Fitness Soul is a rare beast. This is true for many reasons, but one is the disproportionate numbers of women.
Strong, fit, healthy, wonderful women in every shape, size and colour. (That’s the marketing for the year done – form an orderly queue new male members…)
The one thing they have in common is that they are there to learn, grow, support and improve themselves and one another. But this bucks the national trend where, sadly, the gym is the only place where women don’t appear to have to line up and wait to use the bathroom.
I remember, as a fairly tubby, asthmatic teenager coming across Henry Rollins’ famous essay “The Iron”, a moment where everything changed for me. If you haven’t read it, I’ll give you a wee googlepause to go and find it.
Welcome back. Cool huh? But more recently, I read a piece widely attributed to Stephanie Cohen (@steficohen) which struck me as every bit as significant, and I would urge you to read this too.
It’s available online, and it starts
“Women need iron. Not the vitamin. The barbell.”
Whilst they need to eat iron too – scoff your greens girls – I love the exploration of strength from a female perspective. Like Sylvie Von Duuglas-Ittu who I name-checked last week, this is a powerful perspective. A lot of the work that goes on in the gym for women is (puts on tin hat) essentially decorative, and (puts on another tin hat) often reflective of the male gaze. Both these impressive athletes urge women of all ages, creeds and body types to learn how to “take up more space, not less”.
But movements such as #thisgirlcan, A Mighty Girl, and covertheathlete.com are starting to gain traction in the media, whilst at grass root level athletes like Claire Smith (www.brutalevents.co.uk) go about quietly ticking off 10 continuous ironman events in a row.
Seriously. Von Duuglas-Ittu explores how to be a feminist whilst also respecting the traditions (which treat women very much as separate, lower class of fighter) of traditional Muay Thai (check out her brilliant video “Under the Ropes”)
So another rambling, unfocused blog entry needs to be pulled back together, so here’s my attempt to do so: kettlebells won’t make you huge, butch, kitsch, fitch, or indeed a witch. They will make you strong. The will make you powerful. They will make you fluid, and a more fluent mover. They might give you a cool blister if you do them enough. Learning to lift barbells loaded with iron won’t turn you into a bulging steroid monster – but it will give you explosive power, poise, control and confidence.
Strong might be being rebranded as the new sexy just now, but I would argue strong is, was, and always will be, just strong. It doesn’t need sexy. Strong is enough.