Soccer with A Twist (Guest Post)

by Sarah Rayner

Bubble Soccer What a Blast! This past Sunday my soccer team Poise had the opportunity to be a part of the first ever London Bubble Soccer Tournament.

I went into this tournament having some soccer skills but not knowing what to expect. The organizer from KnockOutStigma called all of the captains a few days before the tournament to assure us it would be “good clean fun” and there was not much chance of injury being wrapped in a bubble. This made me feel a lot better!
I was pretty nervous thinking we would be the oldest team of all the women’s team but to my surprise we weren’t…we actually saw a lot of familiar faces on the field.

It was four on four 30 minute games which was pretty exhausting running with inflated bubbles on, but we played hard…we won 2 and lost 2 games. It was a highly energized, well organized event ant I would like to thank KnockOut for being able to scratch Bubble Soccer off my bucket list.

I will be participating in Knock Out events again for sure.

Check them out on Facebook or website
They have a great mission to knockout stigma with LGBTQ athletes and their straight allies.

Here’s some outdoor bubble soccer videos:

And Sam’s post about bubble soccer: Bubble soccer!

Women-Only Spaces and Why I Love the Locker Room

women_symbol_200Last Tuesday after a swim I was in the locker room at the Y. I glanced behind me to see a colleague from another department just arriving for her workout.

We don’t see a lot of each other and we’re not super close or anything, but before long she and I and a third woman who is a stranger to us both started chatting about poor sleep, hot flashes, and night sweats.  My colleague is a bit younger than I am. The stranger a bit older. So between the three of us we represented three generations of menopause — the prospect of it, the reality of it, and the well and truly over it.

As I gathered up my things and wished them both a good day, I felt grateful for the opportunity to have a spontaneous and casual conversation about something sort of personal.  And that’s why I love the locker room. This same conversation would never have taken place in a space that wasn’t a women-only space.

Feminists have been thinking about women-only spaces for decades.  We value them for all kinds of reasons.  As I experienced in the locker room, there are some conversations that just wouldn’t start up in the company of men.

People are okay with separate locker rooms. But the idea of women-only spaces is actually controversial. Some people even think they’re sexist. And that prompts others to defend them as not sexist. Consider this post on Role Reboot by a women who found a job through a women’s only Facebook group for women in IT:

While there is a small part of me that squirms at the exclusivity of an invite-only circle, there’s a much louder voice that remembers that “old boys clubs” have run the world forever. For men who work in business and tech, the industry is the men-only space. It may not be a backroom cloudy with cigar smoke anymore, but you can still see it in the inner workings if you look close enough. Every lineup of executives that all went to the same three colleges and pull each other between the same three companies and promote each other’s people is the new version of an old phenomenon.

Now we’re creating our own opportunities to help, hire, and promote each other. Is it overcompensation to insist on women-only spaces? Sure, but we’re nowhere near the point where it’s unnecessary. When people start ranting about the “sexism” of all-female spaces, I’m reminded of the West Wing bit about White House bathrobes:

Sam: There are bathrobes at the gym?

CJ: In the women’s locker room.

Sam: But not the men’s.

CJ: Yeah.

Sam: Now, that’s outrageous. There’s a thousand men working here and 50 women.

CJ: Yeah, and it’s the bathrobes that’s outrageous.

There’s been a lot of news lately about female-only spaces, from the woman-to-woman cab service SheRides, to the feminist-hacker space Double Union in San Francisco, to the new policies on transgender students put forth by women’s college Mt. Holyoke

When people point at these and rave about reverse-sexism, it means they’re too focused on the White House bathrobes when the real problems—only 2% of drivers are women and female passengers feel unsafe; and women in tech industries are woefully underrepresented—are staring them in the face.

Do I dream of a world in which I don’t feel like I need the safe space of an all-women community? Sure, but in the meantime, I’m going to work my Old Girl’s Club until the playing field is less bumpy.

