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This is Joy & Claire Episode 113: Redefining Women’s Performance with Sara Gross, PhD
Episode Date: February 10, 2022
Transcription Completed: February 21, 2022
Audio Length: 50:29 minutes
Joy: Hey guys, this is Joy.
Claire: And this is Claire. Did you miss me?
Joy: We did miss you, Claire. I feel like it’s been forever, even though it’s only been a couple weeks.
Claire: It’s only been one week actually. I’ve been skiing. I don’t know what to tell you.
Joy: You had a great time, and I’m very, very happy for you.
Claire: I did. So I’m back.
Joy: And we have another guest.
Claire: We have another guest, which we are so excited about.
Joy: Welcome to the show, Sara Gross, the founder and CEO of Feisty Media. You are also an Iron Man champion, and you have a PhD in women’s history. So we have a lot to talk about because not only did you start this business, you have a lot of experience around women in sport and what is lacking for females in sport. But what first came to mind when we were looking at having you on the show, I heard your story about how you started Feisty Media – we’ll get to that in a second. But I was like, wow. A lot of the reason why you started Feisty Media is the reason why Claire and I started our original podcast, which is Girls Gone WOD. Now we just morphed into This is Joy and Claire. We saw a gap in what was out there. I think it’s not going to surprise anybody that there is a huge gap in a lot of resources or a lot of everything for women, especially in sports. I want to talk a little bit about what questions you were asking as someone who was an elite asking. What were you seeing that was lacking which then led you to Feisty Media?
Sara: Great question. First of all, I’m excited to be here. Thank you for having me. I’ve had fun already, and we’ve been here for four minutes.
Joy: We did have a lot of fun. We just need to start releasing our prerecording. That’s way more funny.
Sara: Now I forget your question. No, I didn’t forget your question.
Joy: It’s okay.
Sara: I listened to the episode with KaisaFit this morning on my commute and I thought the same thing you were just saying. I think there is a ton of synergy here with what you all were talking about and the things that we do at Feisty. So for me, really, the media part and why I launched the company, to answer your question, has to do with when we first noticed that at the Iron Man World Championships there were 35 slots for the pro women and 50 slots for the pro men. We have equal prize money in triathlon. Generally, there is a couple of exceptions, but generally we tend to. That, to us, was like, as an elite athlete, what’s going on? Do we have equal access to our world championships? So we went through the usual channels. We asked Iron Man, can we have equal slots? In the process, I’ve become friends with the CEO. But they said no.
Joy: Was there any reason why? I don’t like no’s without a why.
Sara: Yeah. Their why was business-related. So it’s a sport much like CrossFit. It’s a sport that’s owned by a corporation and it’s run like a business. Which is different than a sport that’s run with a federation where part of the federation’s mandate is to try to get people more involved in the sport and that kind of thing. So for Iron Man, I’m reading between the lines a little bit here, but I think they were scared that if they said yes to the pro women having equal slots that the amateur women would also want equal slots. Which they probably should have. I know, crazy, right?
Joy: Part of me is like, oh my gosh, how dare they?
S; Right. But they’re worried about pissing off their core customers who they perceive to be the 30–55-year-old men.
Joy: Is it rich, white men, though? Is it a lot of rich, white men?
Sara: Yeah. Spot on.
Claire: We know them. We love them. As you guys know, Joy and I, between living in Denver and Boulder, we’re surrounded by them. We know that triathlon type for sure, that Iron Man male persona stereotype. Not to say that means everyone who races Iron Man are like that, but you have that stereotype in mind of who this “core consumer” is for the Iron Man.
Sara: Yes. And the stereotype is there because the numbers back it up, and that’s what the CEO was concerned about in terms of pissing off those people who actually want – who he felt were his main customers. Even though – anyway. I have several solutions for him. But when they said “no,” we went to the media. There were 12 of us, and we sort of created a big splash on Twitter. This is 2015. And then we ended up with like 2 million impressions in one day. Many of us got higher level of media than we were used to. So I was used to being interview by, say, Triathlete Magazine or ARTA on media, but we were in Sports Illustrated. I was interviewed by Forbes. I saw the impact that media could have. And I also saw that we were never going to be able to empower women without and empowering culture to support that empowerment. It’s both sides. What better way to create an empowering culture than media? Which of course really is kind of a stupid endeavor. When I Googled “how to start a media company,” it was like, “make sure you have really deep pockets,” which I did not at all. It was this thing of, I don’t know how to do this but I’m going to try. So we started with one podcast in 2017, and we’ve gone from there.
Joy: Which podcast was that?
Sara: The IronWomen podcast.
Sara: It’s still going.
Joy: When I first heard from you, when you first reached out, I was like, oh my God, I wonder if this has to do with the Feisty Menopause podcast.
