I worked at Lululemon for a very short period of time after I moved to a new city. One afternoon, a girls soccer team came into the store between tournament games. There were about 10 little girls, probably between the ages of 8 and 10.
The girls ran over to the headbands and started trying them on, except one girl, who took her time and drifted toward the men's section. While the rest of the team was quite done up and sporting short shorts, high pony tails, and cute sandals - she had on super long boys basketball shorts, high socks that almost came past her knees, a cut off shirt, slip on adidas sandals and a pony tail so low, she might as well have left her hair down.
The lone girl hung back and wandered, while the other girls enthusiastically tried on accessories and tank tops that were too big.
Everyone on the team was inclusive. You could tell they were all friends and teammates, but she just didn't fit the mold.
There were a few times I caught her glancing at me, and even though there wasn't a dialog, I knew why. We were the same.
That was me as a kid.
Shirt 3x too big with a popped collar and duck face, circa '94. Trend setter.
I wanted so badly to tell her, "Everything is gonna be cool. Give it a couple years, and you'll understand why you aren't interested in the same things. Keep on doing you.", but I held my tongue, and instead, reminisced about the ways I felt growing up.
I loved playing sports so much. It was the only place where I felt like I could be completely myself. It was acceptable to be a tomboy and not have to do my hair or find the least girly girl's clothes I could find.
Outside of comfort, I loved being part of a team. I held myself to a higher standard because I wanted to show up and be the best I could be to not let my team down.
It felt good. It didn't feel like work.
When my career playing basketball abruptly ended after an ACL and meniscus tear, I started searching for anything that somewhat resembled the feeling and sense of accomplishment I had felt when playing.
Lifting weights was the closest thing I could find that made me feel like I was working toward a goal and seeing progress. The unfortunate part was, it was the early 2000's, and the only information I had access to in the corn field I lived in were fitness magazines.
It was pre-social media, pre-fitness blogs, pre-Crossfit, and pre-strength and conditioning outside of college sports. The information I was getting from fitness magazines emphasized mostly aesthetics. Because it felt like that was my only option, and seemingly the only thing that women could focus on if they wanted to continue in fitness, I started training for a figure show.
Apparently I forgot to lift weights for the show, but good job on eating 1200 calories a day.
Though cool to see my body change, it just didn't feel right.
It felt weird focusing so much on how I looked, and not on performance or improving my shot, or getting scrappier on the court.
It felt lonely spending hours in the gym with only dudes, while eating 1200 calories a day.
I wish so badly I would have had a mentor or access to any information that would have kept me training for athletic performance without the primary focus being on aesthetics.
While I've since found a wonderful strength and conditioning community and have had access to invaluable information over the years, messaging for women post sport is still very aesthetic based.
The women's fitness industry at large, even without meaning to, constantly emphasizes the importance of body image, whether it's to hate yourself as you are or to love yourself as you are.
Neither of these messages resonate with me.
While so much information for women is incredible, inspiring, and necessary, I have found myself getting most of my information from men because there isn't an underlying message of anything other than the importance of strength training and conditioning.
When I approached Lori about creating this group, we were both very much in the same headspace about wanting something that was geared more toward remaining athletic, having friendly competition, staying strong, and cultivating a team environment.
Our goal in creating Formation Strength is to be a voice for those who don't necessarily resonate with the current message of women's fitness.
When I think about that little girl in Lulu, I think about being a mentor and a voice for her. I think about being the mentor my 23 year old self didn't have.
Formation Strength is bringing fitness back to its roots and why Lori and I got into training in the first place - the pursuit of lifelong athleticism.
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