Sport was my life, and COVID-19 changed that - but that's okay!

Fiona from the Young People's Sport Panel speaks about her journey of accepting that what works to support one person may not work for another.

I’m the fun one, the positive one, the easy-going one, the happy one. And the sporty one. Lockdown changed all that - and I now know that that’s okay!

As we were all plunged into the unknown last March, messages of support, hope, and optimism circled and along with it, expectations. Banana bread recipes, toilet roll challenges, messages of encouragement, and a constant stream of lockdown trends flowed and attempted to bring us together and everyone adopted the “best of a bad situation” mantra. A huge part of this mindset that skyrocketed was exercise. If you weren’t doing home workouts or Couch to 5k, what were you doing?

Fiona Waddell from the Young People's Sport Panel

I’ll tell you what I was doing. I spent lockdown doubting who I was, hating what I used to love, and getting angrier and angrier about it. I discovered I actually really dislike exercise. As a former international athlete, that’s bizarre. But lockdown showed me that yup, I hated exercise. Days would go by where I did no activity at all and it was made even worse by the constant reminders and suggestive nature of social media and constantly seeing all the world powering through with a smile. My brother was doing more running in a week than he’d ever done in a year before lockdown and was training for a half-marathon. I felt awful when he would nag me to go out with him the same way I had been nagging him for years. It caused tension between us and even my parents were losing sympathy and getting frustrated with my lack of engagement. I have long been an advocate for an active lifestyle, and a vocal and pushy one at that. For years I have been having conversations with family, friends, teammates, and coaches about the benefits I had gained from being active. At the time I had two jobs revolving around participation in sport and activity and encouraging others to see the amazing and beneficial parts of being active. So wow, did I feel like a hypocrite when I could think of nothing worse than lacing up my trainers and going for a run. But despite knowing all this, I could not bring myself to do it, let alone enjoy it.

In time, it would become a lot clearer what I was feeling and why I was feeling it, but at that moment, it terrified me. I genuinely was scared of losing my identity, that I wasn’t actually who I thought I was and the one thing I had always loved and been good at - did I really love it? Was I even any good? Had I been forcing myself into this “sporty” persona all these years? I was embarrassed. I had no training to hide behind, no schedule to stick to and it was just me, failing to motivate myself like I saw millions of others able to. 

Lockdown took what I loved - sport - and tried to convince me that plain exercise and an active lifestyle were the same difference. It’s not, at least not to me. I realised that what I loved, what had found friendships, developed skills, broken and built me, was different from just exercise; it was sport. Sport is the camaraderie, the competitiveness, the commitment. It’s 7am trainings that you drag yourself to, the sore muscles even days later, the blisters and bruises. It’s the team dinners, the road trips, and everything in between. I found that exercising in lockdown was removing these aspects, and changing the thing I love so much, into a task and chore. I didn’t have the sport to motivate my exercise, I had lost my drive and my passion. 

Fiona waddell from the YPSP playing basketball

To have something you love and have always relied on so quickly switch to an imposition and a draining one at that was extremely tough. I had to learn that what works for one person does not always work for you, and I had to learn to believe what my own body was telling me, despite what I thought I should be feeling. What so many had remarkably found because of exercise in lockdown; happiness, health, an escape, I just as spectacularly lost. It was hard justifying this and even harder explaining it, as people were so quick to say, “Oh but a run just clears your head you should stick with it!”. It was working for so many people, why not me? As a sports representative and an active lifestyle advocate, it should be me driving these campaigns not speaking out against them. However, this is not me speaking against anything, it is me speaking for acceptance. Accepting that what works for one may not work for the other and that no one can speak for your mental or physical health but you. Accepting your own pace, your own voice, and your own needs. 

Lockdown was tough on everyone, and we found things out about ourselves we might never have found out. I’m working on seeing this as a blessing; a chance to better myself, learn from myself, and be kind to myself in ways and from experiences I might never have had. It’s okay to be lost by how you're feeling sometimes, it’s just important to remember that the only ‘right’ way to feel, is however the heck you’re feeling.

Remember to look after yourself and think about your own mental health and emotional wellbeing.

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Young Scot supports young people to share their own voices, views and opinions and works with partner organisations and professionals who are experts in different topics. The views expressed in this blog are those of the young people, organisations and/or individuals who have taken part in the blog, not necessarily the views of Young Scot.