Being sporty is hard, man. Unless you’re one of those girls whose ponytail does the perfect swish while running a 5k without breaking a single bead of sweat. Stomach cramps, sweaty fringes, big boobs and chafing thighs do not work in our favour. But even the world’s biggest female champions face the same hardships.

If you ever feel blue about having to go to PE while you’re on your period, or you constantly battle with a bloated tum while working out – take a look at these awesome sporty girls and prepare to be inspired.

1. Fu Yuanhui’s period-power statement

Fu Yuanhui might just be the coolest girl in sports RN. The 21-year-old Chinese swimmer was interviewed on live television after coming fourth in the 4x100m relay at Rio 2016.

Fu told the interviewer: ‘I don’t think I performed very well today. I feel I let my teammates down…It’s because my period came yesterday, so I felt particularly tired – but this isn’t an excuse, I still didn’t swim well enough.’

She instantly became the star of Rio, breaking the taboo of openly talking about menstrual cycles to an international audience. Because – shocker! – top athletes have periods too.

And why on earth shouldn’t Fu vocalise her experience? One can only imagine the tears of pain and frustration a boy would cry if he had to race with menstrual cramps.

Oh, and Fu went on to win a bronze medal in Rio *high five*

2. Paula Radcliffe’s roadside poo

Ever found yourself half way through a cross-country run at school and felt a sudden urge to use the loo? We’ve all been there – the panic, discomfort and embarrassment are all too real. But the chances are that you probably make it to the ground-floor bathroom just in time to do your business.

But not three-time London Marathon champion Paula Radcliffe MBE. The English long-distance running hero is testament to the saying ‘when you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go’.

With just five miles left to run in the London Marathon, Paula had stomach cramps and knew there was only one way to relieve them. She crouched down at the side of the road and did what she had to do. Paula ran on to win the marathon then endure some very awkward interviews.

We salute her for feeling the fear and doing it anyway, all in the name of ensuring a triple-champion title.

3. Serena Williams’s bare-naked bump

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Serena Williams has been ranked ‘world’s number one tennis player’ eight times by the Women’s Tennis Association. EIGHT TIMES – and there’s me struggling to finish a lap limping around my local park on a Saturday morning.

She’s also a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and heads up the Serena Williams Fund, which creates equality through education and assists victims of violence.

So Serena Williams is basically Wonder Woman but with a racket instead of a lasso and shield, OK?

And here she is heavily pregnant, butt-naked on the front cover of Vanity Fair earlier this year, absolutely slaying it. This shot screams ‘LOOK HOW AWESOME ME AND MY BUMP ARE’. The whole shoot is beautiful and celebrates her fearlessness as a sports star, tenderness as a mum-to-be and pride in being a woman.

4. Sarah Attar runs for Saudi Arabia

Sarah Attar was one of the first two women to represent Saudi Arabia in the 2012 Olympics. Up until then, the Saudi Arabia Olympics Committee did not let women take part and represent their state in the world’s most famous sports competition.

Sarah was only 16 at the time and wasn’t asked to take part until the International Olympics Committee insisted on female participation at short notice.

Despite coming last in her heat (it’s not like she had a proper chance to train!), she went on to run the marathon in the Rio 2016 Olympics. Sarah made a huge step for female sports in Saudi Arabia and her story makes us feel a teeny bit guilty about using a tummy ache as an excuse not to go for a jog.

She also has a really arty travelling Instagram, which is worth checking out.

5. Jessica Ennis-Hill’s post-pregnancy comeback

Jessica Ennis-Hill is the British three-time world champion heptathlon hero who took gold in the London Olympics 2012 and became a national treasure.

Just to clarify what a heptathlon involves, it is a series of seven events that take place over two or three days. These events include high jump, javelin and various short running distances. Basically, you have to be a pretty well-rounded, incredible athlete to do it.

After London, Jess took some time out for the birth of her baby, Reggie. She returned to the Rio Olympics 2016 with a lot of expectations to defend her gold status, but walked away with silver.

Pregnancy does a lot of crazy but wonderful things to a woman’s body, and anyone who even attempts a heptathlon just over a year after giving birth and juggling motherhood with training, is a gold winner in our eyes. The whole nation probably agrees with that.

Image: Getty/Katie Edmunds

 

Growing up I used every excuse under the sun to get out of exercise. From worrying about the way my body looked to complaining I wasn’t any good at sport, I wiggled my way out of PE, after school clubs and even walking to the corner shop (“muuuum, can you give me a lift?”).

But now? Now, nothing will stop me trying out new gym classes and pushing myself until I’ve sweat so much I look like I’ve jumped in a swimming pool. Gross. But kind of amazing.

