A Nation of Strong Women

“This article appeared in the August issue of Shelf”

September 25th marks the annual: Women’s National Fitness Day. Some might wonder why such a day is needed or necessary, and the answer is simple: women are generally not encouraged into group sport or activity. Women’s soccer, while growing in audience interest, brings in a paucity of the viewership and revenue of its male counterpart. Almost universally, young women are still guided into sympathetic disciplines instead of full-contact sports. Whereas for young men—as I once was—sport is simply a part of your rearing. As a child and then youth I dabbled in swimming, lacrosse, soccer, hockey and tennis before finally settling on athletics and weightlifting. While sociologists may argue back and forth that this is due to biological imperatives, social constructs or hierarchal programming, I think I took to sport because there was an aspect to discipline and/ or group activity that I found enlightening and wholesome. And that’s not a lesson exclusive to the male identity, nor should it be. Which is why days like Women’s National Fitness Day are so important: to provide women with the same choice and arena for healthy competition with their own bodies and against others.

What’s more important, though, is keeping those doors and opportunities open once the day has come and gone. What are your goals beyond Women’s National Fitness Day? And this isn’t a question you should only ask yourself if you identify as female. This is a question that supersedes identity. How will you encourage your mothers, daughters, sisters and friends to take up the mantle of health and wellness? Well, in my opinion, the easiest way to influence others has and will continue to be leading by example. We are all highly adaptive creatures who respond and change to social cues and suggestions.

Therefore, if you want a nation of Wonderwomen (the reboot, not the cringey 70s version), then be that Wonderwoman—or Wonderman, or Wonderfolk—and help train a nation of warriors through your role- modelling. Push women into activity. I was pushed into sports, many of which I didn’t like, though through process of elimination I soon learned what I did fancy. Show women that they are strong. Show them that weightlifting can be more than five pound curls and Jane Fonda butterfly thigh contractions. I often go through this particular roadblock in my work as a lifestyle coach: the self-perception that women should lift very light weights because they are slighter and frailer and don’t want to bulk up. This is a gross misinterpretation of how the body works, since a woman won’t turn into a muscle god without a tremendous amount of calories and most likely hormonal injections. A woman can be strong, can lift strong, can treat her body in many ways no different to a man’s—to a human’s—and that is the capacity and goal to which we should have women achieve.

Perhaps one day we’ll just be celebrating National Fitness Day; non-binary and without qualification. But we’re not there yet. Until we are, show your support and your leadership and encourage the women in your life to conquer life’s obstacles with the sheer determination of their bodies and wills.