Sara: Yeah, the Feisty Menopause podcast is also one of our podcasts.
Joy: Got it.
Sara: We have eight altogether. We have six that are currently running. And the Menopause podcast is actually our biggest podcast, our most active community. With menopause, there was no information for active women. When we realized what a wasteland it was, we were like, oh my gosh, we have to help. So that’s grown super fast over the last year.
Joy: Yeah. So I’ve heard of that podcast, and I’ve listened to the podcast a decent amount of episodes, and it’s great. Even if you’re not in menopause, it’s the whole piece around female health and especially if you’re an active woman. That’s a little crossover there that I know of that world. So you’re building this brand. What do you hope to accomplish through the media company?
Sara: Yeah, so like I said, our goal is to have an effect on the culture. Do you know what I mean by that? The culture needs to support us if we are going to continue being empowered. So it’s being a part of that conversation – and there is a bigger conversation obviously around women’s empowerment broadly and around women in sport that happens. So I wanted to create something that could have an impact in that space and keep momentum for those conversations.
Claire: So within all of this, when I was doing a little bit of Googling and looking around and seeing everything that you’ve been doing, the question that popped into my mind is something that I definitely think that I struggle with. I know a lot of people who listen to this podcast struggle with. Training for an Iron Man is like a full-time job basically, right? And then on top of that, you have all these other things going on. You have your family life. I would love to talk a little bit about creating those priorities in a world where your daily life still very much has to exist and stuff still has to get done. We often hear this “you don’t have time, you make time.” But that’s such a romantic notion, right? I actually also only have so much time. Talk to us a little bit about how the last few years it sounds like, at every turn you’ve added more and more to your plate and your resume and your list of accomplishments – talk us through those priorities.
Sara: So to be clear, I don’t train for Iron Man anymore while I’m running a startup. I’m glad you asked me this because I feel like I have this ongoing process of figuring out what my priorities are. When I retired from Iron Man training, I just ran a little bit every day, and I wasn’t feeling good. That’s when I started CrossFit, about four years ago. So for me, that’s become something that I can do in one hour that hits the level that I need of intense physical exercise to appease my inner elite athlete that I can forget about for a day. The people who train for Iron Man and have full-time jobs and kids and stuff like that, I don’t know how they do it. I don’t know that I have the answers. Or the kind of thing that I’m doing for my job, I’m responsible fully for growing a business. I’m the person that’s up late at night still doing emails. So I think if you have a job that can be contained to a 9-5 environment, then you probably have more time to train morning, noon, and night if that’s what you want to do. I was lucky enough that when I was an Iron Man athlete, I was full time, so that allows you to sleep and train. I often say that I’m a B+. We say Iron Man, A+ personalities, you know. I don’t think I am. I’m a B+. By 5 o’clock, I need my glass of wine and just go through some documents or something. I’m not out running.
Claire: How did you get interested in triathlon and in Iron Man in the first place?
Sara: I did my master’s degree in Kingston, Ontario. When I was there, I was on the swim team. I volunteered for the triathlon. I was checking in elite athletes, actually, and there were only about ten women in the entire race. After I finished my job at the check-in, I stood and watched all these athletes coming through in T1 – we call it the first transition from swim to bike. I’m watching them come in, every single woman who came through, because there were so few. I just found it the most inspiring thing. I was tired because I got up early to do the check in, but I was standing there by myself with tears in my eyes like, this is so cool. So the next year, I did that triathlon. Then when I went to Scotland to do my PhD, I found myself being a big fish in a small pond, if you will, where I never would have had a chance at winning a race in Canada because we were pretty dominant at that time in triathlon, in Scotland I thought, “Oh, I could be good at this.” So that’s how that started.
Claire: You’ve touched on this a little bit in pretty much everything you’ve said so far, which is recognizing the lack of representation in Iron Man and recognizing the lack of information about menopause for female athletes. Has this always been something that you’ve naturally been prone to noticing? Was there a lightbulb moment for you when you thought no one else is going to take up this charge, and I have to be the one.
Sara: For whatever reason, I was always a kid that noticed when women weren’t being treated in the same way as men. I have a very vivid memory. My dad was a PT at a local college. Being at the college with him and noticing that there were a bunch of exterior offices that were filled with executive-type people – my dad had one of them – that had windows. Then there were these interior desks that were just kind of pushed together that were the support staff. They were almost all men in the leadership roles and almost all women in those support staff positions. I remember thinking, “There’s something wrong here.” And feeling like there’s something wrong with me. I want to be in the exterior office. I want to rule the world. I mean, it’s a local college. But in your brain when you’re 7, it’s the whole thing. I always observe that stuff. I don’t really know why. Now we have a great conversation about gender in our culture, which I love. A lot to do with external expression of gender. I feel like I had those observations, even about the way that we culturally name gender. Even through high school and even being a kid who was an athlete, I always felt like I recognized when I was being valued and whether that value was labeled a feminine or masculine. So I’ve always been kind of aware of that, and I had some really great professors at university too who help me think critically around that stuff too.
