by Mina Samuels
Have you ever been taunted that you "run like a girl"? Even now, telling a girl or woman that she does something "like a girl" (throw, hit, ski, weightlift, kick, ride, drive … you get the picture) is more often insulting than not. I was talking with a radio host recently, who told me that he had been teased for running like a girl when he was young. An insult that haunted him into adulthood.
But here's the thing—running like a girl is empowering! Running like a girl is an everyday experience. Running like a girl happens on the road and off. Running like a girl invites us to engage with the world. Running like a girl means challenging our bodies and minds to be stronger and happier, and accessing our ageless girl-spirit, where the clean-slate optimism of "let's go" meets the seasoned wisdom of "I can."
When I say running, I mean it as a proxy for any active physical engagement you fancy, however you choose to move your body and get your heart pounding. Also, when I say running, I mean it as more than a sport. Sports are just one aspect of how we engage with the world as strong women. We have our work, our communities, our families, and our friends; how we are in each of those bits of the world matters. Wherever we meet the world with lightness of spirit, curiosity, strength and a desire for excellence, we are running like girls.
My particular interest is the transformative impact of sports in women's lives. How our physical strength fortifies our psychological and emotional strength; how we find balance; how sports nourishes our life's purpose; and how being active feeds our ability to change how we exist in the world. Our sports are a mirror and microscope. They are where we can test our strength and determination and try out new ways of being. Sports is where we practice taking care of ourselves, making our health and vitality a priority.
When I talk about sports, it gets personal. I have been remade by my sports (running found me in my late 20s). I have felt the way my strength has supported me on a daily basis and through big changes (moving countries, going from being a lawyer to becoming a writer, then, in my 40s, a playwright). At the same time, I struggle with finding the right balance between the supportive potential of my sports and the oversaturation point past which I'm worn out and get injured.
When we run like a girl, we answer a call to be present for hard work and sweat, and for joy and indulgence. Know that transforming yourself is a process that doesn't end (and that's a good thing!). We are constantly growing and changing, glimpsing new possibility. There will be growing pains (and muscle pains). But I promise, you will feel better about yourself from the moment you sign on for a physically active, stronger future. We are in this journey together. And while change may happen quickly, more often it happens over time, even imperceptibly; until one day we realize we are skimming along, legs flying, shoes barely touching the ground.
MINA SAMUELS is a writer, playwright and performer, and in a previous incarnation, a litigation lawyer and human rights advocate. Her books include, "Run Like A Girl 365 Days: A Practical, Personal, Inspirational Guide for Women Athletes" (Skyhorse Press; June 2019), "Run Like a Girl: How Strong Women Make Happy Lives" (for which she appeared on The Today Show); a novel, The Queen of Cups; and The Think Big Manifesto, co-authored with Michael Port.