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Feminist Fitness Love Stories

Happy Valentine’s Day, Feminist Fitness readers! We love y’all—all 16,000 of you!

In honor of the day, I collected some stories of sports and fitness love from some of our bloggers and readers. I asked these questions:

  • How did you and your sport first meet? Was it love at first sight?
  • If it’s a long-term relationship, how has your love changed over time?
  • Are you polyamorous about your love sports/activity relationships?  How do you manage to keep those different relationships going?

Readers, we’d love it if you would share some of your own sports love stories in the comments section. If we get enough, I’ll put them together for another blog post.

Love and fitness is not a new topic for the blog. Check out previous posts here and here and here   and here.

For inspiration, here are some of their stories below (slightly edited).

J on swimming: It was an arranged marriage when I was 11. My dad decided I needed an event for the Maccabi Games (Jewish junior olympic-style event), and he was a swimmer as a kid. It was the only time he’s been successful as a yenta.
We got really serious from ages 12-21, and spent all our waking hours together in college. Then we broke up when I found cycling and didn’t see each other for more than a decade.

I’ve come back to the sport in the past year after a knee injury, and we’ve fallen in love all over again. Switching from breaststroke to freestyle is a fresh new perspective. Plus, the gear is better now – who knew goggle technology had such room for improvement?  I just have to avoid looking at those (fast!) times from our youth together.

Swimming and I are both major Dan Savage fans, so yes, we believe in ethical [infidelity]. I cheat on it with cycling, kayaking, and hike/ski/snowshoeing on the weekends. And it cheats on me with Michal Phelps (but can you blame it?) The great thing about swimming is having a workout, lane buddies, and coach to motivate me on the days when I’d rather out out with Netflix, instead.

C on running and cycling: My long term relationship is with running, but mostly it’s the lover I am cuddling with on the couch with Netflix, comfortable and familiar and a good affirmation and reassurance from someone who’s known me a long time and still loves me despite my changing body and ebbing and flowing.  The new energy comes from my embracing of cycling, where I’m living fantasies of being the hostage trapped in the hotel with the FBI agent who wants to have their alpha way with me.  I have yet to have the threesome with these two I’ve been planning for years.  Maybe a duathlon in June 😉

A on Taekwondo: I was a child bride. My father arranged it all. Now I couldn’t see my life any other way. We had some time apart in my wild undergraduate years, and things were understandably tempestuous in graduate school, but now we have a mature understanding. I brought in rock climbing as a relatively new but stable partner. It’s more of a summer thing.

K on downhill skiing: A friend of mine invited me to go skiing.  I replied, “I don’t ski.”, which surprised her. I also found it really intriguing that she just EXPECTED me to be into skiing.  I needed to know why.  Her reply intrigued me more, “It fits with your personality.”  That was it.  My skiing crush started.

The first time I went skiing I knew I was bound for a lesson, but at what level? I took one trip up the bunny hill.  I got off the chair lift in one piece, no falls.  Nice.  Then I started sliding down the gentle terrain.  So far so good.   Gradually the speed was picking up.  I don’t know how to brake on these things.  Well, I thought, I know one way to stop.  And, I plopped over.  It sure was fun.  🙂  That was January 1999.  Since then I have gone from being a novice who needs to learn control to an expert who can explore the entire mountain.

I am not a cheater!  I keep things separate by season.  For example, I used to race sailboats.  I got burnt out on that and switched to cycling.  I can only handle one major commitment at a time.  😉

J on cross-country skiing: I flirted with my sport for a few years before committing in earnest. I built a deep relationship during the long winter nights above the Arctic Circle in 2000. Daily (or really, nightly), skiing provided a mental antidote to grueling work hours away from home, and a physical antidote to the other coping method – obscene alcohol consumption.

My love – and it’s really part and parcel of why I love what I love – is a continual process of learning and loving more deeply. There’s always room for growth, and given the nature of my chosen sport this can continue even as I age.

XC skiing is not a new love, but it has retained the passion of a new love. The feeling I get from using my whole body in a coordinated way is unparalleled. I retain many casual relationships, but am faithful to my true love.