Joy: While you were talking, it made me think of as a young woman – maybe men feel this way. But was there a moment, because I certainly have a moment, and Claire, did you have a moment, where you were aware of your body for the first time? Meaning as a female object. Maybe objectified. I have a very vivid memory. I started the track team. I think I was in 9th grade. They were taking team photos. Everyone had to put their track uniform on and go up and take the pictures. The boys and the girls were all there watching everybody get their photos taken. I walk up in front of the photographer and I get mine taken, and I just remember a guy being like, “Look at Joy’s legs!” I at that point had never considered any type of body part of mine to be good, bad, hot, not hot. I had no vocabulary for that, even in 9th grade. And that stuck with me as like, oh, that’s desirable? But I didn’t even know what that meant either. I think as women once you become objectified, everything changes for you mentally. I don’t know if males feel the same way. But back to your question, too, I don’t want to go off on too many tangents, but I’m very aware now as well of gender. I think that is an important conversation that we have to keep having. I watched JV Ness’ Getting Curious. I don’t know if you’ve watched that show yet, but you’ve talked so much about let’s get rid of the binary, and can we have those types of discussions. So we just need to keep digging deeper into things that we think we already know everything about.
Sara: Yeah, for sure. I don’t have a moment of remembering being objectified, but I do have a couple of moments. One is that I remember in puberty instead of understanding that I was going through puberty and that I was getting hips and breast, that I was getting fat. That was how I internalized puberty. Nobody talked to me about it. Maybe we had a class in school where they taught us, “Your hips will widen.” I didn’t take that in that that’s what was happening to me. I just had internalized some kind of feminine body image ideal, and thus felt fat because I was no longer a lean childlike figure. I remember that specifically. And also around sex, I went through puberty really early. Now I’m going… do you talk about this stuff on your podcast?
Joy: Totally. All of it. Nine years of it. Oh my gosh, yes.
Sara: Perfect. So yeah, I had sex for the first time when I was 14 years old. And afterwards, I had this vivid dream that I was evil and bad. I remember I had a reoccurring dream all through my teenage years of being locked in this closet and I was somehow this slut. I didn’t know that I had internalized that. I wasn’t thinking those things about myself in the daytime. It was just coming out in these dreams, and I had to work through that in my 20’s. So those are my two things when I realized, oh, I’ve internalized a bunch of shit here.
Joy: Yeah. And it’s all this baggage that we carry as women. I don’t think that we’re aware of it. And this is not to say we have to overanalyze all the things we’ve been through, but I think it’s just to say that all these things cumulatively affect us now. And even as you’re talking about Feisty Media and creating this media company for women, the thought that I have often is, okay, I’m in my 40’s and women have come along way. Women have more positions of power. But then you look at – and I’m not trying to get political. We’re not going to talk about this on a grander scale – but then you look at abortion rates. I’m just like, we are not even – what are we even doing?
Claire: Yeah. I have young kids. And on a less charged topic, you look at the medical research around pregnancy or even around women’s health in general, and it’s just not even there. I’m sure this is what you’re kind of speaking to with the menopause stuff. But it’s like, you go and try to get an “informed option.” There isn’t even information out there to have an informed option. You start asking the questions of, why isn’t this out there? There’s no funding for it. Well, why the hell isn’t there any funding for it? I think there’s that joke of if men could get pregnant, what would the world look like? It would be so different. But I do think that’s true. Female bodies and women’s bodies have traditionally not been seen as having that same amount of priority. I think it’s also interesting to then extrapolate that into sport and see where do the values lie. Even looking at the Olympics where the volleyball teams had to fight to not where these teeny tiny bikinis for their volleyball matches. It’s like, why was that even a fight? Who cares? Why should you have to practically where this Brazilian bikini in order to be able to compete? And there’s so many examples of that.
Sara: It goes on and on and on, right? We work really closely with Dr. Stacy Sims. She was a pioneer. She was the first to put up her hand and say, wait, if we exclude people in science studies, how do we actually know that the outcomes of studies apply to women? And what the hell are we doing?
Joy: As a side note, we’ve referenced her many times on the podcast. She is the author or ROAR, talks all the time about women are not small men. You can Google her. She’s great.
Sara: Yeah, she’s amazing. So with our women’s performance summit that we held for the first time last year at the end of March, and we’re doing again this year at the end of March, we felt like, to your point Claire, we needed to bring together some experts who do have expertise in this space or who are at least kind of taking some of the science that is available and then interpreting it for everyday women. So that’s part of our goal with our whole women’s performance vertical. With the new podcast and the new summit too is to go, somebody has to be looking out for women’s wellbeing. Because we do have a diet and fitness industry that actually is going to sell us a bunch of crap. When we launched our menopause brand, I started getting all the menopause advertising on Instagram, and holy crap, it’s terrible. There’s lots of special teas that are going to get rid of your extra belly fat. What is that?
