“How fitness makes my confidence go through the roof – and it can for you, too”

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Looking to boost your confidence, happiness and self-esteem? Then this is for you…

Chemmy Alcott has a lot to be confident about.

As one of Britain’s greatest ever skiers, she has competed in four winter Olympics, and enjoyed a career high ranking of 8th in the world. She has been named British National Champion seven times and British Ladies Champion eight times. She is the only British female skier to ever win a run in a World Cup.

Impressed? Us too.

Yet despite this mile-long list of achievements, Alcott, like most of us, occasionally struggles with feelings of insecurity. And it’s in these moments that she turns to fitness, with the rush of endorphins delivering a natural confidence boost.

Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics

Chemmy Alcott in action at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics

In this, she’s not alone. As anyone who has ever experienced a ‘runner’s high’ will know, exercise can be one of the most powerful and effective ways to increase your confidence, happiness and self-esteem. These benefits are well documented, with exercise having both short- and long-term effects on how we feel about ourselves. 

One study, from the American Psychological Association, found that exercise can deliver a mood-enhancing effect a mere five minutes into a fitness session – so by the time you start listening to the second song on your workout playlist, you should be feeling pretty good. And if you can stick to a fitness routine, you’ll reap even more benefits, with a second study published in the International Journal of Sport Psychology finding that regular exercise over a six month period was an effective way of building self-confidence.

Feeling inspired to roll out your yoga mat or shake it all out in the gym? Below, Alcott tells Stylist about the power of fitness, and talks us through her incredible career so far.

FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Women's downhill race on January 24, 2014

Chemmy competing in the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Women’s downhill race in 2014

When did you first start skiing?

When I was 18 months old. I know that seems young, but I’m the youngest of a ski mad family and by the time I was born my eldest brother had been talent spotted and was already racing, so I just wanted to do what everyone else was doing! I always say I was genetically made to be a skier – my dad was a rugby player and my mother a swimmer – so I got his glutes and her lungs.

What do you love the most about skiing? How does it make you feel?

It makes me feel free. It is an amazing sport, and I love being outside in the mountains – every slope has different features and a different terrain, so it is never monotonous. And when you have the confidence to take risks that pay off (especially when you are racing at around 70mph) it is the most satisfying feeling in the world.

What has been your personal highlight of your career so far?

Professionally, it was when I won the second run of a world cup in front of 30,000 Austrian fans and made history in doing so. Personally, it was teaching my toddler how to ski and sharing our passion with him.

Does exercise give you more confidence in yourself as a woman?

Yes, 100%! Without exercise I have horrendous guilt – I am literally addicted to endorphins. I need them to make me happy, as well as better at work and better at home as a wife and a mum.

FIS Alpine Ski World Championships Women's SuperG on February 05, 2013

“Training with others can be fun, and sharing the experience will mean you’re more likely to keep it up”

Do you think that sport and fitness can be empowering for women?

So many women read magazines and follow a fake celebrity culture. This means they have a distorted image of what they should look like. When you own your fitness – when you use sport and fitness for yourself and to feel your best – your confidence goes through the roof.

What would be your advice for women who want to get into fitness but find gyms and sports groups intimidating?

There are so many other options out there. I train at home using YouTube and apps when I’m busy or feel like I don’t want to go the gym. But remember, nearly everyone has the same insecurities, no matter what shape they are. Training with others can be fun, and sharing the experience will mean you’re more likely to keep it up.

Images: Getty

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Sarah Biddlecombe

Sarah Biddlecombe is an award-winning journalist and Digital Commissioning Editor at Stylist. Follow her on Twitter

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