So what’s changed? In short, my attitude. I have the same body, of course, but it’s stronger, fitter and more adventurous – I’ve just changed my mindset. And I’m not the only one. According to recent figures from Sport England, more than 7.2 million women now play sport and do regular physical activity. Female sports participation has never been so high.

Sport England’s ground-breaking ‘This Girl Can’ campaign is partly responsible for that, as the numbers have increased by more than 250,000 since the advert first aired.

The adverts – which showed all different shapes and sizes, huffing and puffing – spoke directly to a nation of women and girls who have been brainwashed into worrying incessantly about what their bodies look like, forgetting that it’s what their bodies can do that really matters.

Too many women and girls associate exercise with burning calories to attain a certain body type. This, I think, is unhealthy. Then exercise becomes a chore or punishment, rather than a way to make yourself feel good both inside and out. In January we’re bombarded with negative messages about weight loss, diets and fitness, when really you should work out because you love your body, not because you hate it.

So, as a once-upon-a-time lazy girl, here are my top tips to help you learn to love exercise…

1. Find the right exercise for you

Whether that’s gym classes, joining a sports team or taking up hobbies you had when you were a child. The key is to enjoy what you’re doing. Remember: everyone is different, so just because your bestie loves being on the hockey team, it doesn’t mean you will. Don’t be afraid to try new things, or revisit old passions. Did you love climbing trees as a kid? Try rock climbing. Always cartwheeling in the playground? Yoga might be for you. Pummelling your little brother until your mum had to separate you? Boxing might be your calling! No but seriously. And if you were amazing at running away from your parents when you got into trouble, a free 5km race with Park Run is the grown-up equivalent…

2. Don’t count calories

Exercise should be part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle, not a diet or workout plan that restricts you or punishes you. Also, not all calories are created equal – a few biscuits and an avocado might have the same amount of calories, but their nutritional value couldn’t be more different. Follow this pro nutritional advice instead and exercise a few times a week, but hey, don’t be too hard on yourself. Eat the pizza and ice cream, but also make sure you don’t forget your greens.

3. Don’t try to run before you can walk

Literally, take baby steps. Set yourself realistic goals and alter them as you go along to keep challenging yourself. There is no point signing up for a 5km race if you haven’t run an inch since that time you you nearly missed the last train home. You’ll get there, you just need to pace yourself. If you’ve got a dog, take it for a brisk walk in the evenings. Don’t have a dog? This is a perfect time to beg your parents for one (which might also work up a sweat, depending how much drama you can muster).

4. Stretch

Make sure you stretch thoroughly after working out to avoid injury or aches and pains. I’d recommend stretching for about 30 seconds with each stretch. It might feel like a long time, but your body will thank you for it. (Top tip: do it in front of the TV as a distraction if you’re bored.)

5. Get to know your body

Get to know what feels good (and what feels bad) for your own body. Shock horror, exercise needn’t be torture. Of course, no one likes rainy PE lessons doing cross-country, but when you call the shots there’s no need to make it unenjoyable or, even worse, dangerous. If something hurts, stop. If you’re tired, just wait and exercise the next day. Be kind and go easy on yourself, but also push yourself when you feel able – and one of these days, you might just realise you’re loving it.

@Brogan_Driscoll

Image: Hailey Hamilton

Christmas is just around the corner and 2016 is almost over, so to quote our brilliant editor, Lauren: “It’s time to start winding down… or ramping up, or… something!” Now that school’s (hopefully) out for this year, you have plenty of time to catch up on all things betty and watch Christmas films to your heart’s content.

In the meantime, here are some of the things we’ve been reading, watching and loving this week. Enjoy.

What’s in our search history?

Google has put together a video of the most searched events of this year and we’re not going to lie, it’s really freakin’ beautiful. We would suggest having tissues close by for this one – as it’s been a hell of a year and this is a hell of a video to match. Google’s take away message? Love is out there.

Let’s be YouTube stars, shall we?

There’s a point in everyone’s lives where they’ve thought, “Sod it, why don’t I just quit school and become a YouTuber?”. Well the idea just got a whole lot more tempting, as this week Forbes released a list of the world’s highest paid YouTubers. For the second year running, PewDiePie topped the list, making a whopping $15 million (£12M).

New business plan: check if the handle ‘PewDiPi’ is taken.

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Pretty Little Liars will live on

The final series of Pretty Little Liars is hitting our screens next year, but there is a silver lining. PLL and PocketGem have announced that they’re going to be releasing an interactive app, so you never have to really leave Rosewood. According to Variety, the app will let fans follow their fave characters with a brand-new storyline set way back in the first season of the show. The choices you make will change how the plot unfolds, so this time it’s you – rather than A – who’s pulling the strings. Zomg.