Joy: So many teas. So many greens. If I see one more fill-in-the-blank greens – I’m not going to say it on the podcast, but if I see one more ad for that, I’m just going to puke. Like, stop.
Sara: That’s sort of part of our mission is to work with people like Stacy who actually know, who can actually vet information and then bring it into our summit and into our podcast in a way that’s helpful for the everyday active woman. I’m glad you said that Claire, because I think that’s a massive gap. And it’s only going to get better. That’s what I see. For Stacy being the first one, now I’m aware of at least ten Stacy’s that are doing PhD’s and working in the area of women’s sports science. So we’re going to start to get more information, and we’re going to learn more. It’s going to shift and change, but it’s only going to get better.
Joy: We’re going to take a quick break, and after the break I want to hear more about the summit that you guys are doing. So this week, we are sponsored by Ned. You know him. You love him. You can support the podcast by supporting our great sponsors, Ned. They have the destress blend. They have the sleep blend. Please support the podcast. They are a great, great brand. The sleep brand that I love because I get hotel sleep, but Claire says it’s the night after you get home from a hotel sleep. Either way you like to sleep, their products are amazing and great quality. USDA certified organic. If you’d like to give Ned a try, Joy and Claire listeners get 15% off Ned products with code JOY. That’s helloned.com/JOY to get access. helloned.com/JOY to get 15% off. Thank you, Ned, for sponsoring the show and for offering our listeners a natural remedy for some of life’s common health issues. So tell us all about your summit.
Sara: Well we have our women’s performance summit the end of March. It’s the 25-27th, and it’s virtual. We started the virtual summit because of COVID, and our audience said, we want to continue virtual. We said, okay. That’s great. And that means too that people can access it. So the point of the summit really is to bring vetted expert information to active women who want to know about nutrition, physiology, mental health, and culture. Because for us, we don’t think you can really separate those things. So when we’re talking about nutrition, we can’t separate it from the things we talked about, the things that we’ve all internalized and learned about nutrition. So we want to talk about things in a multi-disciplinary way and figure out how to be our very best throughout our lives too. So we often take things into account for life stages too with women and being active. So from puberty to menopause and beyond, there’s information for all of those segments. And we launched a podcast on that same brand, which we’re on episode three coming up this week.
Joy: What’s the name of that one?
Sara: The Women’s Performance Podcast.
Joy: Okay. We’ll link everything in our show notes here too. But when you were talking about nutrition and mental health and culture and how all of these play a part and are interwoven, this is not just for elite athletes. This is for every woman.
Joy: Who identifies as a woman.
Sara: We think performance is for every woman. That’s one of our big messages right now because that’s part of the – like, I don’t want to dumb down that word “performance” because we mean it. We want to thrive, and we want to find information so we can thrive. But we don’t want to – I don’t actually love the word “thrive” either to be honest. But you know what I mean.
Claire: It is getting a little saturated. Yeah.
Sara: Like “wellness.”
Claire: Right. It’s very like the same type of person that uses the word “juicy” a lot.
Joy: Or like “self-care.” “Take care of yourself,” yeah.
Claire: Oh I saw this tweet this morning that was like, “I’m tired of self-care. Everyone else can take care of me now.” I was like, I want that.
Sara: That’s awesome. I see “thrive” with the green. I apologize to anybody who uses the word “thrive” looking for better language, but there we go.
Joy: No. You know, we all have our words that we’re over. I have plenty of them.
Sara: Yeah, exactly. And I don’t remember what I was saying now.
Claire: Talking about how performance is for all different stages, all different types of women, all different goals. I think that’s something that we have really learned for ourselves. We also both have a long background in CrossFit. Even though it’s not something that either of us is actively doing right now, it’s something that has recently been a part of our lives and was a part of our lives for a long time. There wasn’t any great falling out. It’s just something that isn’t fitting into either of our lifestyles in this particular season. I think that through that process though, it redefined, definitely for me, what the definition of an “athlete” was. Broadened that scope for me to understand you don’t have to have passed the presidential fitness test in 5th grade. That wasn’t the only on-ramp to athleticism. Which is honestly how I had felt in my early adulthood where I was like, I wasn’t athletic as a kid. I couldn’t do the toe touch. That’s it. I missed the onramp for athleticism. I cannot be an athlete. That’s not who I am. Realizing not my adulthood that the term athlete really is a lot broader than I ever thought. To your point, being concerned with performance doesn’t just mean you’re going to the sports center or you’re getting your VO2 max tested. That’s what I imagine, especially growing up in Boulder, is when you think performance you do think these Iron Man stereotypes who have the drool cup strapped in while they are on the VO2 max machine. And if you guys have no idea what I’m talking about, I apologize. This is a very esoteric example that might not apply to you if you haven’t grown up in a world where triathlons pass you on the running trail. I love that you are bringing that into the conversation, that performance isn’t just for elite or ultra-endurance or ultra-focus. It can apply so broadly.