The blogger at ITISIWHOWILLIT has a great defence of women-only spaces against common objections.  For example, she says:

“It’s sexist- you wouldn’t want a men-only space”.
The first flaw in this argument is that it refuses to accept that the rest of the world is exclusive of women- that though they may be physically present (they aren’t “banned” from the room as men and self-identifying men are in a women’s only space), they are not intellectually or politically present. The world makes us the Other, and if the only time when some women feel that they can be honest and productive is in the company of fellow “Others” (I use the term begrudgingly), then that space must exist.


“Well, I don’t feel threatened by men, so I don’t see what the problem is”.
This kind of experience denying is incredibly problematic. It’s so problematic because it’s such an easy thing to do- we are empirical creatures, and we construct our lives around our experience, so it makes sense to base our view of others on our experience. Yet, an abstraction from our own experience is essential if we are to understand any kind of struggle. As a white british I have never experienced racism/xenophobia- but I could never deny its existence, nor would most people who deny the feminist’s struggle. Yet they still use this very argument against feminism. Baffling. I imagine the main reason that this isn’t seen as 1) logically flawed, 2) fucking stupid, 3) outright offensive is because woman’s struggle isn’t as felt as racism is. I mean, women aren’t killed/raped/beaten/fired because they’re women, right? There is always another reason- walking alone at night, a short skirt, not listening, being physically weak, having children… is my point evident? Women are almost always abused for the reason that they are a woman, anything else is an excuse for what is nothing less than sexism. You are privileged if you don’t feel threatened by men, other people are not so privileged.


“I’m not intimidating/offensive/dominating”.
Yes, you are. Even in saying that you are being intimidating, marginalising/guilt-tripping women for wanting to be alone with people they feel more connected to and safer around. It is very hard for many women to feel secure talking about their experience with men present, particularly when issues such as rape/sexual assault are on the table. It is very difficult, if not impossible for men to even empathise with women when they’re talking about these issues, and that is fine, we do not expect you to understand, but we do expect you to understand  our need for a sisterly community and a comfortable space in which to talk about very personal, very real, very emotional experiences.

And then finally:

“Women-only spaces are just women sitting around man-hating”.
Wrong. Wrong in so many ways.

You can go here to read all the different ways in which that’s wrong.

But one way it’s wrong is that, as my locker room example shows, women-only spaces give rise to different kinds of conversations. And as much as some men would like to think that when there are no men around, women just want to talk about men, it doesn’t happen quite as much as they might hope.

And remember, just because there’s value in women-only spaces doesn’t mean that integrated spaces don’t also have value.  I’ve posted before about women-only gyms. I’m not a big fan. See that conversation here.

But I love women-only races like the Kincardine Women’s Triathlon. And I posted about why women-only events are not sexist and are a good thing for women.

The Facebook IT group for women-only made me think of something else that I’m quite enjoying lately. I joined a Facebook group for women who sail. It’s a closed group. You need to request membership and be approved.

I’ve been sailing for almost two decades, but never have I belonged to a group of sailors who are all women.  It’s got a totally different quality and character than any of the other forums or groups. There is a lot of encouragement and support going on, a lot of empathizing and reassuring, information-sharing about everything from routes to electronics to cleaning products to the quickest drying fabric.

And that’s why I love the locker room.



My first time rock climbing (Guest post)

So a little thing you may not know about me is, despite having been an Air Navigator for 12 years, I am terrified of heights. Like, I don’t like getting on the step stool kind of terrified of heights. It’s irrational, I know, but it’s a real thing. Full disclosure, I have done rappelling, zip-lining and parasailing as part of my military training in the mid 90s but I never actually propelled myself upwards, so yes this is really my first time rock climbing.

My beloved and 2 teenage boys have really enjoyed indoor rock climbing since Junction Climbing opened here in London last spring. I kept saying I would go, but honestly, I also kept putting it off. It was even one of my goals for 2014. I’ve decided that I’m letting this count.

To make it more (or less?) weird we had gathered a group of friends that do active things and organized to go on a Sunday afternoon. Mallory offered to belay alongside my partner and oldest son so us newbies could try lots of walls. I was joined by Jessica and Brent, both long distance runners and really nice humans. Brent had been to this facility once before and Jessica was brand new, like me. Bike Rally David came along to observe and he promises the next time he’s there he will climb.

