Back when I was training hardcore, when it literally occupied my thoughts 24/7 and affected the choices I made daily – I’ll admit to occasionally indulging in the narrow-minded little thought that there weren’t many other women out there, really putting the work in. Bar your professional athletes etc etc. That gym bunny / cross trainer loving / protein shake life frustrated me a touch and definitely earned a little of my condescension. My unspoken mantra? If you weren’t ready to puke your guts up after each session then you weren’t putting enough effort in. My favourite badges of honour were the 4:30am alarms and multiple two-sessions-a-days. Now, whilst that’s still my favourite way to train (bar the early alarms!) and I’m a big believer in go hard or go home (all or nothing to the core) I’m no longer ignorant or immature enough to think that; A) It’s right for everyone. B) That there aren’t many (many) others doing all of that and more. C) That those who don’t subscribe to my way of thinking and training, don’t deserve a basic level of respect for the effort that they’re putting in and the choices that they make. I would certainly never have tried to shame someone for the way they approached fitness and I will quite happily hold my hands up and admit that I was wrong for even occasionally thinking that way.
So, I’ll say this just once.
Women, let’s stop comparing each other and assuming that just because someone shouts the loudest, trains in a certain way, writes in a certain way, works with brands in a certain way, takes a s*** in a certain way – that they are any better (or worse!) than the woman next to them. We all do it in some small way (even if we don’t ever say it out loud), we are conditioned from a young age to measure ourselves against the successes and failures of others and it’s beyond pointless. We all deserve to feel confident and safe in our choices.
What made me feel so strongly about this that I had to write about it?
I received a slightly vile comment from someone a couple of days back, it didn’t bother me too much at the time as I was busy house hunting, my mind on other things. It was only when I thought about it later that I realised how fuming I was. It all stemmed from the fact that I made the choice, you know – as an autonomous adult, not to run a training race this weekend because I felt hideous around the womb area and basically didn’t want to. The comment full of self-righteous vitriol declared me to be an embarrassment to the world of sport (and women) and aimed to make me feel ashamed of myself because there are people out there running the Boston marathon with one leg and in under 4 hours.
Well. Gosh I hadn’t realised that the world is full of f****** heroes who face challenges every day that I couldn’t even begin to imagine facing, I have been living under a rock you know. Believe me, I have never felt thankful for my ability to just stand up and walk, let alone run. No, I’m far too vapid, self-centred and unappreciative. *eye roll so hard my eyeballs do a complete 180*
You don’t know me woman so stfu.
Regardless of the fact that I don’t need an excuse to decide not to run any race it amazed me that another woman from our community, one who signed off her last message to me with ‘always got love, no matter what’ judged me so negatively and felt so strongly about me not running a race that she tried to shame me on social media, even going so far as to tag a brand that I work with regularly. She did later concede that I am in fact a ‘tough woman’, well gee thanks but, so what? If I hadn’t responded or if she hadn’t looked through my account for evidence of this ‘toughness’, then what? What if she had said those words to someone else who perhaps, unlike me, was feeling terrible for her decision and beating herself up over it, even feeling like a failure? Not everyone wears armour 24/7 and words have consequences so choose them wisely and kindly. It’s ok to disagree, it’s ok to voice your opinion but there are many words in the English language and if you can’t pick a better selection to get your point across then maybe, don’t bother? We talked it out in the DM’s and whilst she came across as a slightly nicer human, or at least as someone trying to appear nice, the slimy air of ‘I am better than you’ coated every last word.
Which leads me to my next, most important point.
Tough is not just something you can see on the outside, it’s not just muscles, it’s not just the loud voice, it’s not just hills and sprints and heavier weights and reps after reps after reps, it’s also not a constant #nodaysoff because you know, we’re human too! Women can be tough in any number of ways and the next time you decide to be a judgemental a**hole and call someone out that you don’t know (even a little bit!), instead take a moment to think… What might they have overcome? How might their situation differ to your own? What might they be battling that you can’t, or will never see? If you feel so strongly about women and their sanitation rights, why don’t you spend your time and efforts building those up and encouraging those that don’t have access. Bring attention to the issues in a positive and helpful manner instead of making it about you or I? Attacking those that do have the luxury of choice (and believe me, that luxury and privilege is not lost on me) will certainly not help those that don’t. Neither will you shouting about just how much you do for other women, let’s be honest, all that boils down to is a selfish and unnecessary need for justification and self gratification regarding your own life choices.
Understand that everyone, even those girls who ‘comment and love pancakes and smoothies and surface stuff’ as you mentioned from up top your high horse, are strong women in their own way and that your personal definition of strong doesn’t really mean s*** in the grand scheme of things because it is just that, personal.
Finally, if you love and want to support your fellow women so much, how about you start spreading that love around at home? Shower it on your elderly neighbour, on the woman down at your local shop, on the girl struggling through her HIIT class despite suffering with crippling anxiety about being up there in front of a whole room of people. Yes, there are people facing terrifying and utterly abhorrent things daily but no one woman is more deserving of love, empathy and compassion than another.
Anyway, just had to get that off my chest. It’s time we all focused on working together and supporting one another. Within that movement there will always be space for constructive criticism – that’s how we learn and grow but let’s leave the nastiness at home please, ladies.
Nothing but love, always (you know the genuine, non shouty judgemental kind).