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Felicity Jones would rather play male roles

The latest instalment in the Star Wars franchise hits the big screen today (finally!), with your new imaginary best friend Felicity Jones in the lead role. Felicity told Female First this week that she would often rather play male characters, because the roles are more interesting – but luckily she’s plenty happy with her Star Wars alter-ego. “Jyn is a fantastic woman,” she says. “I saw her as being tough and decisive and I tried to capture that attitude and portray her as an extraordinary heroine. We rarely see a woman like this in film.

Here’s to seeing more kickass women on the big screen!

These amazing girls blew the whistle on the FA 

Some girls in County Durham properly kicked off this week when they were handed the Football Association’s plan to get more girls involved in the sport. Some of the FA’s suggestions included: allowing girls to take breaks to check their phones and tweet, providing “colourful bibs that smell nice”, using a smaller ball to avoid the fear of being hit by a heavy one, and, the biggest stroke of brilliance – using pink whistles.

In response, girls from Lumley Junior School in County Durham wrote letters to the FA, including one from 10-year-old Ruby that said: “We aren’t brainless Barbie dolls. We don’t all like the same colour (pink). We are not fussy about colour or the smell of our bibs – would you be? And we are not afraid to get hit by a ball, so why would we need light ones; in case we break a nail?”

Mike drop.

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Look how cute! 

Christmas is coming, so it’s time to dust off your glue guns and glitter. In typical betty style, we weren’t just about to make any old Christmas decorations. Why would we do that when we could make TAMPON ANGELS? Look out for our tutorial explaining how to make these celestial beauties on our YouTube channel.

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Flying high

And why stop at a tampon angel when you could have a whole tree loaded with feminist baubles? We love this one of the Queen of the aviation world, Amelia Earhart. Fly, pretties!

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Amelia Earhart Decoration, Zazzle, £10.15

See, 2016 wasn’t a complete disaster 

Sure, there’ve been plenty of times that 2016 has got us down – but Buzzfeed has rounded up 33 good things that happened in 2016 and it made us smile and cry simultaneously. For about 20 minutes. Spoiler: includes love, puppies and a kid licking a dolphin.

Enjoy!

It’s 9.30am, Saturday morning, and I am standing bare-legged in a muddy field: hard, cold rain pelting my t-shirted shoulders, icy wind blowing a gale up my skirt.

In one hand, I carry a long stick with a net on the end, while the other is in the grim clasp of the opponent I’ve been instructed to shake hands with. “Hi! I’m Clare,” I introduce myself, brightly. “I’m pretty rubbish at this; in fact, the chances are strongly in your favour.” She looks at me warily, like this is some kind of distraction technique – but by the end of the game, I’ll have managed to convince her. Though I loved playing, turned up to practice religiously and enter into every game with gusto, I was – and still am, I suspect – genuinely bad at lacrosse.

I can’t run very fast – being by nature more of a long distance girl – and the art of running, holding a ball in my stick and cradling it (a strange motion in which you wiggle the stick from side to side) at the same time eluded me. I could almost catch the ball – but when it comes to ball games, almost-catching doesn’t get many goals.

Fortunately for the school, I was in the B team – which in some schools would be an esteemed position but at St Helen’s meant losing most games and winning, by total fluke, just a handful. On one memorable occasion we lost three games at a tournament just because we forgot which pitch we were on.

We were, in short, a shambles – but man, did we have fun with it. Pressure off (if we turned up, we’d exceeded the school’s expectations) we were free to enjoy the game for what it was: a means of meeting mates, getting some fresh air and exercising with a common goal loosely in mind. If the goal was reached, it was a bonus: if not, we’d still worked out, mucked in and had a laugh in the process.

Free of the pre-match nerves, we enjoyed both the coach journey there, with its banter and colourful energy bars; and the ride back, where our ‘post match analysis’ consisted of raucous re-enactments punctuated with laughter. We enjoyed ourselves: a feeling which those who are good at team sports can often miss out on because the pressure’s on and if they mess up, their team mates point the finger, shout angrily, or talk about them behind their back.

Taylor ball

These are the joys to be found in a team sport when you stop worrying about how well you’re playing, and start asking why you’re playing. Yes, you’re playing to win – but unless there are lives or great prizes at stake, aren’t you playing for something more?

Of course, it is not just ‘the taking part that counts’, as with all things you get out what you put in, and there’s honour as well as more exercise in trying hard. But stop (not on the pitch, obvs) and look at the game as a whole and you will reap rewards so much more more satisfying than cups, trophy shields and goals.