Sara: Yeah, a lot of the information that we get through this performance focus applies to everyone. So if you think about some of Stacy’s stuff around using your hormones as a guide to how you train, that could affect anyone, even if they’re someone who does hiking or someone who is training for their first 5K. Knowing that you might have an off day at the end of your luteal phase, for example, right before your period. Super helpful. If you think you’re going to do good – you’re in your easy jog – and you don’t, then you know why. We don’t blame ourselves. So from things like that to the types of things that we talked about earlier, those internalized notions that we all have around diet and fitness and how many people start those types of programs, get active again programs, as a way to “lose weight.” We need to totally reframe that and talk about it as feeling good or longevity or whatever is positive for us.
Claire: I feel like the idea of training around your hormones – or not even training around them but just being aware of them, so many of us who are in our 30’s, 40’s, 50’s – I don’t know if women in their 20’s are still experiencing this, being put on birth control the moment you start your period as the blanket prescription that almost everyone was on for a long time. I think only recently has the discourse come up of maybe not all of us need to be taking synthetic hormones every day. But what that has done to an entire generation of women to separate us from our cycles and to make us feel like the goal of your cycle is to not notice it. I think that’s definitely the message I got as I was a teenager and in college, that the goal of your cycle is to just manage the crap out of it until lit does not impact your life at all. Even to the point of you don’t have to have a period if you don’t want to. Just don’t take your sugar pills. Just roll into the next pack of pills. I am curious to see in the coming years – these days, we stop at the low fat, sugar free yogurt. Of course, that’s not good for you. Oh haha, we all know what now. But 15 years ago, nobody knew that. I wonder if that will be the next conversation, the next turn around the horn of, wow, I can’t believe we ever thought that just erasing your hormone fluctuations was the goal.
Sara: Yeah. Everything evolves and changes. Birth control as a thing created an extreme amount of sexual freedom for women, so I am very grateful that happened.
Claire: Great call out. That is a good point.
Joy: Very great point.
Sara: At the same time, I had depression caused by the birth control pill that I didn’t know, and it took me years to figure out that actually it was the synthetic hormones that I was taking that were causing my depression. That’s crazy, right? Now I stay away from all synthetic hormones. The other thing from what you were saying there, Claire, is we often talk about periods and our hormone cycles in a negative way. I never heard it talked about in a positive way at all. Until we started to actively change our language about that. I think that’s why in sport too, with coaches and stuff, we just have a couple off days. It was all bad. It wasn’t like, hey, how can we figure out how to perform well or how to get the best out of our bodies or do our training well every single day? How do we figure that out? It wasn’t that. It was just, I’ll just admit it’s going to be crappy for a little while, and you’ll come back around.
Claire: Right. Like, what words to we associate with our cycle? Tired, bloated, crabby, cranky, hungry. And let’s not even have an entire podcast series about how the word “hungry” is negative. But you’re exactly right. Never in my life has someone sat me down and been like, how can you see these as indicators of a way that you could be prioritizing different moments, versus just, no, your training is your training. And if you happen to be tired and cranky and bloated that day, you just have to deal with it.
Sara: Yeah. And even mentally, I reframed my cycle. I’m kind of an optimist, a positive thinker. Let’s go do it. Let’s change the world. So in particular, a couple times in my life was when I was deciding to leave my marriage. I would be like fine, fine, fine most of the month. But around that time right before my period, that’s when I would realize I’m actually not happy in some ways in my life. It caused me to be more reflective. Instead of being “oh, I’m grumpy and this is crappy,” I’m very grateful for this process. Otherwise I might live in that optimism world too much and realize years down the road I’m actually unhappy or fall off a cliff of some kind. Instead of having that monthly reminder of, okay no wait, let’s take a moment to reflect and make sure that everything is lined up in my life. That was just one way that I reframed that in terms of not seeing it as negative.
