Fitness as self care: the best decision I ever made by Hope Rudd
My name is Hope, I identify as non-binary and I use they/them pronouns.
Imagine it’s 7am and the sun isn’t yet up. You’ve managed to get yourself up and dressed, you’ve got your hands stuffed in your pockets as the brisk winter wind bites at you. Your warm bed and a hot cup of coffee are calling you back inside but still you continue on. You wonder to yourself why the heck you’re doing this and if you are,in fact, having a fever dream?
This is my experience every other morning on the way to the gym. The truth is that nowadays the gym and exercise in general are a lifeline for me. I’m incredibly privileged that I’m able bodied enough to attend fitness activities and financially stable enough to be able to afford to go to the gym. For that I’m deeply grateful.
Fitness first became a consistent part of my life 4 years ago when my mental health hit rock bottom. I was struggling to look after myself and had to move home to be cared for by family and community nurses, I lost my relationship, I couldn’t work and some of my friends had fallen to the wayside. After a few weeks of rest and rehabilitation, it was recommended to me that I download "Couch to 5K”, an app that coaches you to run in bursts whilst incrementally lengthening the run time as you go. I got to 3K pretty quickly and gained a lot of confidence from that.
Then I started adding in knee press ups, planks, crunches and yoga. Not only was this helpful for my mental health but additionally, I was noticing changes in my body that appeared more masculine. I liked the way my shoulders became broader and my legs and arms had a toned look. I’d find myself unashamedly flexing in the mirror. I, of course, still do this!
This continued on for 18 months as I went back to work and eventually moved back into the city.
A historic injury started to flare up and I had to stop running; I was feeling daunted at the prospect of not being able to exercise, so I purchased a basic weights kit. This was the most fun I’d ever had weightlifting! Because I could do this anywhere, I wasn’t nervous about the gym, which for many of us trans folk is a difficult place to navigate.
However, after another 8 months of building my own workouts I got stuck and couldn’t think of where to go next. So, I reached out to a local trans personal trainer Alix Coe. They gave me some excellent advice and made me an array of workouts to follow as well as introducing me to the gym they worked out of at the time. Being in a gym with a fellow trans person helped to navigate the space differently and was an eye opening experience. In a discussion about classes they recommended Trans Can Sport to me and after 6 months on my “to do” list I finally got around to signing up, as a friend was heading to Trans Can Lift sessions and invited me along.
This was an amazing adventure. To be working out with other people who perhaps have a shared experience of navigating gym and PE environments that can be unpleasant. I felt like I was coming home and this again spurred me on to continue on with my fitness journey and towards a body that I feel better represents me.
I am coming to the end of 10 weeks of PT sessions with Marquita Smith (one of Trans Can Sport founders), I train at the gym 2/4 times a week and do boxing at the weekend. Each day that goes by, I feel stronger and happier in myself.
If I was to advise a newbie at navigating fitness through an LGBT sphere, I’d say:
1.Get active. Even if it’s just a walk, jog or a few press ups. It’s good to start somewhere. Everybody starts somewhere!
2. Seek out trans and LGBT specific groups near you and book yourself in! Take a friend and then go and have some cake - you deserve it.
3. Stick at it. Although it might seem long and arduous, you’ll be surprised how quickly you start feeling an improvement.
So, although the early starts may be crushing and showers may be cold, I wouldn’t trade my fitness experience and the way I feel in myself for anything.