I hated sports at school. But now I embrace my middle-aged body and love it.

I went to pilates last week doing single leg push ups on a light spring. Every muscle in my 40-year-old body was screaming, beads of sweat pooling on the reformer’s bench below. I felt like I could die as much as I was the toughest whore in the world. The instructor paused at my station and said, “Anna, you’re so strong!”

This is not meant as a compliment. I mean, maybe it is, a little. Maybe that’s the point of this story – I’m a middle-aged woman who likes to do a flying breakup. There are so many of us. My social media feeds are full of slightly reticent women who apologize but have deadlifted 100kg or had a new yoga pose or won the netball final or swam further than they ever have .

Every muscle in my 40 year old body was screaming.

Every muscle in my 40 year old body was screaming.Credit:iStock

Feeling good about sharing is almost as hard earned as the achievement itself. Inside, even in my most expensive squat-proof leggings, I’m still a 9th grader waiting to hear how, specifically, I’m going to suck today.

I actually liked the sport a lot. This only happened to me as an adult, when I was finally allowed to love myself. I played everything from cricket to basketball and I really looked forward to it. Saturday mornings were often spent in the fog on a half-frozen field, yelling at friends-turned-teammates, planning a play, breaking down the line. After that, covered from knee to ankle in handprint bruises, came a hot dog roll and a Gatorade from the kiosk, and the gut-wrenching feeling of win or lose.

None of that mattered. In the 90s, there were few acceptable ways to be a girl. Each magazine cover featured models in low-cut jeans with hollow cheekbones. Body positivity movements were still decades away, and my own body was a soft, curvy one with a BO problem.

Going to PE was a terrifying mystery. Anything could happen: big balls, small balls, round balls, oblong balls. It could be capture the flag or run laps, or it could be weighing in on your enemies. Or, worst of all, you might see a tennis court set up with orange cones – the beep test, which was just failing, but at shorter and shorter intervals.

Going to education was a terrifying mystery... Twice a week, we tried to master a brand new skill while the whole class watched.

Going to education was a terrifying mystery… Twice a week, we tried to master a brand new skill while the whole class watched.Credit:A?

No one encouraged you to play to your strengths. Twice a week, we tried to master a brand new skill while the whole class watched. In the summer, there might be the added shame of bringing in a note to excuse yourself from swimming, which the teacher might choose to read out loud to the class for reasons that I’m sure made sense to them at the time. We’ve been taught to be ashamed of our effort—our failures—to perform.

With each passing year, I convinced myself not only that I was bad at sports, but that I would be terrible at trying. Are you trying to be good at something? In front of everyone?

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