Me on cycling, scuba, kayaking, yoga: In life and sports, I’ve had several different loves. Cycling is family—I’ve known it my whole life, starting with my first bike at 4, training wheels off at 5. My real appreciation for it has been in the last 12 years, once I started road biking in earnest, as well as mountain and cross biking. Even when I commute on my beater bike, I can still feel that sense of liberation—I’m moving under my own power, going exactly where I want to! Cycling will always be there for me, and I’m grateful for that lifelong relationship.

Yoga is the friend with benefits I reconnect with from time to time who is very accepting of my busy schedule, and is there to make me feel good. It’s not romantic—never has been—but can be therapeutic when I need some TLC. We’re seeing each other on the side now, and the nice thing is no one ever gets hurt.

Scuba is my new mad crush. We met on a vacation in Australia on the Great Barrier Reef, and I was infatuated right away. I’m now getting certified here in Boston, and am going to Puerto Rico for diving in March. Will a vacation fling survive the cold New England waters of reality? We’ll see.   But I’m sort of hoping it turns into something long-term.

M on cycling: The earliest phase of my long love affair was a yellow and black Murray that I got for Christmas at age 6. My dad took me outside, all set to give me my first lesson in staying upright on two wheels, and giddy with excitement, rode off down the street, no lesson required.

After using my bike mostly as a means to get to my friends’ houses, I was given my first “real” bike – a road bike with impossibly skinny tires. I remember riding it on the wrong side of the road because I was too afraid to have the traffic at my back and I felt no joy in that saddle. It seemed so fragile to me. I quickly traded it in for a hybrid and at the same time, some of my friends started mountain biking. It was 1992 and this was cutting edge where I was from. I joined them on my hybrid and couldn’t get enough of it.

It wasn’t long after that I purchased a mountain bike and proceeded to have lots of fun on dirt for many years until I got the nerve to get back on a road bike.  It was 2007 when I heard of this thing called “cyclocross”. I tried a race and adored it. Now as the sport has expanded, and mixed terrain rides on ‘cross bikes are becoming more popular, I feel I have come full circle to the days of riding my hybrid through the woods. This is what I had been waiting for all along. Recently I was riding my ‘cross bike on some local trails with a goofy smile on my face the whole time, feeling just as I did in those early days of love.

P on cycling: I fell in love with my partner and cycling at the same time. He is a cyclist and athlete, and I knew when our love was new that cycling was going to be important in my life. I didn’t realize HOW important and central it would become. Now, after teaching cycling and riding across country, I still remember fondly the first day we rode the Minuteman Trail together and he gave me a gentle push – a push that propelled me into love with him and the sport.

L on running: My sport/first love is running. It was definitely NOT love at first sight. In fact, we didn’t like one another one bit upon being introduced. I forced myself to engage with running for a long time. Slowly, very slowly, our relationship developed and became stronger. I went from only being able to run with others, to only being able to run with music, to finally, being able to run alone and sometimes even without music. It was then that our love blossomed (though as I note below, we are no longer monogamous).

It’s definitely been a long-term relationship: almost 20 years now. Since our courtship became a solid relationship, we’ve been pretty consistently in love for the whole time.

Though I’ve dabbled with others (biking and swimming, primarily), I’m pretty loyal to running. I confess that I also met Ashtunga yoga over twenty years ago. Though we had a casual relationship for several years (I was so young!), we had a falling out. I don’t think I was mature enough for yoga. But seven years ago we met again and for the past six years, I’ve been dividing my love equally between running and yoga. Because they are complementary and not competing for my love in any way, we have a pretty nice polyamorous thing going!

K on cycling: I fell in love with my bike in the summer of 2013, on a trip to Morzine in the southern French Alps. Until then I’d just ridden a lot and thought, ya, this is fun. In Morzine I learned something more: that my bike and I, together, could climb mountains. Not super fast but faster than most, steady and solid. It felt incredible, liberating.

On that same trip a woman my age, a former racer and now coach, told me how talented she thought I was as a rider; that praise hit home like you would not believe. I’d never been talented at sports, EVER. I’d been teased as fat and inept and uncoordinated as a kid. My high school gym teacher used to call me “retard.” (No, really. Thanks, Mr Elgie.)

Since then I’ve ridden with pride, hugged the road, so grateful for my awesome strong body and my lithe, speedy bike. Her name is Ruby. (No, really. Thanks, Ruby!)

