We’re officially too in our own heads about exercise. Only 55% of women in the UK meet the recommended levels of physical activity, and This Girl Can cites fear of judgement as the biggest reason for this. We’re worried about what we look like, how good (or bad) we are at the sport and what other tasks or chores we should be doing instead of swanning around the gym.
But it never used to be like that. Remember when exercise was playtime? A chance to run around the garden, climb over monkey bars or spend your evenings at a grassroots club working on your favourite skill? The clearest reminder of that youthful joy happened during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Sky Brown, the 13-year-old Team GB bronze medal skateboarder and ambassador for Yoplait’s Kid’s Moments of Gold campaign, flew up and down the ramp with a huge smile strapped to her face. Unlike other, older athletes, who had a stealthy focus in their eyes, Brown was so happy you’d think she was at her birthday party, rather than the world’s biggest competition.
If we could all inject an ounce of Brown’s childlike state of joy into our exercise, we’d probably all be moving a lot more. So we asked her how to relight that excitement, let go of our inhibitions and play like a kid. No matter what sport or training style you want to do, her answers are insightful.
Don’t take it seriously
Brown started skating before she could walk. “My dad had a mini ramp in the garden and I’d sit on his board and skate around on my butt. It was my favourite toy,” she says.
Remarkably, her outlook on training has never changed from rolling around whenever she likes. Even though she’s been on the world stage, winning medals, she’s never seen it as something that requires stress or overthinking. “When I heard about the Olympics I tried to get a little better, but I never took it super seriously. It’s a thing I love, I’m just doing it for fun.”
Reject the plan
Forget a strict schedule that dictates how many times you train, for how long and what you do. Brown’s joy comes from doing whatever she’s in the mood for: “I do it for as long as I want to. If I do need to get a trick, I’ll spend some time working on it and making it more clean and more pretty, but honestly, I just do what I feel like doing. I do what I need to do and what I want to do – that might be three hours or 10 minutes.”
In fact, her favourite thing about skateboarding is that there are “no rules. You can just do whatever you want, add your own style and just be free with it. Have fun, get a trick and be happy.”
Do it for the landing
So many of us want to be able to throw ourselves into a sport with childlike bravery, but are overcome by the adult fear of trusting your body. “I get afraid too, especially when trying something big, or even trying something little but that’s new. I always love the feeling of landing the trick that you were scared of. I love the feeling of beating myself. Sometimes you try something and you fall so much, you fall so many times, but you’ve got to keep trying. The falling is worth it when you land,” she says.
Train with a crowd
Everyone says that exercising with friends is more exciting, but for Brown it’s about more than just company. “What makes it fun is having people to push you, and you to push them. With skating, you can make friends super easily – when I’m at the skatepark and I see someone do a trick I like, I ask them to teach me. You can just go to the park and ask around and you’ll always make friends.”
Take baby steps
When you’re an adult, you expect to be good at everything immediately or, at the very least, super quickly. Brown’s state of mind is still rooted in the fact that there’s no rush. “Enjoy the time you spend learning and take baby steps,” she says. “In skateboarding, you’ll never be good at stuff the first time around. You’ve just got to try and get better, but having fun is the most important thing.”
Sky Brown is a Yoplait Team GB Ambassador, helping to motivate the next generation of athletes.