Hi, I'm Kate. I'm 36, a personal trainer, and a feminist. What has feminism got to do with being a PT? Well, a lot.
First of all, let's get the "oh I'm a girl but not a feminist" and "why do you hate men" shit out the way. Really? Feminism is a range of political movements, ideologies, and social movements that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve political, economic, personal, and social rights for women. If you don't believe in equal rights for women then no, I suppose you're not a feminist. If you do, you are. Sorry, not sorry.
So what has a lowly PT got to say on the issue? What has this got to do with macros, pyramid training and triathlons? Well, actually it's got a LOT to do with it.
I could go on about how women are paid less for the same sports. How men and women don't have equal access to sporting opportunities. How sportswomen are underrepresented in the media. How the fitness world is still massively sexualised and fetishised. I could talk about how women still feel incredibly pressured into having the "perfect body" - yes that's changing, but not necessarily for the good of the world; men are increasingly bombarded with mixed negative messages around how they should look.
What I want to focus on touches on my last point - that women still feel terrible pressure to look a certain way and that, despite "strong is the new skinny" messaging (equally damaging) and the body positivity movement, women still come to me to lose weight because they feel shit about themselves.
As a PT, it's my business to help them lose weight and gain muscle and move better. As a feminist it's my duty to ask "why do you want to lose weight, why do you think you should, why will it make you happy?". The two can't be mutually exclusive though.
As a PT I can say YES, exercising will help you stay mobile, it will lower your blood pressure, help prevent diseases like osteoporosis, and help to keep you sane in an insane world. I have a million reasons why moving more and eating well will have a positive impact on your life. But as a feminist I WANT to say "but you're beautiful, be happy with your body, love it, be kind to yourself, forgive yourself"...
Sometimes people come to PTs for clearcut health reasons - to reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol etc. But often it's sadness and anger at our bodies that motivates us to "get fit", whatever that means. And women say the same thing 99.9% of the time - to lose weight. And coming from a place of unhappiness can sometimes make it harder to reach your goals.
Yes men say it too, they want to lose weight, gain muscle. To look a certain way that fits with our social norms of healthy. But more often than not women are angry at their bodies, and it hurts my heart and yes I do blame it on the bloody patriarchy! It also makes my job exceptionally difficult, because I want to help them reach their goals but I want to do it in a way that allows them to make peace with themselves, and that's a very very hard balance to find. And honestly, I don't always get it right. My feminist head takes over and I want to shout "YOUR BODY IS AMAZING".
So, if you find yourself punishing yourself for eating an extra biscuit, or crying in the gym toilets (please say that was not just me!), or skipping the gym and feeling guilty so eating a tub of ice cream and feeling more guilty, or obsessively looking at fitness models on Instagram and wishing you could be bothered to workout like that, then here are some tips to help set you on a path to self love and self care.
I don't have all the answers. But I have finally come to a point in my life where I genuinely don't give a shit what I look like. Yes, I have a range on the scales that I'm comfortable in, but that's because I've BEEN overweight and I know what it feels like physically, and I honestly don't have time for that anymore! I've gained weight, lost weight, been pregnant, been injured, breastfed, had hormone issues, had post-natal depression, had PTSD. I've won fucking massive long triathlons and I've done shit in events I really wanted to do well in. I have felt guilty for foods I have eaten many, many times.
But now I'm interested in what my body can do. I'm annoyed that it's not working perfectly right now but I am NOT annoyed at any cellulite and stretch marks.
So if you want to weigh less, move more, gain muscle - AMAZING! Go for it! I applaud you and support you. But even better if you then go and burn your bra!
You may not think these are feminist issues. Maybe you think I'm being sexist looking at this across gendered lines. But honestly I think body confidence and self-care ARE women's issues. They affect women disproportionately due to our cultural and social norms. And yes, transgender, gender non-conforming people, and men, you have your own body image issues, but those are for another blog by a wiser and more experienced blogger.
Sarah Ogden Trotta, a writer at Everyday Feminism and psychotherapist says all this and more, much more eloquently than me, here:
I often re-read this when I'm having "a moment".
