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How I repaired my relationship with exercise

 Molly Slater-Davison began running purely to burn calories but her relationship with exercise quickly transformed

Collage of women running
Melanie Macleod
Wellness Editor
March 14, 2024
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Molly set up the all-female running group, These Girls Run, a supportive club of women you can run, chat and bond with, to take the scariness out of running.

Whether you're held back by a fear of running alone, of being judged or worrying you're not fit enough, These Girls Run is a safe space.

"I know that for every single person who joins us, whether they're a confident runner or not, it's still nerve-wracking trying something new," Molly says. "Before I set up These Girls Run, I hadn't been to a running club because I was too scared. It was something that I thought wouldn't be for me.

Three women running together
These Girls Run is a space for runners of all abilities

Molly isn't alone – a study by Asics revealed that 55% of women avoid exercise due to low self-confidence, while 58% say not feeling sporty enough holds them back.

These Girls Run was created to combat this and be an inclusive place where everyone can take part. "Every single one of our runs across the UK always has an ambassador at the front, middle and back, so if you want to walk for a bit, you can. Or if you need a friendly face and want to chat to somebody, our girls are always there to talk to you.

"You'll never be left at your own at the back. We all know what it's like, and we make sure there's nothing competitive about our runs. Nobody needs to worry about being last - just because you're at the back doesn't mean you're not a good runner."

Reframing exercise

Molly is helping women reframe exercise based on her own experience. "I was always the child who hated PE. I've had a very negative body image for as long as I can recall. I remember looking at my legs in primary school and inherently not liking them. I think a lot of women go through a difficult time not loving their bodies and avoiding exercise as a result.

Molly was a self-conscious child
View post on Instagram

"I first started running at 16, when I was going through an eating disorder and I was exercising purely to burn calories. I thought it would be the way to fix my negative body image issues, but as I got older and had therapy, I realised running and exercise could be something that I enjoyed.

"I remind myself that I don't have to do it, I get to do it. I'm actually very lucky to be able to run and to be able to go outside.

Selfie of a woman with a castle in the background© Instagram
Molly reminds herself she's lucky to be able to run

"Running may have started as a bad thing, but it's changed my life and transformed me mentally and physically. Running is now more a mental thing for me than being about how I look, which is the opposite to what it started as, which I'm so grateful for."

MORE RUNNING: I'm doing my first ultramarathon at 46 – and I've never been a runner! 

Looking after each other

One of Molly's main motivations for setting up These Girls Run is to feel safer when she's pounding the pavements.

"I've had instances where people have tried to follow me into my flat, so I wanted to feel safer and that comes from running with others. I've now made so many close friends, which was another reason I started the group as I wanted to meet new people who shared the same interests as me."

Molly feels safer running at night in a group
Molly feels safer running at night in a group

Just talking to Molly about her passion for running is enough to make you want to lace up your trainers and join her girl gang, and for anyone nervous about getting involved, she has some stellar advice.

"Think about why you're feeling nervous. I was apprehensive to join a running club at first because I felt I wouldn't fit in, or maybe you're worried because you think you'll be too slow, but if you put your trainers on, head out the door and move faster than a walk, then you're a runner.

"Take yourself away from comparison, remember why you're running, and I promise, it will be manageable, and you will actually enjoy it."

Find out more about These Girls Run and visit HELLO!'s Keep Moving hub for more inspiring fitness stories.

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