Building Resilience with Gemma Bonner, England Lione

Building Resilience with Gemma Bonner, England Lione

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Healthy Body – Healthy Mind

I’m passionate about girls and young women being active.  Physical activity and playing sport not only give you a healthy body, they also give you a healthy, strong mind.  You gain confidence in your skin, your body, your whole being and that gives you resilience.

Girls Drop Out Of Sport – This Has To Stop!

There are many reasons why girls stop playing sport in their teenage years; I know as I faced most of them myself.  I also know how difficult it can be to face down those challenges. 

Peer pressure

This is a big one; if all your friends are not playing or competing it is very hard to stand alone.  You may miss out on socialising and feel left out.  I know how difficult it is to carry on playing as my friends didn’t.

I was fortunate in my close network of family and friends who supported me – they would often wait for me to join them socially.  It is important to have good friends as there is peer support as well as pressure.

Being hot and sweaty

Another big reason for girls taking themselves out of sport is that they don’t want to be seen looking anything other than their best.  Sport does make you hot and sweaty – there’s no denying it.  But we have to get past this.  I’ve  spoken before about how great it was that at the World Cup the Lionesses weren’t afraid to be interviewed or filmed having just come off the pitch.  They would also have interviews once they’d showered, washed their hair and got changed.  This is real life: different looks for the same person.

And the hot, sweaty bit is so good for your skin and body.  It flushes out toxins and gets your blood flowing.  You can then get clean, put on your make up and feel so much better than if you’d done no exercise and just ‘put on your mask’.

The Dangers of Social Media

Social Media does tend to drive the desire for perfection in how we look.  Younger girls (and boys) are highly influenced by this and the ‘reality’ shows that everyone loves to watch.  Usually unrealistic images are being presented, one which is, nearly always, untrue.  Peddling a myth is dangerous and very unhealthy, both for body and mind.  Being stuck in front of whatever device it is which shows you unrealistic ‘targets’ can never be healthy. Health and beauty, inner and outer, comes from being true to yourself.  By exercising, you will find an inner strength which allows you to be yourself, not try to be a copy of an unattainable and unrealistic target.

Valuable Life Lessons

Another thing we saw from the World Cup – and the continued growth of women in sport – is the strength it brings and lessons you can learn.  ‘We win and lose together’ was a phrase I heard repeated on numerous occasions.  It shouts out the power of teamwork, determination and communication.  It also gives those people who participate in sport a very clear sense of responsibility and leadership.  How important are those qualities throughout your life?

And, yes, just as the quotation suggests, sport teaches you how to deal with losing as well as winning.  Both are integral parts of sport: there can’t be one without the other.  What is actually the most important thing, is how we reflect and respond to loss or disappointment.  How we learn to build on what has happened and make ourselves stronger for it.  Resilience.

Gaining Respect

I played football in school at a time when football for girls wasn’t ever spoken about. I was lucky enough in primary school to have a great PE teacher who  ensured there was a girls football team. Also, supporting me to show I was good enough and be playing in the boys’ teams. However, once I went to high school age 11 it was non-existent and I would even stop football in the playground with the boys.

I do find though, since primary school I have usually had a better connection with boys as a result of this and have found it easier to have boys as friends as I’ve been able to be myself around them.  Yes, they found it odd that I was playing at first, but they quickly respected my athleticism and weren’t intimidated by it.

My Top Ten Tips for Resilience

  • Make good friends – they will support you and be your allies
  • Recognise that social media posts/images are not likely to be authentic. People adjust and exaggerate before they post
  • TV/Magazine ‘reality’ is never as it is presented
  • If you feel good, you look good
  • Smiling lights up your face. Even if you don’t always feel that happy (no one does) – if you smile, your brain will pick up on it and you’ll feel the change (‘Fake it ‘til you make it’)
  • Exercising releases endorphins – the so called ‘happy hormones’ your body releases to give a sense of wellbeing
  • Exercising makes your body and skin healthier – which will also improve your sense of wellbeing
  • Exercising will bring you respect from other people
  • Exercise and sport will help your sense of determination

Choose an activity or sport that you really enjoy – you’ll be far more likely to stick to it. Buddy up with others or join a team to help keep you motivated and ‘accountable’ to others. Be mindful and identify your reason(s) for being active and remind yourself of this/these at regular intervals. They will act as great motivators. Accept you’ll have bad days with exercise and sport: let them go and remember, the tougher sessions make the good ones feel so much better!

Back yourself and give it a go – I promise you’ll feel better for being active.

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