Joy: This is something that I want and hope eventually gets to be the baseline for all women of what we see in the media. That’s very wishful thinking. But it’s still very saturated with diet culture and what sells, and what sells is people that are wearing certain things that show abs, and everybody wants abs. That’s still pretty pervasive. I really hope that it continues to shift to where that is not as loud. I think it will always be there. There will always be an audience for that. It’s just so funny how things have changed. Like side note, I was watching an episode of The Real Housewives of Orange County last week from like 2008, and the language that they use about their bodies – I don’t really see that on reality, and I watch a lot of trash TV sadly. I don’t hear a lot of that language, of women talking about their bodies. I was like, wow, at least they’ve come somewhat far. Because they were talking horribly or talking about how their diet in the summer is they don’t eat. I’m like, oh my God, that is ridiculous. “This is how I get my figure – I just don’t eat in the summer.” I’m just like, horrible messaging. I think there will always be an audience. There will always be people who listen to that crap. But my hope is that it continues to be more and more of the discussion about education and people learning more and more about their bodies and digging deeper and asking more questions and being critical thinkers about, why is it this way? Instead of just being fed the crap that comes across our feeds of, drink this tea and you’ll have a whatever-sized waist. That’s the thing we need to keep pushing up against because eventually we will move the needle. I hope.
Sara: Yeah. And I think there is a ground swell for that change. And I also think that social media, while there are several downsides to social media, I think the upside is it’s more democratic in who gets to talk. If you are following certain people, you will get certain types of things on your feed. So gone are the days of some man in an executive office gets to decide what you’re watching on your media. You’re talking about The Real Housewives. Some of that pop culture stuff is amazing. I can curate for myself an Instagram that only has positive – mostly, except for when I am being advertised to like menopause teas – mostly positive messages about women and about our bodies too. So I’m grateful for that part of what social media can be.
Claire: And we’re far from those messages going away, but the huge difference to me is I notice them now when I hear them. I don’t just take them as norm. Joy, to your point, you listened to something or re-watched something from 15 years ago and you’re like, oh my gosh, and it really stands out. Whereas 15 years ago, it probably went in one ear and out the other.
Joy: Totally. It was totally normal back then, that type of talk.
Claire: Right. I watched the first episode in the most recent season of Cheer, and one of the girls was like, “We’re doing this three-day watermelon cleanse.”
Joy: Freaking watermelon cleanse.
Claire: I was like, “Oh no.”
Joy: Oh no.
Claire: But even 10 years ago, I would have been like, “Oh, a watermelon cleanse. I’m going to Google that.”
Sara: “I’m Googling it,” yeah.
Joy: Totally Regina George. The cranberry juice diet.
Claire: “I want to lose three pounds.” And I’m grateful that you are creating platforms to have these conversations. I think that the more it can be normalized. It’s even still sometimes taboo to just talk about hormones and talk about periods. If you can’t even talk about it, how are you going to be able to advocate for yourself when it comes to those topics and when it comes to getting your needs met.
Sara: Yeah, exactly. I think that normalizing is really important. That’s part of our mission at Feisty Media. Let’s just talk about all the things. I talk about all kinds of stuff on the other podcast I’m on too. And whatever, I think getting comfortable with your own story is really important and other women telling their stories. And listening to our bodies too. That’s always the first piece of advice that I give. When people say, “I don’t understand this hormone thing. I don’t want to track. I don’t want to pay attention to my cycle.” It’s like, actually, just listen to your instincts. Forget whatever you learned. Forget about watermelon cleanses. Forget about the training cycle of three days hard, one day easy, or whatever your sport taught, and just listen to your instincts.
Joy: And that takes a lot of practice.
Claire: I was about to say, to take a step back from that. If you are working with someone who has pretty much been told, “Tune out your body and stick to the program,” what advice do you give to people who don’t even know where to start listening to their bodies.
Sara: I was thinking about this this morning. There’s a time for everything. I give that advice – just get up in the morning and do the warmup. Damn it. When I was coaching. And I think that’s important because we can easily get inside our heads. I think that’s a very individual thing for individual people.
Joy: I was just going to say, it reminds me of some of the intuitive eating discussions we’ve had before where we talk a lot about people don’t know hunger and they don’t know full, so it just takes time for you to start throwing out rules. I think that’s what you said. Throw out the rules first. And then start with a clean slate, and don’t think about rules. Just tune into your body. How does it feel? How does it feel today? And with practice every single day, I think you’ll get to know what that means. It’s like last year, I had a really, really high stress year. It wasn’t until I took away all the stuff that was causing me stress that I realize what stress felt like. Because I was so stressed, I didn’t even know I was stressed. So it’s like you kind of have to take what you can. And obviously we’re not all in a position to take away the things that are causing us stress. But in terms of working out or feeling ourselves, you really have to take out all the rules first or all the crap that you’ve been fed.
Sara: I’ll going back to that just doing the warmup thing. I think that would be my practical advice. Sometimes I live in la la land, and I start talking big vision things. But really that practical thing of if you’re feeling unmotivated to go and do your workout or if you’re not sure whether to continue, do the warmup and see how you feel. Because at least then you got through the whole process of getting out of bed or putting shoes on or getting out the door, all those things. Those things, if you can’t do them, then it’s a motivation problem.
Joy: That’s great.
