I’m sure many of you saw the (fairly) recent “Like a Girl” ad campaign. (If not, you can check it out here.) In a nutshell, this video tried to redefine how we think of the phrase “like a girl.” When did this become a bad thing? When did this make girls lesser athletes?
I volunteer at a run club for a local elementary school. The group I am leading has thirty-five kids – boys and girls. One day recently we were running a drill that required some basic calisthenics. One of the exercises was push-ups. (Side note here: There is no such thing as “girl push-ups” in our boot camp class. Don’t even ask because it’s not happening.) Immediately one of the girls asked me if she could do “girl push-ups.” I, almost instinctively, said no, all the girls in the group are very strong and can do real push-ups. After class, one of the girls told me as she was being picked up that she had never done a “real” push-up before. That day she didn’t do one – she did at least ten! (We were doing sets of five reps.) In fact, I saw every single girl there make a pretty darn good effort at “real” push-ups that day. Gender seemed to make very little difference in the push-ups of these third through sixth grade kids.
So why are we teaching young girls that they are weak? I am not going to sit here and argue that women can physiologically be as strong as men. I understand gender differences and the reality that an elite male athlete and an elite female athlete will never be “equal.” But what if we encouraged women to try? What if we encouraged them to push themselves outside of their comfort zones? What if we empowered them to believe that they could be amazing athletes – they could be strong and fast and at least at a recreational level, hang tough with the boys? Many of my run club kids will be running a 5K this week to conclude the season. I can tell you already that a couple of the top four or five “kid runners” will be females.
So why do I care so much? I am not a feminist with an agenda. While I do enjoy “chicking” (run definition: passing a male runner in a race) guys, I am not out to get them. I am simply trying to be my best and if that means trying to keep up with the guys, bring it. I wish that every little girl could learn what it took me over thirty years to figure out – that being strong, fit and healthy is empowering. Being active has helped me to learn that my potential isn’t a set ending point. I have done some pretty crazy things when I have set my mind to it, and I’m not done yet. I firmly believe that in many cases, particularly with women, strong body = strong mindset. I really can’t stress enough how much being more fit has changed every single aspect of my life. It’s not just about that hour at the gym!
I was recently chatting with a high school girl that was telling me (not in a positive way) that she had put on fifteen pounds over the summer. This girl is an amazing athlete. She put on weight by attending high intensity sports camps and building muscle. She seemed to have a pretty good grasp on this as we discussed it, but it just drove home to me that we need to continue to be positive role models for these young athletes. They need to know that being strong is not weird; it’s awesome!
Many high level, elite female athletes get to the top by training with the guys. In our class at the gym, we are not trained any differently than a guy – just a scaled weight. I cringe when I see workouts that are specifically for women. While they may have a place in the fitness world to make women feel more comfortable at the beginning of a fitness journey, I hope these women will quickly learn they do not need to put these limits on themselves.
If you are already active, how has this changed your life in other aspects? Do you agree that women can do the same workouts as men?