Last week I put a call out for volunteers to join the first iteration of the Fit Feminist Challenge Facebook Group. I made it really clear that we haven’t ironed out the wrinkles. The first rounders will be involved in an experimental work in progress. It’s an idea that Cate, Christine and I got excited about and talked about and dragged our heels about. And finally I said, let’s just do it and figure it out as we go. And then I sat down to write the invitation on the blog for interested folks to drop me a line.
I asked people to let me know that they were interested by sending me a note to that effect and, if they wished to indulge me further, to say a bit about why they were interested and what they hoped to gain from the group.
We said we would cap it at 20, wanting to start small and scale up later. I wondered whether we would even hit 20 (I don’t why I wondered that — I mean, we’ve got a great community here and who doesn’t relish an opportunity to expand their feminist circle? But still I wasn’t sure).
The post went up at 6 a.m. When I checked the blog gmail address at 6:30 there were already five people. By noon we were already at our limit. What’s the difference between 20 and 30? And with that we inched the limit upward and set a deadline. If you were interested, you needed to let me know by 9 a.m. the next morning.
And the notes kept coming. From people I know in person, people I know through the blog and their comments on it, people I don’t know (yet). Everyone single one who responded indulged me with their “why.” Lots of interest from women at opposite ends of the child-rearing cycle — “I just had a baby and I’m off routine! Help!” or “My kids are off to university and I finally have some time to commit!” Lots of interest from women with big careers who are trying to get back to self-care through fitness. Lots of interest from women with chronic health issues of various kinds, seeking a supportive community that will enable them to set reasonable goals for their bodies.
And then there are the people with specific goals in mind already — a 5K, a 10K, a half marathon, and at least one ultra runner with a 50K coming up. The runners especially. But there aren’t only runners. I heard from triathletes, circus performers, cyclists, yogis, swimmers, hikers, roller derby players, personal trainers, gym goers…
Many expressed a desire to diversify and (quite rightly) think that a challenge group might help them discover new things through other people.
And some are just starting out, and (again quite rightly) think a supportive feminist community might help it all seem less daunting, more fun, more achievable.
I got messages from Alaska, Australia, California, Texas, our local region of Southwestern Ontario (and I’m sure many other places but not everyone said where they were from).
Very many explicitly noted their feminist credentials and affirmed the value of a fitness challenge without a weight loss and dieting focus. How rare, more than one woman noted, to find a fitness challenge group that doesn’t revolve around weekly weigh-ins and/or body fat percentage tests and restrictive dieting. There will be none of that here. What a relief!
By the time we shut the door shortly after 9 a.m. on Friday, we had decided that we would do our “scaling up” this round. After reading all the messages, I couldn’t imagine turning anyone away.
We could have done “first come, first served,” but to me that seemed unfair to people who might have different schedules or be in different time zones. It also seemed unfair to women who were perhaps toying with the idea but needed a bit more time to think about whether they were ready to take up a fitness challenge, maybe for the first time in their lives.
So here’s what we’re doing: we are embarking on the inaugural group with all 60 or so of you who expressed your interest by the Friday morning deadline (and a handful who came in just a few minutes late, because as someone extremely familiar with “the last minute” myself, I can empathize!).
It’s been a humbling and intensely moving experience reading all of the expressions of interest in the Fit Feminist Challenge group. Every single story made me want to sit down for a coffee (or go for a walk or a run) with the woman who wrote it.
Cate, Christine and I are thrilled at the interest and excited to take up this experiment with such a diverse group of feminists committed to another way. It’ll be a bit all over the place (as promised!) as we try out a bunch of different things. But based on the messages I’ve received so far, the participants will be offering great feedback along the way and it will evolve as a community effort.
Thank you to everyone who responded. You’ll hear from me within the next week or so with information about how to join the (closed) Facebook group and a link to a short form we are asking everyone to fill out.
Until then, I’m going sailing! Catch up with you later.