Claire: Rule out inertia.
Sara: Right, yes, exactly. Get that momentum going. And then if you still feel crappy, there might be something wrong and then you can look into it from there.
Joy: That’s great. I’ve scaled back workouts over the past year for other reasons, but there’s days when I’ll start moving and I’ll be like, what do I feel like doing today? I’ll wake up in the morning. I don’t make a training plan. I wake up every morning and I go, what do I feel like doing today? Do I feel like going for a walk? Do I feel like maybe lifting something? That to me helps me tune into what I’m feeling and where my body is at, versus, “You’ve got to push through your workout! You’ve got to hit it hard!”
Claire: But we’ve also talked about if I woke up every morning and was like, what do I feel like doing, my body would be like, you feel like staying in bed.
Joy: I’m a morning person, so I get I wake up and work out first thing because that’s my body clock. But you get what I’m saying.
Claire: But I’m more of the thing of, okay, overcome the inertia and then see how you’re feeling. Because the inertia for me is a little bit heavier than it is for Joy.
Sara: It’s so true. I was really into what you were saying, Joy. If you’re a livelong athlete and you’re used to just doing the exercise every day – like I can’t imagine not exercising, but I also recognize that’s not the same –
Joy: It’s not everybody.
Sara: And that there are other things needed sometimes to get going.
Claire: You guys obviously did not fail the presidential fitness test.
Joy: Oh, I sure did.
Claire: Is this a thing in Canada? Did you grow up in Canada?
Sara: I did, yeah.
Claire: Is this a thing? Do you know what I’m talking about?
Sara: We have Canada Fitness. I’m sure it’s similar. I actually have a funny story. This is my little feminist. When I was in about 4th grade and the Canada Fitness thing started, the boys – there was gold, silver, bronze, there was one above gold. I think it was platinum. But the boys did different things than the girls. So let’s say the boys did 30 sit-ups and the girls did 20. But I until that point had understood myself to be one of the more physically capable people in the class and was like, this doesn’t make any sense. Truly, my brain was like, why does this guy over here who I beat every time in gym class do a different thing than me? How does that…? So my friend and I basically were like, we are going to do the boys. We got the boys highest level on this thing. We stood our ground on that.
Joy: That’s like me when I started CrossFit. I was like, why can’t I just do the same thing as what the males are doing? Obviously, I’m not going to be lifting 200 pounds over my head, but that always pissed me off too. That’s really funny.
Sara: Those little things. Yeah, that pissed me off when I started CrossFit too. Like the size of the bar. That’s to do with hand size, not gender.
Joy: Yes. Yes.
Sara: Can we make the Rx weights about body weight instead of making it about gender.
Joy: And it’s all very binary. Now I just have binary on my mind because of JV Ness. I’m just like, everything is binary.
Claire: I just need my forever campaign of scaling wall balls based on height.
Sara: Yes. Right.
Joy: Claire is so mad right now.
Claire: I have a real big chip on my shoulder. I will die on this hill. I am 5’3”. I should not be throwing the freaking wall ball to the same target as someone who is 5’10”. I don’t care.
Sara: There’s other ones I struggle with too. Like in the cardio, we’re often doing 25% or 30% less calories, say, than the men. Whereas I know from doing an endurance sport so long, the difference is actually around 10% between men and women, if we are going to keep it gendered. But then on the flip side, I’m like, actually though, we have not as many women who have been encouraged to do sport. So in your everyday CrossFit gym like the one I go to, it actually feels more inclusive and more women feel like they’re winning when that bar is a little bit lower.
Sara: So I’m actually torn about stuff like that because my feminist brain is like, no, I can do it. I’m doing the boys thing. But I realize that –
Claire: Culturally, yeah.
Sara: There’s women here who really appreciate that they can actually hit the mark on some of those things.
Joy: We’ll just have to win another day.
Claire: I know we’re almost out of time, but there is one thing I keep thinking about that I don’t want to end this conversation before we talk about it. And this is a very big topic, and I’m sorry for doing this. It is maintaining and even peaking performance later in life. I feel like this is coming up more and more. Both with men and women. Like Kelly Slater who just won pipe the week before his 50th birthday last week. I recently had something come across my Facebook of a woman, a trail runner in Scotland who set a – I don’t know what they’re called in Scotland. Basically an ultra-marathon around the hills, and she’s in her 50’s. It feels to me, particularly when it comes to females – and Kelly Slater who is an outlier, we don’t need to talk about him – there is more and more of this sense that as you get older, the peak of performance might be later in life than we ever imagined. Is this something that has come up in your communities yet? Tell me more. I want to know more about this.