We got our loaner harnesses, I cracked a joke that I’d never worn a harness in public before. I was nervous so my humour was sitting at 12 year old level. I opted to use my running shoes, mistake #1. Jessica chose to rent the climbing shoes and later reported that they made a big difference.

We got our orientation from a nice fellow who got us to try out the autobelays by climbing up the easiest wall (known as the birthday party wall) just a few feet then jumping off. Jessica went up and hesitated to jump off but then did so with lots of awesomeness. My turn I kept scrambling at the wall with my fingers, not wanting to really let go. I finally did by just throwing my hands around the rope, squealing with my eyes closed. I flopped harmlessly to the ground and asked the staff person if I would get kicked out for making too much noise. He replied that lots of people make lots of noises.

We got an intro to the bouldering sections and then went on our way. Mistake #2 was trying to get in the beginner area on a Sunday afternoon. there were lots of tiny humans, blissfully unaware of the overhead danger I posed. I stuck to a harder but less busy route, Mallory belayed for me a few times but I couldn’t get more than a few feet off the ground. I simply didn’t have the leg strength to lift up onto a hold that was mid thigh height.

Jessica tried a bunch of different walls and loved it. Mallory demonstrated her approach to a bunch of walls that had autobelay. She would push off like an aerial acrobatic, very Crique du Soleil, and glide down. Mallory’s easy going approach was a big help in me staying calm. This was way harder than I had thought it would be, psychologically and physically. I realized the months of my family climbing without me meant they were well along their way to being highly skilled. They went up seemingly impossible routes with skill and ease. David pointed out that most people climbing were lean, sinewy types like my partner and sons. He was right. I looked around and I was the doughiest person in the building. It was humbling and after a handful of tries my forearms were too tired to do more and I’d only gotten a few feet off the floor. Bummer. My expectation was that I could do at least one route so that was humbling.

I was tired when I got home and a bit embarrassed. I even had to take a nap! Will I do it again? Hheck ya I will! Sam said if I blogged about it she’d come try it too so TAG, you’re it! Let’s go climbing :)

(Editor’s note: Gulp. Here we go!)


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Ergo Challenge Giveaway!

Have you ever had an ergonomic assessment?  I have, and it was a great way to get my workstations (home and office) set up for me after a neck injury following a car accident five years ago. I still suffer from upper back, shoulder and neck fatigue and am always looking for ways to improve my set-up.

So when Kate from Goldtouch approached me to see if I was interested in taking part in their 30-day Ergonomic Challenge, I agreed to participate. I liked Kate. I liked the idea of checking out an ergo keyboard (even though its main purpose isn’t to relieve upper back, shoulder, and neck strain), and I really liked the idea of giving a blog reader a chance at getting a keyboard of their own.

The deal was that I would look over their products and choose something. And then Kate would send me one for myself and one for a blog reader.

I chose the Go!2 Wireless Bluetooth Mobile Keyboard. It works with both a PC and Mac (though this version doesn’t have the special keys on a mac keyboard). I’m still working with, and I like lots of things about it, like the way it folds up and the way you can make both horizontal and vertical adjustments to it.  Here’s mine:

IMG_2342And here’s a youtube video of its features:

If you’d like a chance to win your own, here’s what you do:

1. Follow us on twitter @FitFeminists  (if you don’t already)


2. Retweet our #giveaway #Ergo30 tweet OR send your own tweet that mentions @FitFeminists and our #giveaway and the #Ergo30 challenge.

Deadline: January 31st at noon Eastern Time.

We will pick one winner and contact them via twitter.

I can only ship to Canada or the US, so I apologize in advance if you’re not based in North America. We will try another giveaway at some point in the future and we hope to be able to open it up to the whole wide world.

Meanwhile, you don’t need a Goldtouch Keyboard to incorporate ergonomic fixes as part of your overall approach to health. Here’s a nice set of suggestions from Goldtouch:


Steady as she goes (Guest Post)

So the holidays came and went and I had some pretty great workouts. I’m back on blood pressure meds and was due for a follow-up. Despite being a bit tense (yes, I know that’s not helpful) my numbers are looking good!

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While the blood pressure was great what I was even more happy about was my pulse, check out those beats per minute! That’s post coffee and moving around which means my resting heart rate is coming down as I train. AWESOME.

