Athletic women are commemorated when they deal with their bodies: whether it’s the pre-holiday bikini exercise or post-baby Bikram yoga sessions. Because of workout = excellence. Does not it? Putting aside the fact that this formula is simply another version of the damaging idea that women’s bodies need to strive for approval, the message that workout and sport develops a specific body shape is propaganda. Little waist, toned arms, pert bottom, wobble-free thighs and perky breasts: it is a misconception that if only we did more exercise we would look this way.
All bodies are different; athletic bodies have their own specific method of responding to the work we make them do. As we stated when to ask that athletic female and she stated: “I do not have a flat stomach or anything. Mine’s quite podgy. I’ve got the bits, the hang, the tire … It is quite challenging.”
Elite sport, of all sectors, need to understand this. However over and again athletic women tell us that they have undergone negative remarks from male coaches about their bodies. The current example is Olympic cyclist, who accused British Cycling’s director of informing her to “move on and get on with having a child”, along with a litany of insults about her shape and size. He has since resigned, albeit protesting his innocence, while double Olympic champion Victoria Pendleton has backed his claims with her own struggling experiences in the sport.
In sport, where athletes are available in amazing sizes and shapes, the mind boggles that a coaching set-up could be so conservative and traditionalist. Up until triple world-record-holder Usain Bolt occurred, sports researchers didn’t think tall individuals could run competitively over 100m. The diminutive Jessica Ennis-Hill defies reasoning in her ability to high-jump the British record. So why would we resolutely adhere to old-fashioned concepts about what a female runner looks like?
And when these bodies are in action– effective, sweaty, identified, strong– we see athletic women in a different light, one very rarely depicted in the mainstream media. And what is unbelievable about the experience of viewing these images is that they narrate encapsulating whatever I want my child to aspire to. They show athletic women being inspirational, focused, unstoppable. They show athletic women attaining, winning, enjoying themselves, unburdened by social norms and unselfconscious.
And once we accept that we need not look a specific method, we can start to share our bliss about working out or playing a sport instead of a perfectly poised appearance, contrived post-workout pouting, critically staring into our phones. Perhaps we don’t even need to Instagram every moment of our lives for others to judge. Perhaps workout and sport can be something we provide for ourselves. For enjoyable! For happiness! For clear thinking! Due to the fact that exercise ought to be something integral to our living. And it is the crucial part that actually concerns us here, not the bit about how many millimetres it might shave off your thighs.