Did you know you’re an inspiration?

Because you probably are.

I’ve had a few conversations over the last week that have made me realise how damn important it is to get out there and do what you love doing, and not to hide away until you feel you’re somehow worthy.

Last week for Sport Relief I posted this post on Instagram. I talked about how I believed sport had the potential to truly change peoples lives for the better, and about how I was discouraged from taking part in sports as I grew up because I just wasn’t the sporty type.

I talked about how amazing it felt that a friends daughter had gone to school as a roller derby player for Sport Relief, armed with photos of me for Show & Tell as her “favourite athlete”.

Then a friend of mine, one who is currently training for the London Marathon and has been keeping ME inspired lately when I’ve been feeling blue told me how I inspired her to get started and take up sport.

The next day I had a conversation with Mr LLL. He is training for the Norwich Half Marathon next month and he told me how on his long run he ran past quite a few “proper runners”. He means those super lean, fit looking, folk who look like they run 20 miles for funsies. Those people didn’t make him feel inspired. They made him feel like he didn’t belong.

After a bit of a long break from running due to knee problems he is now training for his 4th Half Marathon. But he still doesn’t feel like a “proper runner”. Because when we see runners, in running magazines, on TV, in advertising campaigns, they’re always super fit and super lean, running 7-minute miles and finishing their local park run in 20 minutes.

The fact is that most of us will look at those perfectly lean athletic types, and we might find it aspirational, but we probably don’t find it inspirational. Jessica Ennis never inspired me to go out for a run, because I knew that I’d never be able to come anywhere near Jessica Ennis. Instead my inspirations were the women at the back at races, the ones that came in last, but just kept going, and the “real life” stories in magazines like Runners World and Women’s Health. My inspirations now are people like my friend VickyP33 and Nifty_Twist.

I feel so strongly that it’s important to see ourselves represented.

It’s one of the reasons I fell so deeply in love with roller derby, because it wasn’t a sport that only felt like sporty types were welcome. It’s why it makes me happy to see Carl Dudley and Martha Phillips in the Asics Front Runners and it’s why I loved the This Girl Can campaign so much.

When I first started running I ran in old pyjama bottoms and yellow socks. I snuck around the quietest streets I could find in case someone saw me and thought that I wasn’t a “proper runner”.

When I first started going to the gym I was constantly conscious of feeling like I wasn’t supposed to be there. Was I deadlifting heavy enough to use straps or would people look at me and think I was an idiot?

Learning to love sweaty has had a huge impact on my mental and physical health, but getting started wasn’t easy. A lot of the barriers in my way were in my head, because I thought I wasn’t “sporty” and I didn’t know where to look to find other people like me. I didn’t know where to find inspiration that wasn’t all about getting beach body ready and toning up my wobbly bits.

For me it was ultimately roller derby that was the final push. I was already gaining confidence in running, but roller derby made me feel like I could be an athlete, and that being an athlete wasn’t about rock hard abs and a thigh gap.

Staying active is about more than aesthetics. It’s great for your mental as well as your physical health. So post those sweaty post-run selfies on Instagram. Share your 5k time, celebrate your achievements and just getting out there and doing stuff because it feels good, or because it feels crap, but will definitely feel good later.

What if watching me, or Mr LLL, running around the streets helped break down those barriers for someone else?

What if watching YOU does?