One side effect of the medication is that it has gifted me with Reynaud’s and I now find it very challenging to keep my hands and feet warm when it is cold out and once cold, they are very slow to regain circulation.

There’s a piece of self talk I use, I think it’s a navel reference, when things feel a little rough, “steady as she goes”. The weight keeps dropping, my training is going well, other parts of my life are a little rough but steady as she goes, I’m on track.

Plus sized endurance athletes, we exist!

Here’s Leah Gilbert,

So why is it that I am in a rather unique position when I present myself as a Plus Size Endurance Athlete? Why aren’t we all out there seeking sponsorship or promoting our roles as athletes? It’s easy – most of us don’t even acknowledge ourselves as athletes because we know that physically we don’t fit the mould of what society believes an ‘athlete’ looks like. We have a tendency to what I call ‘cheapen’ or ‘discount’ our athletic or fitness pursuits because people can’t seem to marry the fitness with the body shape. So instead of saying “I just finished a tempo run where I worked at 1km race pace intervals for 11km with a 2km warm up and 2km cool down”, we may mention quickly that we had ‘just been for a run’, usually adding “but I’m not very fast” or “oh I just plod along!”


And Ragen Chastain,

I’ve done a lot of athletic things in my life including sports and dance, but always stuff at which I have natural talent.  I decided that I wanted to push outside of my comfort zone and do things at which I seem to have absolutely no natural ability. I did a marathon and I sucked pretty bad at that, so I basically thought – what could I suck at that’s even more terrible than a marathon – and this is what I arrived at.

Jill Angie, Running with Curves

When I first started running in 1998, I wanted to lose weight. Running was simply a means of efficiently burning calories. It wasn’t fun, and it felt like punishment. And of course, I didn’t stick with it.

Over the years I started and stopped a number of times. Finally, in 2010, weighing close to 300 pounds, I started again, and this time I stuck with it. What was different? I stopped thinking about running as a means to offset calories, and started looking at it as a way to build up my confidence and strength. Soon, running became a source of joy, even when it was difficult (which was most of the time in the early years!). I became a triathlete and then a personal trainer. I also lost weight along the way.

But still, there was something missing. Although I felt like a runner, I didn’t see much representation in the running world for larger athletes. That’s when I knew it was time to start spreading the message that you can be a runner at any size, shape, age, pace or distance. That the very fact that you run makes you a runner.


Laura Backus, A Fat Girl’s Ironman Journey

I’m a 41 yr old, stubborn (determined?), short,  married, sarcastic, no kids (furkids, one named ATHENA),  fat, slow, medically challenged, IRONMAN.   I really enjoy the sport of triathlon and found you can do great things if you believe it, then put the work in to do it.

I have a genetic disorder, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS), which among other things makes my body unpredictable day by day. I dislocate many of my joints on a frequent basis and it is nearly impossible to build strength like normal people. I quickly atrophy, and many muscles just do not work on their own without conscious engagement of each contraction.

Running is especially difficult and my arches usually collapse within 45 min of any run.   I have to worry about many other medical issues, such as migraines, but these are the big ones.

I don’t want my disorder, or my weight to define me, however.  I’ve learned that I can speak for those with EDS, or any invisible illness, as well as the larger  or slower athletes.

(From an interview here:

Sheila Ashcroft, Fat Broad on a Bike

What’s a fat broad like me — 200 pounds of flab squatting over skinny tires — doing on the road? I’mcycling just like everyone else. And regardless of your size, you belong here too! If you like cycling, don’t let your mind cheat your body out of doing something fun and healthy.

Being overweight and being a cyclist is not contradictory. I’ve been both for 22 years. Too many women are psyched out by those lean bodies dancing on the pedals up the Gatineau Hills. Cycling does not require a skinny body, it helps if you want to go fast, but it’s not necessary to enjoy cycling.

And me! See Big women on bikes



The fat girl’s guide to running

The big triathlete

Fit fatties forum

Athena Triathletes on Facebook

If you know any other good resources, please share them in the comments.

You might be wondering, why don’t larger/fat/plus sized athletes just lose weight? I’m blogging about that next.