Written by Cariad Martin

Health

Plus-size sports

Fuck them for making you think you can’t be good at sport, says Cariad Martin.

bikrimyoga150

Top posers: yoga is great for all body shapes. Illustration by Louise Boulter.

Didn’t you just hate PE at school? Didn’t you just dread forcing your not-ideal-for-running tits into shapeless, scratching polo shirts, and squeezing your chunky waist into desperately tight nylon netball skirts?

Wasn’t it awful bracing yourself against biting cold as you sprinted from one side of the playground to the other, clutching a stitch as you got barked at by angry old women for being unfit?

I’m not sure exactly when they expected us to develop comparable fitness to professional footballers or grow our skills or passion for any sport in particular, given that there were only two of these punishments lessons timetabled per week and evenings and weekends were spent tackling mountains of homework and revision.

But nonetheless, with an absolute maximum of 78 hours per year, we were expected to become not just professional athlete fit but also prolific in at least a dozen different sports, including tennis, netball, dance, rounders, long jump and both short- and long-distance running.

Even if those 78 hours had been spent practising skills and not just endless grouping, grading, ‘critiquing’ and any other word you can think for passing judgement on children, it was never going to be enough.

A theory – backed by the success of top sports stars such as the Williams sisters – suggests that it takes 10,000 hours (or 128 years of PE lessons) to become an expert in your field.

So, in short, fuck them for making you think you’re not good at sport. Fuck them for making you believe sport, generally, is not ‘for you.’ To think that sport is not for you is like thinking music or food or film is not for you.

“Truly, there is no greater joy than 20 chubby babes frolicking in the water like mermaids to a pumped-up version of Call Me Maybe.”

Even with inspirational campaigns such as #ThisGirlCan, it’s difficult to undo all those years of feeling excluded, and of believing fat girls exercising is only ever a punishment for your ‘sins.’ But the joy of sport is not something that should only be experienced by the thin. You deserve to be there just as much as they do. Get in there, take up space. Wear cute outfits. Fat girls to the front, please.

With the help of Tweeters fat and fabulous, I’ve compiled a list of some of the most fat-positive sports to try. I can’t promise you won’t be confronted with the assumption that you’re only there to shed pounds, but I think I can promise you’ll be having such a good time you won’t give a shit.

Aquafit

The ideal starter for any self-conscious fat babe who wants to dip her toe (wink) into the active lifestyle. Truly, there is no greater joy than 20 chubby babes frolicking in the water like mermaids to a pumped-up version of Call Me Maybe.

Find out which pools near you offer classes.

Swimming

Swimming is another great low-impact option, and it works almost all of your muscle groups. Most pools offer adult beginner classes if you need a bit more confidence.

If you’re outdoorsy, or if you just don’t fancy stinking of chlorine, open water swimming is really taking off around the country. And in the glorious world of wild swimming, your fat is celebrated as it stops your core temperature from plummeting so quickly in the icy British waters.

Check out this Wild Swim Map to find safe opportunities in your area.

Racquetball

If you’ve ever tried squash but found the ball stops dead before you have even moved your feet, racquetball is the one for you. A larger, bouncier ball enables you to have long rallies and competitive games with someone even if they are a vastly different ability or experience level than you.

Find squash courts in your area, and if you’re self-conscious about being watched, check it out first to see whether it’s glass-fronted or not!

roller skatesRoller derby

Over the last five years, the United Kingdom Roller Derby Association has worked tirelessly to get roller derby to where it is today. Roller derby is the go-to sport for badass babes, and seems inherently body positive, and although there is no doubt that strength and fitness are key, if you are lucky enough to live near a league or team, beginners of all shapes, sizes and fitness levels are welcomed with open arms.

UK Roller Derby member leagues

Zumba

Zumba prides itself on being one of the most ridiculously fun fitness classes available, for “everybody and every body.” A mix of low and high-intensity moves to a wide variety of music, Zumba is essentially a chance to party wearing trackies instead of killer heels. What’s not to love about that? Find a class near you.

Yoga and pilates

Google ‘plus size yoga’ and you will find a thriving movement of fat women blazing a trail in the yoga world. A good yoga class should work all muscles in your body equally, and connect your mind, body and spirit.

Jessamyn in a twisting yoga pose

Jessamyn Stanley killing at yoga. Photos: @mynameisjessamyn / jessamynstanley.com

Pilates is also a good option; it centres on strengthening your core, which puts less strain on those problem dodgy knees and bad backs that doctors won’t take seriously because of your weight.

If you’re not sure whether yoga or pilates is right for you, see this article explaining the differences.

Belly dancing

The ultimate ‘fuck you’ to the fat-hating world of sport. It’s literally got ‘belly’ in the title. It’s the lowest-impact form of dance, plus you will feel sexy as hell.

Belly dance providers are quite regionalised, so I can’t provide a useful link, but here’s a website to help you choose a banging outfit for your new hobby.

@cariadontoast

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Written by Cariad Martin

Cariad Martin is a feminist writer and former reviews editor at For Books’ Sake. She is also a Rainbow, Brownie and Guide leader and trash TV enthusiast. She blogs at www.cariadontoast.com.