Tracy on swimming: she’s blogged about this here, which will inspire everyone to get in the water very soon.

 and Samantha, on Cycling: A Love Story in 3 Parts:

  1. I fell in love with riding a bike as a kid, as one does. I don’t know how old I was. Maybe 8. The bike had a purple banana seat and sissy bars at the back. It was the 70s. This isn’t me but it looks like my bike. We moved a lot when I was growing up, following my father’s work as a baker across Newfoundland, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. At some point the bike stopped coming with and I stopped riding but I remember that bike. I remember learning to ride a bike and I loved the freedom it gave me to come and go.
  1. After more than 10 years of not riding, a friend was riding from Ontario to Newfoundland and she gave up in Halifax. Too many hills and too much rain and bad weather. She decided to complete her trip by bus and ferry and left me her beautiful bike for the summer. It has gears that worked and you could actually get going pretty fast. I started commuting everywhere by bike and said goodbye to the bus. Shortly before she arrived home I took her bike into a bike shop and said I wanted one like it. I couldn’t afford one like hers, it turned out, but instead I bought a pink Raleigh hybrid commuter bike. It was stolen only a a few years ago after I passed it down to my mother.
  1. After steadily commuting for years, I got into running. Approaching my 40th birthday I started running 5 kms 10 kms, and then training for half marathons. A friend who’d done a half ironman suggested we train for a triathlon and we signed up for the Running Room’s triathlon clinic. I also worked with a bunch of serious cyclists who noticed the running and increasing fitness and who said maybe I was ready for a real bike. I bought my first road bike–a red Cannondale, the first in a series of Cannondales–and took it out for a spin with my triathlon training group. All of a sudden I was at the front, not the back, and chatting with people I never got to run with. My friend had to stop for a bathroom back but he told me to keep going and that he’d catch up. I ended up waiting at the car for what felt like forever. He never caught me. Whee! Zoom! I was once slow (running) but now was fast (on the bike). I’ve never looked back.

So readers, if you have love stories to share, please tell us.  And we’ll keep sharing the love…


4 thoughts on “Feminist Fitness Love Stories

  1. Meeting Aikido wasn’t even my own date – I was more of the gooseberry. My super-athletic friend desperately wanted to try it out, and none of our other friends would go with her. So she nagged and begged until I gave in. It was mutual passion at first sight for them; I just watched the sparks fly, and marvelled at the way she glowed in its embrace, lighting up the centre of the mat while I stayed towards its edges.

    I was drawn to Aikido’s beauty, and kind, wise heart too; but in those days I felt invisible to it, believing that without my friend’s natural talent or confidence, I could never be an attractive partner.

    As could have been expected, my friend was fickle and soon moved on. But I stayed quietly around, and got to know Aiki in my own slow, gentle way. It didn’t seem to mind, and started to love me in the deep caring way I needed; and over time we became closer than I ever thought possible.

    I know it has many other lovers all over the world, and many of them shine in its presence far more than I ever will. But that’s fine by me. We are now very much a part of each other, and our physical, mental and spiritual fusion is deep and intimate beyond words.

    After fifteen years, it’s been appropriate for me to also explore close relationships with two of Aikido’s best friends: aikijujutsu and karate. I am empowered by the feeling of being free to pursue this, knowing that I am absolutely secure and supported by my first love Aikido, which will always be my soulmate and my home to return to.

    1. Thanks, Kai– that’s a lovely story. It’s great to be able to explore variations on a theme once you know what your real sports love is. I feel that way about water sports– kayaking,swimming, and now scuba.

  2. My teenage love for bicycling returned when I met my partner in my early 30’s, a cyclist. Here’s the journey of our cycling love and other stuff together for now nearly last 25 yrs.:

    We each have enjoyed spreading cycling love and igniting others too. I’ve been involved in several cycling organizations in Toronto and Vancouver. He is a well-known cycling advocate, long time in Vancouver and Toronto, working directly with municipalities on infrastructure.

    We also developed a love for snowshoeing in the mountains over the past 15 years while living in Western Canada.

    We come from individual similar backgrounds: each of us are first-born in our respective families (it might explain our capacity to cycle together, as well as to each cycle solo. I really recommend a woman become strong enough to also cycle solo…sometimes.), each raised by poor immigrant parents in Canada, etc. But if you met us together, you wouldn’t know upon first sight how similar we are…in addition to cycling.

    1. HI Jean, and thanks for sharing your story. I’m envious and glad for y’all.

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