Women’s fitness is nothing new. Workout trends have come and gone for decades. But now, more than ever, it seems the popular direction points toward excelling in extremes. Endurance sports, elite fitness and ultra adventures are earning recognition and applause for tough, conquering she-beasts. This is both fascinating and frustrating to me.
Fascinating because of the sheer strength, courage and perseverance shown in their accomplishments. Frustrating because many women will never achieve this she-beast status society exalts. Similar to the exposure of models with perfect bodies and flawless beauty, this hard core, bad-ass mentality drapes a cape of insignificance around those who should otherwise earn the title of Super Woman.
While chasing adventure, improving bodies and exceeding limits is definitely something to be proud of, so are the often overlooked character qualities of other brutally efficient women. Women whose enduring strength enables them to accomplish daily challenges, often with no finish line in sight. Patient and persevering young, sleepless moms earn no bling after an ultra-exhausting night with sick little ones. The hard-core tough-loving firmness of the mom raising her teenager holds no podium recognition behind a slamming door. The continual care of elderly parents, chronically ill or disabled loved ones offers no trophy or bragging rights for the lonely weariness involved. The extra load of maintaining household, family, work and school for the single woman, military wife, and those with absent fathers or spouses with addictions, are all too often unsupported, forgotten and rarely high-fived.
Enduring, elite and ultra events are worthy, exciting and challenging goals. The journey of pushing yourself beyond perceived limits holds great personal reward and growth. It should be celebrated, recognized and applauded. But there is another journey, for many, punctuated with struggles, obstacles and continual heartache. We must be the aid-station in life for these women, the support crew providing relief, cheering them on, refueling their efforts and sharing our life’s lessons with tender advice. At the very least, we should acknowledge their toughness and fortitude with encouragement and praise.
If you are that extreme athlete, congratulations! Be proud. Enjoy the admiration, the recognition, the celebration. But be careful that a self-absorbed ego in the success of your own accomplishment doesn’t overlook or worse, diminish the equally successful achievements of another type of hard-core, bad ass, she-beast holding a personal record in a field you may know nothing about. Strength isn’t only measured by pace, risk, muscle or miles. Some of the world’s strongest women have never pinned on a race bib.