When you spend as much time on social media as I do (cat videos anyone?), you tend to hear when something “out of the ordinary” happens. By this I mean something that’s outside of what we expect to see. Case in point, the August cover of the US edition of Women’s Running:
The first thing I thought when I saw this was “look how well she’s using her arms!”. Seriously, I’d kill to be able to bring my arm back that far without having to think about it. My second though was that I wanted those leggings. What can I say? I’m a workout clothes addict with a penchant for sheer detailing. My third thought was – who is this girl?
The girl is 18 year old Erica Schenk, a New York based model who has been running for 10 years. And with her Women’s Running have finally realised that not every runner is a chiselled, tanned gazelle (are they even a thing?). Runners come in all shapes and sizes, and I personally couldn’t care less what someone looks like when they’re exercising – I just love seeing people getting out there and experiencing that same rush that I get from running, the one that helps me to clear my head and feel like I can take on anyone and anything.
What I also love about this cover is the fact that “3 Reasons Your Weight Doesn’t Matter” is tucked away in the bottom corner – it’s not the main subject of this edition. That’s about how to stay cool when running in summer, which is advice I could definitely benefit from.
I seriously hope this is a sign of things to come for magazines like Women’s Running. Aspirational bodies and outlooks are not “one-size fits all”. Look at all the different shapes and sizes of some of the most successful sporting women of our generation – Serena Williams (who JK Rowling brilliantly defended to a troll recently), Paula Radcliffe, Rebecca Adlington, Amanda Bingson, Jessica Ennis-Hill. These incredible women have been or are at the top of their sporting game, and yet they all have completely different body types. And the media has a responsibility to reflect this. How can a young woman who considers herself to be a bit bigger or shorter or bustier be encouraged to get into fitness when she is constantly faced by ONE body type?
While you consider this for a moment, here is another photo from an advertising campaign that is currently doing the rounds:
Here we have model Ymre Stiekema in an advertising promo for Bugaboo’s Runner pram. As is often the case in photos of this nature, Ymre has been slammed for promoting an unrealistic body type and putting pressure on mothers to look a certain way. But let’s be clear – Ymre is 23 with a 2 year old daughter. Getting back into shape will be easier for her than it might be for others because age is on her side. Plus she’s an avid runner (taking after her father, a keen marathon runner) and her career depends upon her looking amazing. I have no more interest in people criticising the way she looks than in their criticising Erica Schenk. Here we have two women enjoying running and looking awesome doing it – that’s enough for me. No one is saying you need to look like either of them to run. Although Ymre might want to rethink that outfit. Hasn’t she read my blog post on the importance of sports bras? Yeesh.
Plus we all need to remember that advertising is meant to get people talking about a product. Congratulations Women’s Running and Bugaboo – mission accomplished.
But the point that stuck with me most in all this was Women’s Running’s interview with Erica. When asked what the best part of being on the cover was, she replied “women of all sizes deserve to be praised for good health and have a presence in the media”. She didn’t specify a body type in her answer. She just said “women of all sizes”.
I couldn’t have put it better myself.