Michelle in pool
Michelle at her local pool

Alphington local Michelle McNamara is showing the power of getting physically active – not only on your body but on your mind too – in the new campaign inspiring women to get active called This Girl Can – Victoria.

Michelle is one of 24 Victorian women featured in the VicHealth campaign which aims to help women overcome feelings of judgement, intimidation and embarrassment holding them back from getting active. The campaign features everyday women rather than professional athletes or Instagram models and is based on the viral ad by Sport England which inspired 3.9 million British women to ditch the couch and get active. Michelle decided to get involved with This Girl Can – Victoria to show other women and transgender women that that getting active can really help you feel comfortable in your own skin.

At the age of 60, Michelle began her ‘social transition’ and four years later she started her female hormone treatment. Anyone who undergoes significant changes know that your body can change rapidly from medication and Michelle used swimming to help her build confidence and be healthy.

I became depressed, so my physical exercise helped me through it, Michelle said. Getting in the pool wasn’t easy, Michelle was worried about being judged in her swimwear and the comments from other swimmers.Transgender people internalise a lot of messages they receive from the media…so it’s pretty challenging to pop on a pair of swimmers and jump down to the local pool, she said.

It didn’t take her long to realise that most people were more accepting and supportive than she’d expected. Michelle is now showing Victorian women that you don’t have to be ashamed of what you look like when getting active, it is more about how you feel than how you look.

You can have a real fear of judgement when you’re exercising – but I’m here to say you can overcome these barriers – they’re not insurmountable, she said. You can do it, it’s possible!

Now this self-proclaimed “grandma boogie-boarder” loves being in the water, and is encouraging other women to push past their fear of judgement and dive head first into new experiences as an ambassador for This Girl Can – Victoria.

VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter said the fear of judgment stops too many women from being physically active.

Over half of Victorian women worry about being judged while exercising and for over 40 percent this feeling of embarrassment or intimidation is so strong it actually stops them from taking part in sport or exercise, Ms Rechter said.

Concerns about how they look, that they aren’t skilled enough or that they should be prioritising their family or work over exercise are genuine obstacles for women. However, we know if women can identify themselves in advertising and in the media, they’re more likely to overcome this fear of judgement.

This Girl Can – Victoria features everyday women like Michelle staring down their critics and getting active regardless of how they look or how sweaty they get.

Michelle and the other women who are part of This Girl Can – Victoria are everyday women who’ve found the confidence to get out there and get active. They’re doing it for themselves – not for anyone else. They’re doing it because they love it, and because they can, Ms Rechter said.