You’ll be stronger: not just physically (though being able to stand up to your brother’s pretty great) but mentally too. Exercise and fresh air works wonders for the brain as much as for the bod, releasing chemicals which make you feel good (endorphins) and improving memory and performance. Besides, it is character building, persisting in something you find challenging – even if (in fact, especially if) you are used to being top of the class in everything else.

Most people give up activities they aren’t very good at. But the funny thing is, it’s often in doing the stuff you’re not good at that you find other strengths. One B-team mate’s insistence on hitting the ball round the field rather than carrying it in the stick brought her to hockey; my flat inability to reach any speed higher than steady jog is what lead me to cross-country running; and of course, there is always the possibility that you might get better at the sport itself. Many of our B team ended up in the As.

I didn’t. Even now ball games elude me. But the memories of our floundering on the pitch, and the fits of giggles afterwards – they’re still strong. Honed by hilarious defeats, our team’s sense of humour equipped us with one of the most invaluable life skills: the ability to laugh at ourselves.

@finney_clare

Image: Getty

You know when you wait ages for a bus and then three come along all at once? Well, that’s how becoming a teen felt for me.

I had found primary school easy. I had lots of friends, exams were a breeze and I never really thought about how I looked. But then lots of things came along all at once.

My parents had never got on well, but suddenly they were fighting so much more. I had my first crush, but he didn’t like me back. I started my period, but had a lot of painful cramps. My friends were arguing and taking time off school to go to the park. And to top it all off, I was finding it really difficult that everyone else in my class — not to mention everyone else on the planet — seemed to have big boobs and mine felt tiny in comparison.

So much had happened in one go that I didn’t know how to deal with it. It’s easy to pick up one or two Maltesers when they’ve fallen out of the packet, isn’t it? But what about when the whole packet falls on the floor? Well, you either start picking them up… or you don’t pick them up at all.

That’s what I did. Instead of coping with one thing at a time, I felt really overwhelmed. It was like a big, sad cloud was following me around and raining on me all of the time. I tried to hide it and pretend my parents breaking up wasn’t a big deal really or I didn’t even want to have boobs and look like the girls in the magazines. But deep down I was overwhelmed. And the worst part was that I thought other people could tell. This meant I did less and less. I didn’t want to socialise with my friends or get dressed up because I thought I was just a quiet, sad girl to them.

I didn’t really know where these feelings were coming from, either. I thought everyone else was dealing with things a lot better than me — and that I should be happy. After all, I got good grades, I had friends, I had a mum who was just absolutely ace. All I really needed at the time was someone to tell me that it’s ok to feel sad and confused sometimes when you hit your teens. Worrying about your body when it’s going through puberty and changing so much is really natural. Getting sad about your parents arguing would probably even make Beyoncé want a good cry. And feeling unsettled when friends were falling out and crushes wouldn’t text back? Well, that was something everyone was going through too.

But it felt like just me.

One day I remember feeling so trapped and sad that I just ran outside to get away from everything. As simple as that. I ran and I kept running. And suddenly my heart was beating faster, I could feel the wind against my face, I was breathing normally, I was holding my head up high, I wasn’t caring about how my body looked. I felt free.

More importantly, I felt happy.

Happy that I could make a decision to get outside when it felt like life was too much, that I could make my body work for me, that I could feel a surge of happy exercise endorphins in my blood and that I could breathe free and easy rather than feeling panicky and nervous.

I’d always loved to exercise when I was growing up. But PE lessons had sucked all of the fun out of running and climbing and dancing around — all of the things I loved when I was young. Team sports felt so boring and fake to me. But discovering running for myself felt like I had opened up a brand new world.

From then on, anytime a sad or nervous or “I’m rubbish!” feeling came along, I’d decide not to let it take over. Instead, I put on my trainers and went outside. Taking some time out of each day to do something for me, how I wanted to do it, in the way I wanted to do it felt really good. It didn’t stop the sad feelings, it didn’t make my parents get back together or magically grow me a huge pair of boobs to make all of the other girls in my class jealous. But it made things feel easier, happier and somehow just a little bit lighter. Because I was proving to myself that I was stronger than my sad thoughts.

It doesn’t always work, though. Sometimes I don’t go running. Sometimes I still sit inside and forget how nice it feels. Sometimes lots of sad feelings still come along. But that’s a natural part of being me.

And years later, I still run and it’s still the best medicine for when I’m feeling sad and when things get too overwhelming. I’ve not trained for a marathon, I don’t spend a lot of my money on fancy running clothes or run a lot of races for charity. But I do feel like I have a secret weapon for whenever life gets a bit too much.

@BeccaCaddy

Image: Manjit Thapp