When it comes to women in fitness, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done in making the industry an equal and inclusive place. From making gyms feel more welcoming, to equal pay for female athletes - women have levelled up, but it’s still not a level playing field.
For International Women’s Day 2022 we’re elevating the voices of strong women in our fitness community who #BreakTheBias and inspire others while doing it. Hear from not just Ryderwear athletes, but also self love enthusiasts, survivors and fighters on how they redefine strength and break more biases than they break sweats. Read their stories below.
I break biases in fitness by being a powerlifter with a disability. People typically view fitness as something that only able-bodied individuals take part in - but it’s certainly not. A huge component of my platform is showing others that people with disabilities have a space in the community too. While hearing loss does not directly impact my ability to lift weights, it still affects my day to day life and it is incredibly important to spotlight.
Being a strong woman to me means feeling empowered by my fitness abilities especially when I walk into a typically male-dominated space such as a gym. I lift for my physical health but also my mental health and the positive impacts that it has on my life. Being a strong woman also means knowing my worth and not doubting myself in and out of the gym.
By being involved in fitness and sharing my journey on social media, I am showing everyone (and especially someone who might be in the same situation as me) that fitness is really for everyone. Fitness is for everyone who chooses to be involved in it regardless of their gender or their circumstances.
Showing up as my authentic self hopefully helps everyday people with disabilities, especially females, feel more comfortable & confident to pursue their goals in fitness - whether they’re big or small. To know that they can take up the space in the gym, at a park, at a beach, at a pool - wherever they choose to exercise.
I hope that this shows people that by being involved in fitness and the gym is normal and part of our day-to-day routine and that this influences them to put in a little bit more effort in making the environment more comfortable and inclusive for all. It shouldn’t be left to us to feel like we’re getting stared at or being approached all the time.
When I exercise outside or step into a ‘normal’ gym, it is almost inevitable that someone will stare at me or randomly come up to me and ask questions about my disabilities. While I understand the curiosity, I feel like this comes from lack of awareness. This is because these people haven’t seen enough disabled people working out at the gym (or anywhere) so when they see one, they are so intrigued. That’s why I keep showing up, keep posting, keep normalising it, to hopefully raise more awareness.
My initial thought when seeing the word strong, was mental strength. A strong woman to me is someone who has so much love for herself and doesn’t let others’ opinions of her overpower how she sees herself. She knows her worth and knows how to set boundaries. She keeps promises she makes to herself. She can walk away from a situation that doesn’t serve her and doesn’t make her happy. She’s kind to herself and treats herself like someone she loves and cares about.
She is also someone who has gone through so much in her life yet is still thriving. She learns not to suppress her emotions but go through each one of them, accept and allow herself to heal and move on. She understands that it’s ok to not be ok and is not afraid to ask for help when she needs it. She is resilient and doesn’t stop living her best life just because something bad has happened to her. That is a strong woman to me.
All my life I have felt like I didn’t fit in because of my body, my loud personality, my height! I developed an eating disorder at 16 trying to shrink myself to fit in with my peers and it resulted in permanent damage to my body.
I have spent all my adult life dedicating myself to a journey of self love and acceptance. I started embracing my body for its own strengths and realised how strong my muscles can be and how fast I can sprint!
My life changed when I started loving myself and nurturing my mind, soul and body. I was recently diagnosed with Stage 3 Lipoedema which is a disease that causes healthy fat to turn diseased without the body able to break it down. I currently have 20kgs of diseased fat on my legs that I need surgery to remove.
I starved myself to try to shrink my body when all it was trying to do was its best! I stumbled into an online platform and realised just how many women struggle with exactly what I did and it breaks my heart.
I will never stop fighting to break down the stigma that healthy isn’t just one size. I don’t care if you’re a size 0 or a size 20, it starts on the inside and you deserve to love you, even if you’re working to be physically healthier.
If I can help even one woman wear a bikini at the beach or shorts at the gym or simply forgive herself for something, then it’s all worth it for me.
Being strong means standing up for what you believe in, even if your heart is pounding and your legs are shaking. It also means celebrating those around you and encouraging the success of other women.
Strong is having a breakdown, getting in your car after work and sobbing the whole way home. It's allowing yourself to be human, to defy the expectation of perfection and know that even if in this moment you are in unbearable pain, you can put one foot in front of the other and have what it takes to be okay.
The stigma and judgement that comes around training in mixed spaces is one that is unavoidable as an Asian, Muslim, hijab wearing woman. Staying strong and pushing through no matter what in order to achieve my goal is a mindset I’ve had to develop through my fitness journey and will continue to do to represent and inspire girls like me!
Being a strong woman goes beyond physical strength. Being a strong woman, to me, means being unapologetically you and not being afraid to speak up or take space in areas you feel you ‘don’t belong in.
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