Former England captain Mary Phillip on staying active with MS

Tue 03 August 2021

Mary Phillip

Mary Phillip is a former English international footballer and England captain. She’s now a voluntary manager and coach at Peckham Town. Mary was diagnosed with relapsing MS in 2017.

I’ve always been a really active person. I loved all sports growing up but football was the one that pulled me in the hardest – I loved it with all my heart.

I started playing competitively as a teenager and was one of the first 16 women to play professionally in England for three years. I became England captain and represented England at two World Cups.

Looking back now, I definitely started having MS symptoms during my playing career. It was easy to disregard them because they started so small, and I put it down to my intense training regime. I retired in 2008 but continued coaching and managing, and it wasn’t until 2017 that I finally pieced the puzzle together and got diagnosed.

Accept and adapt

I’m still an active person, but every time I relapse it takes a small part of me with it. I’ve had to accept that I can’t run as far as I used to, and I can’t lift as much weight as before.

My advice on staying active with MS is to work with the body you’ve got. It’s about adapting and setting realistic goals. Perhaps you can’t push yourself as far as you used to, but there will still be a type of exercise out there that works for you.

I focus on what I can do – I can still manage a light jog, and I walk and cycle as much as possible. I also took up yoga, which is so good for the mind and body.

I know my body best

For me, the worst thing would be stopping exercising altogether. I feel like a part of me is gone when I’m not keeping active. I have to find ways around things – if there’s a will, there’s a way.

I know my body better than anyone else and I know how far to push myself.

"Runner’s high" isn’t just for distance runners

Exercise does me the world of good, both physically and mentally. That’s what motivates me to keep going.

I love that runner’s high that you can get, it’s a great way to feel and you don’t need to be a distance runner to experience it.

Explore ways to keep active with MS, including yoga videos