From the Mattress to Marathon to Mount Kilimanjaro
Opening Boundaries is supporting Kanza Ahmed who is using her passion to raise awareness of Women In Sport and supporting charity Penny Appeal to raise crucial funds for a project in Gambia.
Opening Boundaries is a not for profit sporting organisation campaigning globally to use the power of sport as a tool for peace, whilst raising the awareness of community cohesion, positive health and gender equality.
Our aspirations are to provide women and girls with the opportunity to take part in sport and physical activity, regardless of their background and to use sport as a facilitator in creating an equal world.
We caught up with Kanza to find out why she is so passionate about reaching out and encouraging sport to women in minority communities:
Away from undertaking crazy physical challenges, in her day job Kanza is a Public Health Specialty Registrar focusing on improving the health of the public through various initiatives. You can sponsor Kanza via www.justgiving.com/kanza-ahmed1 and follow her sporting journey on Instagram, facebook and twitter via @challengekanza
From D- to A+: One Girl’s Sporting Journey
“I can’t run…you’re so committed and good at it and I can barely walk a kilometre without wanting to collapse…”
These were the words uttered by a friend when I asked her to consider joining me in a 5k race for fun awhile back. At the time we both chuckled and then the conversation moved on…but later that night I sat down and reflected on her words and suddenly the enormity of my own sporting journey hit me.
I am Kanza and in the last 5 years I have run seventeen 10k races, have two 8.5mile race medals, 7 half marathons and 1 full marathon. In just a few days I will be flying out to Tanzania to attempt to climb the tallest freestanding mountain in the world – Mount Kilimanjaro as part of my campaign to raise £10k for Penny Appeal to build fresh water wells in The Gambia.
I also want to use my sporting passion to raise awareness of gender equality all over the world and how sport can create many opportunities for women both on and off the field.
Coming from a fairly conservative family I was used to the challenges facing women from minority communities playing sport. However sport can play a huge part in building self-efficacy, confidence and the ability to do anything you want. Around the world many countries do not encourage sport to be played by women and some countries forbid it completely. I want to use the platform I have to showcase women can play sport and pursue careers at the same time.
But wait!! Before you decide to stop reading…let me tell you more about the real me….
I am also the same Kanza, the girl whose school report for PE, year on year, recorded an A- for effort but a D+ for physical skill. In a nutshell I was keen on sports and running but the teachers also knew I was completely and utterly rubbish! Yes I was that girl who wanted to be the committed cross country runner but couldn’t walk a kilometre without wanting to collapse. I was the kid that no one wanted on their team and would inevitably be the last person to be picked for a team simply because the reluctant team captain had no choice! I was the teen, with knock knees who would almost always end up falling over whilst trying to run because her knees were turned inward and would bash against each other and trip her up when attempting to run.
But now fast forward to 16 years later, in my 30s, and here I am running for fun, playing sport for fun and somehow along the way I became slightly better at it!
So how on earth did that happen?
The purpose of this post wasn’t to boast but to share my journey from my mattress to marathon to mountain. I hope that my journey encourages others. I initially started running to get fit, but over time, I have found that undertaking physical activities as part of fundraising has been a great social motivator. Many women out there will probably identify to some extent with the second description of me, but very few will be able to imagine that they too can become the sporty version. But I promise you that you can…and here’s just a few tips to get you started:
1. Move your mind
Nope that is not a typo…the biggest hurdle people think they have to overcome when wanting to start physical activity is often considered to be the body but actually the real obstacle is your mind. The little voice that says “No not today it’s cold” or “Maybe I can run tomorrow” – (yes you know which voice I am talking about !) Well that voice needs to be silenced! The best way to do it is to make a firm intention to go out and do that run (even it if just 100 metres or just one lap round your back garden). Stick it in your diary as an appointment and make sure you keep it! Stick post-it notes on the mirror to remind you, alerts on your phone, put your running trainers somewhere visible, etc. All these (not so) subtle cues within your environment will set your mind in gear and prepare it for the physical challenge.
2. Accept you will find it really hard at first
The first time you attempt a challenging physical activity you will probably have grand visions of it feeling easy…but I will be honest with you…it won’t be…you will wobble, you will feel horribly out of breath very quickly, and you will wonder how on earth does a brother like Mo Farah make it look so darn easy? But hey, that’s ok! The first time I tried to run, I honestly barely managed a kilometre before I was sick in the park (classy I know!) But you know what? Even if you only manage 100 metres…that’s more than the person still lying on their mattress! And that my friend…is a small achievement to give you a boost! Which leads me nicely to my next tip…
3. Don’t give up
Yes those first few runs or sporting activities will be hard and you will wonder why on earth you’re putting yourself through it, but have patience and persevere – I promise it gets better! In my own personal experience it took 2 months of running twice a week (Saturday and Sunday) before I managed to see the benefits…my 100 metre runs became 5kms, I had more energy, felt healthier and weirdly, I felt strange if I didn’t go out for a run…we are creatures of habit…as long as we repeat the task a few times, our mind and body expect us to continue. Even if you only run once a week for a couple of hundred metres – keep it up – it is better than nothing!
4. Find a buddy
Sporting activities are always easier if you have someone to keep you company…that may be a friend who runs along with you or maybe the dulcet tones of your favourite singer on your ipod as you plod! If none of your friends want to run, then consider joining the park runs or the Great Run training runs in your local park (the latter have female only running groups too which cater for all running speeds). Both of these are free to join and it’s a great opportunity to make new friends and get fit!
5. Chart your progress
Nowadays we all tend to have smart phones…and the great thing is you can use them to help you become fit. There are plenty of fitness apps (MapMyRun, Nike+Running, Strava, Samsung Health, etc) you can download to log your progress. Or simply keep a note in your diary of your achievement…what you did, where you did it, how you felt etc. If you are trying to lose weight then make a note of your weight and body size before you start your sporting activity and chart your monthly progress…charting your progress will be a key step to keeping you motivated and to keep you going.
If like me you’re at a D- in sport…remember it doesn’t have to be that way forever…you can change it!