I went and checked out a new local gym that opened recently. I was shown around the “women’s” area (cardio, creche and cafe) and the “men’s” area (bigger weights, squat racks and so on). My instant reaction was no way. You don’t gender fitness, you don’t tell people what they can and cannot do based on whether they’re male or female, and you certainly don’t make assumptions about what people – living, breathing human beings – want out of a gym solely on traditional values assigned to gender.
But really, it’s not this new gym owner’s fault. They’re setting this facility up to cater to what has worked for years and years. And I honestly wish them every success.
I don’t want to be told that, though. I am not the weaker sex. I am not ever going to be confined to prancing daintily on a treadmill while sipping some soy latte shit and waving at my children engrossed with their screens in some creche set up. I want to lift weights, I want to increase my strength, I want to do whatever I want to do.
One lone brain thinking this changes nothing.
Fortunately, there’s an army.
The Grrrl Army.
I had the opportunity to meet the leader of this army on the weekend. She’s a woman who has inspired me for the last 12 months. She’s physically and mentally strong, she lifts heavy shit and spirits, she crushes watermelons and barriers.
This is Kortney Olson.
The first time I became aware of Kortney was when I spotted a pair of gym tights that had a brick pattern on them. They made me smirk because I’ve often been told I’m built like a brick shithouse (which is actually a positive thing). So I checked out the page, then found the Army.
Imagine if a group of women decided to dedicate themselves to cheering each other on. Imagine if that number on your clothing tag didn’t sum you up. Imagine most of all, that liberation and courage found in discovering that who you are is actually OK. More than that, it’s pretty fucking awesome. And the second you start to waver in this, there’s a crowd pulling you back up.
So when the opportunity arose to meet Kortney and some of the other grrrls, initially I jumped at the chance.
However, fuelled not only by stubbornness and caffeine but also by a hefty dose of anxiety and self doubt, as the day drew closer I began to panic. Eventually I shot Kortney a message and told her that I didn’t think I could go, and explained why. Her response?
It’s ok to be scared. Just fkn do it.
So, I did.
And as I walked towards the place we were meeting up for a workout, that self doubt rose again. These women were surely going to be stronger than me and fitter than me and better than me.
But it wasn’t a competition.
And I learned very quickly that as long as you held your own and did your best, then you smashed it.
And we cheered each other on and there was laughter and admiration and praise and in a word, community.
We were not each other’s competition.
We were there together.
I didn’t take any other photos, aside from that selfy with Kortney. I’ve been trying more and more to be a part of the moment rather than hide behind a screen. It’s hard because screens are like a small blockade between life and self, which is kind of nice. But I don’t want blockades all the time. Sometimes I want to be part of the moment and part of life.
Because it can end pretty abruptly.
But while I’m in the alive part of it, of life, I want to tell people that they’re heroes. I want to lift other people as well as heavy weights. I want to see exactly what this body of mine with all it’s floppy skin and stubbornness and anxiety can actually do.
And being a part of something bigger makes me believe that it can be done.