Sara: So I have a couple friends who podium in Iron Man when they’re 50. Women. Especially women. Since I was in my 20’s, I’ve observed this in endurance communities, especially with cycling, stuff like that. People maintain their strength for a really long time. In their 40’s and 50’s. It doesn’t just go away. And if you’re trained for a lifetime in whatever the sport, it doesn’t decrease that much. You just have to shift your training. So one thing I know. We do have more information now. We have more information that women actually need more protein in their 30’s and even more after 50. And we know that lifting heavy shit, it really does help maintain muscle mass, keep our fast twitch moving and can maintain that performance a lot longer. I would have been a better athlete in my 20’s if I’d known that, let alone now. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been just doing a little bit of CrossFit every day, and I was a professional athlete. It’s crazy. I think we have better information now to keep athletes going. I think we also realize when you’re doing a sport, if you don’t stop, you can keep going and you can maintain that high level of performance.
Claire: There is not this inevitable decline to the grave. I feel like – you watch like the Olympics. I had my first Summer Olympics – I know the Winter Olympics are happening right now. I don’t have cable. I have not been watching it. But particularly with the Summer Olympics last year, it was the first time that I watched it and thought, these people are children. But yet we see that, by and large as a global community, as the peak of performance. No wonder we don’t imagine, oh, I can be a high-performing athlete into my 40’s and 50’s, maybe even 60’s and beyond. I just have been so inspired. The more that I see these high performance – and some of them have been lifelong athletes, but some of them are like, I didn’t start X, Y, Z until I was in my 30’s or 40’s. Now here I am having podiumed or having set a world record or having accomplished this huge goal that only ten other people in the world have done. Yeah, I find that so interesting. It seems to me like it is becoming more and more prevalent, particularly with women. And then I just have to wonder, are there social factors at play where women do have a larger period in the middle of their adulthood where they have to be more family focused than men have had to be. So they don’t have the same opportunities in their 20’s and 30’s to really focus on performance. I don’t know. But yeah, it was something that I wanted to bring up because I had a feeling that you had some insight on that as well.
Sara: I think you’re right about all those things. And having said that people maintain strength as they age as they keep going, I think for elite athletes, it’s probably mental. There is a shorter period of time where you can focus on performance as the main focus for life. That can come later too for some people. Like when we see the young athletes at the Olympics, the reason they’re not in the Olympics still in their 40’s might be more to do with the fact that after they focus on that for 12 years, they are kind of over it and ready to do something else. Because that is an intense lifestyle. When I said 12 years, that’s a lot more than most Olympians actually do and can handle mentally. One of the best Iron Man coaches in our sport, he straight up says, “I’m giving you three years.” He plans with his athletes and trains them to perform at the highest level in the world for only three years. A lot of people continue after the three years, but that’s the level of – he just says dedication, focus, etc. So if you went to him and you were 40 years old, he would still take you in and turn you into one of the best in the world likely in your 40’s. I won my first Iron Man when I was 38. It came late for me too.
Joy: How about 44? Just kidding. [laughing]
Sara: I’m 45, and like I said, I’m stronger than I was when I used to push a bike around a 112-mile course.
Joy: Yeah, that’s crazy. That’s crazy.
Claire: I just cannot wrap my head around an Iron Man. I go for a run and within 15 minutes, I’m like, why am I out here? I could be doing something else.
Sara: I understand that. Before I did Iron Man, I had run a marathon before, and I swam. And I used to sit in my room and stare at my bike and be like, 112 miles… I don’t know. I don’t know about this.
Joy: When you think about it that way. Oh my goodness, well Sara thank you so much. Thank you for your time. This has been a great conversation. We would love to have you back and just keep up with Feisty Media because it’s amazing what you are doing. So can you tell everybody where you are on the socials.
Sara: Sure. So our website is livefeisty.com. On the socials, you can find us at @feisty_media. For me personally, it’s @sara.gross on Instagram. And our women’s performance brand if you want to check that out is womensperformance.com.
Joy: Is there also information there where people can sign up for the summit that is coming up in March?
Sara: Yes, and you can see all of the keynotes that we just got sorted out, which I’m super excited about.
Claire: Yay. Awesome. And everybody, you know where to find us. We are @joyandclaire_ on Instagram, you can find us at joyandclaire.com, send us an email email@example.com. Don’t forget to check out our awesome sponsor, Ned. Use discount code JOY. Check out their destress blend. It’s actually really high end CBG, which is the new hot cannabinoid. I just have always wanted to say, “new hot cannabinoid.”
Joy: It’s not a regular cannabinoid. It’s a cool cannabinoid.
Claire: It’s a cool cannabinoid. Cannabinoid is a fun word to say.
Joy: It really is. I thought it was saying it wrong. Cannabinoid? Cannabinoid.
Claire: Cannabinoid. So go check out helloned.com, discount code JOY, and support the sponsors that support our podcast. Thank you so much for being here, and we will talk to you next week.
Joy: Bye, everybody.