International Women’s Day – Be Bold For Change

International Women’s Day – Be Bold For Change by Rhona Duff

For those Guilty Feminist podcast listeners out there – I’m a feminist but… why can’t I stop comparing myself to the ‘ideal body’? For everyone else, listen to the Guilty Feminist.

Exercise, for me, has never been out of necessity to lose weight, but to attain that increasingly unachievable perfect body we, as women, are encouraged to have. I have attended countless gym classes promising myself that this will be the one that inspires me to avoid pudding tonight and ‘tone up for summer’. Inevitably 3 weeks later I quit, realising this room of women facing literally a wall of mirrors just isn’t giving me the inspiration I was looking for. And then roller derby came along and changed my entire perspective on sport and exercise for women. Roller derby is not about toning up, gym bods or being ‘beach body ready’. Roller derby is about achieving something with your body and feeling good about it.

Upon recommendation of a friend (who, by the way, has inspired a fan club of 8 year old girls cheering her at every game – how cool is that?!) I sheepishly walked into a room of strangers for a roller derby taster session last December. I was fully prepared to have those same feelings of inferiority to the other women and probably fail miserably at being on wheels. However, the attitudes and camaraderie of roller derby that were encouraged upon us resulted in a genuinely friendly and supportive bunch of women that has continued to bond and progress week on week. I was no picture of elegance and sophistication on skates but by the end of the session I felt bloody awesome just being able to stay upright, and support my fellow newbies to do the same.

Following the taster session I looked into how I could join Skate Skills and be on my way to becoming a kickass derby queen, but was concerned about how I would manage financially. Thinking about buying kit for a sport that could end up like all of my other fitness endeavours (failures) was daunting. But then I found out about the loaner kits offered by ARRG, funded through The Big Lottery: Awards for All Scotland. These kits give those that would otherwise not be able to try roller derby the chance to have a go. Now I had no excuses.

Over the weeks I have become a red faced, out of breath, competitive, sweating, helmet-hair wearing skater – hardly feminine attributes. I turn up to training sniffling through a cold and bruised from falling on my arse last week because I know that I will feel good about what I achieve that day, even if it is just getting out of bed and putting skates on. I actually WANT to squat and lunge and plank on non-training days because I know it will help me get better at skating, not because it will give me that ‘beach body’ – let’s be serious I will always be addicted to chocolate.

Turning up to my first session I didn’t know what change I was being bold for but, so far, roller derby has changed my attitude towards how I should feel about my body and what it can do. Exercise for women doesn’t have to be about gym leggings and the 11 million #fitspo Instagram posts, rather achieving something, however big or small, and celebrating it. That’s not to say a good pair of leggings isn’t appreciated at training…