When I was a little girl growing up in the Midwest in the 70s and 80s, I was exposed to every sport available. I was born in 1972, the year Title IX passed, a benchmark that paved the way for women to have more opportunities in athletics and academics. I never felt barriers to participating in sports, and for that matter, I never felt limited in anything I wanted to pursue.
I did, however, feel insecure about myself, especially during my formative years. In 1994, at age 22, I was so intrigued by the subject that I wrote my senior thesis at Yale University on women athletes and body image. It was called “The Female Athlete: An Oxymoron.” My research showed that women athletes, primarily in sports where their uniform requirements were on the skimpy side, suffered from body image negativity. Running was one of those sports where women were told that they needed to be rail-thin to succeed.
As we know, success is relative. If you?re shooting for the Olympic marathon gold medal, your body is like a finely-tuned, high-performance sports car. But the overwhelming majority of women are running for different reasons. They may want to improve their times, but they are not gunning for the gold. They are running for sanity and health above all else. They do not need the added pressure of feeling less than amazing as they try to do the best they can for themselves and their families.
Today we are liberated in so many ways, but we are still surrounded by messages of intimidation and exclusiveness in the world of fitness. My goal with #REALwomenmove is to stop the madness and show women that being fit is something we can all do, regardless of our size, shape or activity level. I want to help motivate women and girls who are unmotivated or intimidated and show them what it looks like to make health and fitness a priority, despite the daily obstacles that are thrown in their paths.
Please join me in this quest! Post your photos and share your stories. You’ll be surprised by how much influence you have on the people around you. For every 5,000 #REALwomenmove hashtags, we will give away a “Get Started Scholarship” to help someone else get started on this incredible path.
Today we celebrate the #REAL women of the world!