games field, I don’t feel inadequate any more because of my body shape. This is a major departure for me, because organised sport has always, since childhood, tended to create a panicky dread in my stomach – remember the tiny gym skirts we were all forced to wear at school, no matter what size or shape we were?
Not a problem any more, funnily enough.
Remember the sniggers of the skinny, tanned kids during PE?
Yeah, that’s not a problem any more either.
My own body image has actually changed this summer. Yes, I’m fat. Not morbidly obese, but I am overweight. I carry a bit of a bouncy buddha belly that I wish wasn’t there. If I’d kept up the gym work and training, it probably wouldn’t be there, or at least it’d be a lot smaller, but you know what? I refuse to beat myself up about it. I screwed up, and yes, I wasted time that could have been better spent. But that time has gone and the future will not be ornamented or otherwise enhanced by me moaning and groaning about what a bad person I must be to fail. The only way the future will be enhanced is if I make some attempt to learn from this failure and move on. I am actually feeling serenely confident this morning that I will lose that Michelin-woman spare tyre and improve my fitness overall as I settle in to autumn and then winter training. I have the good fortune to be loved by a man who, while occasionally teasing me about them, doesn’t revile or belittle my extra curves but simply states calmly that they’re already smaller than they were at the beginning of the summer. Which is true. The fact that he usually follows this up with an impersonation of Rik Mayall as Captain Flashheart from ‘Blackadder’…
“Gives me something to hang on to! WOOF!”
…well, er… that’s neither here nor there. (Draws veil of modesty over the proceedings… too late.)
The point is that the wonderful world of Highland Athletics isn’t sizeist. Or fattist. Or any other -ist, generally. So long as you’re willing to get out there in a kilt and throw stuff, they’re happy.
And that makes me very, very happy. See you at Peebles!