This Girl Can – Victoria Podcast

Episode 5: Kirsten

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You’re listening to This Girl Can – real stories from real women celebrating getting active in all different kinds of ways.

This series was recorded during the coronavirus pandemic in Australia when the women that you’re hearing from were at home either with their families or on their own. All the interviews were done over the phone. We hope that these stories inspire you to feel good and get active in your own way.

I am Kirsten and I am 32 years old. I am Badimaya Yamatji on my Mom’s side and I’m African–American on my Dad’s side.

I was a military kid, so growing up I lived all over the world. I was born in Japan. I lived in places like Guam and of course the U.S. But I was really blessed and lucky that I was always able to go back on country – Badimaya Yamatji country in Mt Magnet and Geraldton. I had a very diverse life and was able to go on country and live in different countries as well.

Growing up, whenever we would go back to Yamatji country, particularly Geraldton and Mt Magnet, I felt whole. I felt 100% whole and free. Especially in Mt Magnet, because everything was so open and it was so different from our world back in America. There, where my Dad’s from, it’s country and kind of rural. It’s similar to where my Mom’s from but it’s still a lot more built up. The contrast – leaving Guam or Virginia Beach, Virginia, and then going to Mt Magnet, I felt this wholeness. Seeing the red dirt and running around with my cousins. We used to go on big walks and swim a lot. I was very lucky to have that connectedness that my Mom and Dad always instilled in us.

My parents weren’t the type of parents that were just like, you know, just play video games and stuff. They’re always like, go outside, get active. Things like that. But when it came to sports, it was not my thing at all. Whatsoever.

When I was going into university, being a young adult, I always yearned to be outdoors in some sense. I think to replicate my normalcy because we were very structured and rigid in a sense. Again, my Dad was a military guy and my Mom loved that kind of stuff. She’s very orderly. So I always surrounded myself around women that were active. I would just give it a go. But in my 20s, early 20s, it just never stuck.

Later in life, probably 27, 26, I just took it a little bit more seriously. That’s when I permanently moved to Australia. The women that I surrounded myself with, they were moms, and us going on afternoon walks was just normal again. And the women that I surrounded myself with at the time – I still do now – their focus was more on internal health, like gut health and mental health. I saw fitness as a whole versus let me just lose weight, get skinny, look cute. That was my main agenda when I was in my early 20s.

The big difference of how I was in my early 20s to now, it’s more lifestyle. I just know that it’s not a quick fix. And I know that I’m listening to my body and I know what is working.

I really educate myself on the exercises or things that I really want to do. And I also look at people like my Mom. She’s in her late 50s and she’s a really fit woman, and especially an Aboriginal woman with diabetes – that’s a whole other thing in itself. But you know, her lifestyle, I commend it. I’m looking forward to living a good lifestyle like that so I’m trying to take all the precautions that I can. The changes that I’m making, it’s for the long term; they’re not just quick fixes.

My Mom – or my Mum – she would love for me to say that! She was always just like a typical 90s mom. She did her aerobics. She had a stationary bike at the house.

[Voice of aerobics instructor] Let’s go. Take it up here. Some breathing to start you off with. Try to raise your arms up as high as you can have them.

She would go on jogs with my Dad because, again, my Dad was in the military. So they would go on the beach together. They were a pretty fit young couple with three young kids, and even the foods that we ate! She goes on 5km+ bike rides almost every day, just because! She drinks her drink, her ‘green sludge’ that she calls it. She does yoga.

Being Aboriginal, Australian and African–American, the odds are against me when it comes to health. Diabetes. High blood pressure runs really bad on my Dad’s side of the family. So I think it’s 20/20. And I talk to my cousins, my siblings. My generation – we have all the access and education that we can to prevent this hereditary genetic health situation.

Of course, things may happen, but I’m just trying my best to fight it. All four of my grandparents, they all died a lot earlier than they should have. Both of my Mom’s parents, they died – my grandfather in his early 60s; my grandmother just at 51. It’s really something that I’m trying to push and change the narrative. I want to live long and old and see my great grandkids, so I’m trying to fight against all the statistics.

[Voice of friend] Good morning, everyone! It’s 7am and me and Kirsten have just done our 25 minutes for our training for 10K RunRona and it’s raining.

I work out primarily with a group of women. We are all Indigenous women and we call ourselves the 5am Sisters. But that reaches up to whoever wants to work out with us. And it just happened to be that we’re all Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander women.

One thing that binds us all together is our running. Some of us women do F45. Some of us do ZUU. Some of us just play sports regularly, like netball, basketball and rugby as well. But the one thing that binds us all together is running. At least once a week, every Wednesday morning, before the sun is up, we all go for a run together. And when we’re training for different races, we usually have our Sunday run day. And then after that, we have brunch.

[Voice of friend] Let’s go, Bonnie. How much further you got? OK, we’ll walk with you.

Such a great connectedness. We have our little group chats just to motivate one another. Some of us are public health promoters. But we all have that safe space to check in with one another.

We’re in this world where technology takes over so much. When you have face-to-face interactions, everyone’s always on the phone. They want to take pictures of this, that or the other. We have a little Instagram page and we post pictures at the end of our workout. But 100% of the time when we’re running or when we go on a walk afterwards to debrief, no one’s on the phone and we have real life conversations. Sometimes it gets really deep. Sometimes it gets really light-hearted. We may talk about work. We may talk about our future endeavours or just anything, but it’s really great because I never realised how we don’t really create spaces like that a lot for people in this generation.

I’m going to say the majority of my time now is finding time to get together with these women to work out. It’s different. I would never have pictured that’s how my life would end up being.

What I get from having a group of women? Sounds cheesy – a sisterhood, motivation, connectedness and also realness. We have real conversations. There’ll be times that one of us will get off the bandwagon of being on a healthy lifestyle and then we’ll pick our sister up or we’ll have hiccups or we’ll have achievements. We’re over here, cheering one another on in their everyday life. It could be either fitness or outside of that. But it’s really good because we’re all on that same accord.

I think it’s really ironic because my whole entire family makes fun of me. They say: ‘You’re not going to go out bush, Kirsten, you’re always scared’.

I hate going camping. I would rather go glamping. But then the oddest thing is that I enjoy running outside and I think my whole entire family (I don’t want to say they think it’s odd or funny) think it’s random because Kirsten’s the glamping kind of person in a sense. But I do feel like it does connect me, being an Indigenous person. I don’t know how to explain it. I’m really just connected to be outside and just to be amongst nature.

Even though I’m all the way in Melbourne, just seeing gum leaves reminds me of my Mom because when we would go to Australia, these are things that are similar to me. So I think it’s just being outdoors. It really does make me think about my family and where I should be, where I am and where I’m living.

This is me. This is my new normal. What pushes me is that I want to create change. I want to be that change.

I don’t want to have children just yet. Me and my husband just got married last year, but I know by the time I have my family and have my legacy I want to know I did everything in my power to create a healthy lifestyle for myself.

This Girl Can is an initiative of VicHealth. For more information about how to get yourself moving or to connect with clubs and groups in your local area go to or check out This Girl Can VIC on Facebook and Instagram.

We love to hear about women who are getting out and active, whether it’s walking the dog, going for a ride or having a kick with your kids, so follow the hashtag #ThisGirlCanVIC and celebrate women who are all kinds of active, no matter how well they do it, how they look or how sweaty they get.

This episode was produced by Dewi Cooke and edited by Nick King. Thanks for listening.