I care deeply about fitness, but sometimes, as I scroll through fitness blogs and various social media, I can’t help but feel uneasy. Bikini Body Guides. Before and After pics. Instagram fit-stars who look more like supermodels than realistic fitness examples. “Motivational” memes reminding you that skinny feels better than that cookie tastes. Hmmm.
This isn’t anything new. Fitness magazine have pushed the latest diet and exercise advice for decades, in the name of helping women achieve the ideal body (a standard which, just like the latest fashion trends, happens to change constantly).
And while this isn’t all necessarily bad — exercise is good, knowledge is good, motivation is good, accessible fitness resources are good — I can’t help but wonder, “is this all there is?” What about the other less physical, but infinitely more meaningful, dimensions of fitness? Things like confidence, power, mental fortitude, discipline, acceptance, self-love and personal accountability. Things that have the power to enrich your life more than a perfect bikini body ever could.
In the face of this question, I get jazzed about the influencers, entrepreneurs and others who are digging deeper to harness greater meaning in fitness.
Here are three that are doing more, particularly for women & girls:
The Mission (in their words): San Francisco-based Movemeant Foundation enables young women to feel confident about their bodies by empowering them with the tools to be active. By using fitness and physical movement as the primary platform for social change, Movemeant strives to be a catalyst for creating a new era of healthy, strong and self-assured young women.
The Approach: Movemeant offers events and activations, mentorships to young women and financial grants to individuals, groups, schools and communities nationwide.
Fun Fact: Movemeant was founded by Soul Cycle instructor Jenny Gaither. Given Soul Cycle’s uber-empowering brand of fitness inspiration, it makes sense that one of their own decided to branch out with an org like Movemeant.
Check Out: The upcoming Dare to Bare charity festivals in San Francisco (May) and New York (October). Women of all shapes and sizes will come together to work out in their sports bras — to show pride in their unique bodies, and to send a message of support to those battling eating disorders, body image issues, lack of self worth and depression. Mark your calendars: registration for Dare to Bare SF opens on 1/27!
The Mission (in their words): Girls on the Run inspires girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running. Girls on the Run envisions a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams.
The Approach: Girls on the Run is much more than a simple running program. Working with groups of 8-20 girls over a period of 12 weeks, certified Girls on the Run coaches teach a 24-lesson curriculum that includes three parts: understanding ourselves, valuing relationships and teamwork, and understanding how we connect and shape the world at large. At the end of the program, the girls run a 5k, which provides a tangible framework for setting and achieving goals.
Fun Fact: With the help of over 120,000 volunteers, the Girls on the Run program is now serving over 168,000 girls in 225+ cities across North America each year.
Check Out: Planning to challenge yourself with a 5k, 10k, half or full marathon this year? Consider becoming a Soulmate, which allows you to raise funds for Girls on the Run while you work toward your personal fitness goal.
The Mission (in their words): The Women’s Sports Foundation is dedicated to advancing the lives of girls and women through sports and physical activity.
The Approach: What isn’t the WSF doing? With extensive programming that spans grants for sports training and travel, youth sports enrichment programs and awards programs, the WSF is deeply involved in harnessing the power of fitness to empower women. The organization also invests significant time and resources into research on a variety of sports topics that help to drive the WSF’s programming, policies and positions.
Fun Fact: The WSF was founded in 1974 by Billie Jean King, one of the all-time women’s tennis greats.
Check Out: The S.H.E. Network, an online resource for compelling sports, health and education (S.H.E.) content.
WSF programs aim to fulfill the myriad needs of girls and women in sports, needs that are identified through expert, evidence-based Foundation research. Our programs help shape healthy bodies, sound minds and aspirations for success on the fields, in the classrooms and in the boardrooms across the country. —DEBORAH SLANER LARKIN, WOMEN’S SPORTS FOUNDATION CEO