So, being out of action from my beloved triathlon, I have been desperate to do a relay just to enjoy the atmosphere again and get a wee bit radge! When my friends at TrueGrit launched Starman Triathlon this year - a half ironman staring at midnight in Loch Morlich, I knew I'd found something to be part of.
I can't imagine the work that goes into putting in an overnight triathlon, let alone recruiting a bunch of volunteers to stay up all night. I'm sure there were some last minute stresses but you wouldn't have known. The event was so well put together and the concept was amazing.
There was, of course, one thing that could put a dampener on the entire event - the absolutely torrential weather that battered Scotland at the end of last week. It was so brutal. And with some very tough hills on both the bike and the run sections, it could have been an very tricky race indeed.
So, Team Predator rocked up all bravado on Saturday to register in torrential rain wondering really if we'd made a mistake - my pelvis is pretty ruined so I was doing the swim, Stevie has a dodgy back so he was doing the bike, and Chris has got a dodgy calf and has been working 24 hours a day so maybe was a tad behind on training (like, no training at all). What could go wrong?! Should have called us Team Broken.
And honestly, this morning we are all a bit broken. Staying up all night and coming home to a toddler and puppy is not exactly relaxing.
BUT WHAT A NIGHT.
By the time midnight rolled around the weather had cleared and the stars really did come out for the inaugural Starman.
It was so awe inspiring to get in the water with our glow sticks on, the stars above us, to light our way round the surprisingly warm but dark Loch Morlich. I had the easiest bit of the entire event - 1900m swim. Ok, spotting is hard in the dark but the markers were lit up and in some ways that makes it easier than in daylight, especially when it's sunny. I had nothing to lose and, despite a stitch from not quite getting my pre-race food right, I tore round as fast as I could, stopping a few times to get orientated. It was 4 loops and there was a lot of support on the beach so I felt like a rockstar. I was out the water before anyone else and raced down the beach as fast as my shattered pelvis would take me to pass the baton to Stevie.
Stevie was able to smash his way out of transition and tare down the pitch-black country roads. He "may" have taken a slight detour at one point - in the dark you needed to be constantly vigilant for the turn signs and that one was a tough one. When we caught him to tell him (following him on a tracker), his bike chose that moment to have a wee break i.e. it broke. After much swearing and tugging at the chain we managed to set him off again in the right direction and he made a stellar effort around 90km of relentless hills in the dark. We followed him about the course for bits and had an amazing time - chatting to volunteers at the feed station and stopping in dark country lanes to marvel at the stars.
We left him fighting it out for 3rd place with another relay team member and shot off up to Cairngorm ski centre for Chris to get ready for the run. Stevie arrived and off Chris went, giving me plenty of time to chat with all the lovely volunteers and support crew, and help some of the racers with their transition prep.
I just love the camaraderie so much. Triathlon can be a lonely, aggressive sport even at amateur level, and I've loved being injured and reconnecting with the more friendly and relaxed atmosphere of open-water swimming. But Starman was special - most people were in good spirits despite the fact they still had to start 13 miles of mountains in the dark.
I got the pleasure of watching the athletes - including Chris, battling his cramping legs to stay in front of the bloke he'd over taken at the start of the second half of the run - come in on the beach back at Loch Morlich as the sun was rising and Aviemore was waking up (along with a few million midgies). No one arriving there that day, as a tourist or dog walker, would really understand what most of us had experienced that night: maybe they'd say it was "crazy".
But I know it was anything but. It was truly special and, in my view, a totally sensible way to spend a Saturday night.
Team Broken Predator smashed our way over the finish line, our own personal battles fought and won.
I hope to be well enough to do the entire event next year despite being scared of dark woods (GHOSTS! PSYCHOS!) where much of the event takes places, but if not we'll be back as a team!
Well done TrueGrit and well done volunteers, and congratulations participants for choosing to spend your time on this Earth wisely.
Follow TrueGrit for more fun adventure races and opportunities to collect good medals!