Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Athletic Women are Awesome

Women who train hard and achieve epic results amaze me. And it's not because they're "as tough as guys." Often they're way tougher. It's because women have to deal with a lot more bull$hit when it comes to working out, and they just f@#king do it anyway.

The Rio Olympics are a great example. Many of the women who won medals, broke world records, and performed just plain awesomely were body-shamed, belittled, insulted, and had just a massive heap of sexist trash thrown at them. I have more trouble keeping my balance when walking than Simone Biles does when she's flipping on a beam that's less than 4 inches wide. Katie Ledecky swims faster than a shark on a jetski. And yet they can't get the same respect as the male athletes.

There are too many examples for me to list. Here's an article that does a great job of it: http://fusion.net/story/338501/sexism-olympics-rio-simone-biles/

My friends Meghan and Geoffrey just completed the Timberman 70.3 Ironman. Meghan wrote an excellent report of her epic adventure. Prior to this summer she had very little experience bicycling or swimming. She was a runner. But she trained her ass off with long brutal workouts and did amazingly well at the event. I've had the great fortune to see her train sometimes, and her level of commitment always amazed me. No level of pain or exhaustion would ever slow her.

Geoffrey and Meghan getting ready to CONQUER.

My Archnemesis, Lesley, signed up to do a 100 mile bike ride with me at the last minute. She's doing another 100 mile bike ride for charity in 3 weeks. We both did the Cayuga Lake Triathlon last month. And while I was whining about how slow I was, she got third overall female. Third! Any time I run with her I sound like I'm having an asthma attack while she's chatting breezily. She's just a better athlete.

I feel like a lazy bum compared to these ladies. I'm honestly not sure I could push myself as hard as them. For a lot of guys, their kneejerk reaction is to disrespect a woman who pushes herself this hard. They make comments about how she looks, about what she should be doing instead (shopping, getting manicures, delousing her kids), or just suggesting that she's unfeminine or broken somehow. It's all about their fragile egos. Those guys know they're not 10% as "manly" as these badass women. But me, I see what women like Meghan and Lesley do and it inspires and motivates me to push myself harder. Not to be better than them, but to try to be as good as them, if that's even possible.
Simone Biles

I've trained karate for over 20 years. Martial arts is totally accepted for guys to do. You look at a guy punching and kicking and say, "of course." It's different when it comes to women, and often they're not considered to be as tough as the guys. But I've been to countless karate tournaments, and let me tell you: The women are insane. The guys beat on each other sure, but then they hug it out. But when the women spar, they have the look of death. I've often joked (but not really) that I'm lucky I don't have to fight against them. They're brutal! And their kata (forms) are freakin' perfect. I look like an orangutan with a broken leg compared to them.

I believe they push themselves harder because they feel they have something to prove. They shouldn't have to, but they do. In a sport dominated by dudes, they feel that they have to go the extra mile to earn respect. Anybody who comes to my class earns my respect just by showing up and training every week. I don't treat the ladies any differently. Nonetheless they amaze me with their tenacity, and they often train harder and perform better than the guys. Men may have the genetic advantage on muscle, but definitely not on sheer will.

Katie Ledecky

The sexist idiocy makes sense to an extent. Our forefathers dragged women back to our caves where they expected them to tend to the kids and pet mammoth. And our brains haven't changed at all since then. But those same forefathers also learned how to turn twigs into rocket ships (well, not immediately). So clearly we have the capacity to think, and to override our base emotions. Building a rocket ship is not consistent with sitting around and doing nothing, which I definitely prefer.

So when a guy derides an epic woman, it may be a natural reaction. But it also means that guy hasn't spent the two seconds to think, "maybe I shouldn't be a douchebag." And that's a choice. Every one of us has infinite opportunities to sit and think. To evaluate those monkey impulses and decide if they're really worth holding on to. Do I really need to eat all of this chocolate cake? Don't answer that.

And a lot of the guys who choose not to respect women.... a lot of them also choose not to push themselves hard, whether it's athletically or in some other meaningful way. They see a powerful woman who's achieved success through crazy hard work, and it punches them directly in their dangling sack of ego. Rather than learning the lesson that they too can push themselves to achieve success, they instead attack, like an ape flinging poop to protect its banana.

Or in my case to protect my ice cream.

Every time I see a woman conquer a seemingly insurmountable challenge - Meghan, Lesley, Katinka Hosszú - It makes me want to push myself harder. Of course, the same is true when I see a guy like Geoffrey do something amazing as well. But guys already get plenty of respect. It saddens me how many people don't strive to make themselves better individuals, and I don't mean just physically. There's a lot of pettiness and savagery out there, and it comes from people who've never made the effort to rise above it.

Personally, I want to become as good of a person as I can, and I truly appreciate others who do as well. I fail a lot, but every time I see someone who succeeds against difficult odds - and in the case of women, in a difficult environment - it makes me believe that I too can succeed.

Me standing next to some ladies who
are way more awesome than me.

Photo credits:
1 - By Minerva97 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
2 - Unknown
3 - By Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil [CC BY 3.0 br (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/br/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons
4 - By Agência Brasil [CC BY 3.0 br (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/br/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons
5 - Me
6 - Person in parking lot?

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