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Oh man I want to see a sports bra science series. There's some really cool stuff out there. Like how boobs are a non-Newtonian fluid! https://www.popsci.com/story/technology/better-sports-bra-design/

I loved this interview, and it brings up something I think of a lot, both as a woman and as an athlete participating in male-dominated sports: We talk a lot about how women perform in those sports and how that performance compares to men. But we DON'T talk about how those sports were developed and designed by people with male bodies and for those male bodies. The measures of success and power and performance are defined in TERMS of male bodies. How FAST are you, how STRONG are you.

But when you look at athletic endeavors that are designed around female bodies, the measures of success are very different. Think of ballet, for example, where female bodies do things that male bodies are never required to do (think: pointe shoes, fouettes). Or gymnastics where female bodies do things male bodies could never even try. The measures of performance are not how strong are you or fast. Instead it's how PRECISE are you. How clean are you movements, how flexible are you. How good is your balance.

And I wonder how different we'd see the athletic capabilities of female bodies if more sports were designed for them. I feel like often we're stuck trying to measure our capabilities still by male standards, because of the way sports are developed over time.

I think about this a lot as a martial artist. In terms of raw power, weight, strength, I do not throw as strongly as men do. I don't have the raw power, and a lot of times my body can't even do the same throws (for example, I can't do one throw I need to do because my shoulders are actually too flexible!). But in other terms, particularly submissions (choking people, locking their limbs), I tend to be much, much more talented than the men I fight. My tiny, flexible wrists will find your carotid arteries no matter how much you try to protect them. My precise movements will lock your elbow joints, and my flexibility means I can twist my legs around yours to break your hold. My pointy elbows will accurately find your femoral nerves and you will be unable to keep your grip once I dig them in. I can even whip my leg up over someone's head, while they're pinning me down, and kick them in the face to get them off me. I do it all the time. None of them are flexible enough to even try it, but they live in fear of my feet. You might throw me to the ground, and think you've won. But that's where my fight begins.

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Oct 19, 2023Liked by Christine Yu, Virginia Sole-Smith

I love so much about this interview. And can we get a sports bra science series?

I started writing you a note earlier this week: My sister has been running half marathons lately, so I wanted to get her some cool gear for her birthday. Went to the Tracksmith website—I knew they make high-quality, stylish stuff. As I scrolled the site and saw ALL very small white women, a red flag went up. This is their opening line on their women's apparel page: "The design process at Tracksmith begins by identifying a product need that is unique to committed runners." Checked their size guide. They stop at XL, which is a 12. Sports bras stop at L, which is a 34-36 band size. So I guess if you don't fit that profile, you don't fit as a committed runner?? It's so outrageous.

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Oct 19, 2023Liked by Christine Yu, Virginia Sole-Smith

Wow! This was such a fantastic interview, and I so much was discussed that I never expected to hear validated from my experiences playing sports growing up. I always played lots of sports, and eventually as I got older joined highly competitive travel soccer teams. I went on to play college soccer on a partial scholarship, and so much of the philosophy around highly competitive youth sports is incredibly problematic (in so many ways.) In college, my teammates and I all viewed losing our periods and losing weight while we were in season as a cool side effect. We were exercising 6 days a week, many times 2x a day, and when our coaches talked to us about food, it was always under the framework keeping your diet "under control" and not eating too much "bad food." We were given food journals to keep track of our meals, which our coaches would then collect and read through to makes sure we were following a specific diet. In the spring of my Freshman year, my coach told me I needed to lose weight if I expected to start my sophomore year. I followed a restrictive diet all summer and religiously adhered to our training plans. I lost weight. I injured myself almost immediately when I came into preseason my sophomore year. Another highly problematic framework: most injuries we incurred in college soccer, our coach would essentially blame us for with not-so-subtle reminders that the "players in the best shape are the ones who have the fewest injuries." I could talk endlessly about how problematic my experiences were as a female athlete at a pretty high level, and how it's influenced my relationship with my body, in some ways quite positively, but in others, quite negatively. I loved and still love sports so much, and they bring me so much joy. But many, many elite youth athletic teams are in-fact quite abusive, and any person I know who's played at the college level has horror stories from abusive coach after abusive coach. And the worst part is few people recognize this behavior for what it is. The abuse is so baked into the culture.

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Oct 19, 2023Liked by Christine Yu, Virginia Sole-Smith

Casey Johnston, who wrote Couch to Barbell, convinced me that to build muscle and not be overwhelmingly sore I need to eat. A lot. It’s been fantastic. You can find her on IG at @swolewoman.

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Oct 19, 2023Liked by Christine Yu, Virginia Sole-Smith

Such a great episode and an important topic. Thank you, Christine and Virginia!

It's enraging that amenorrhea is still being normalized and even celebrated on athletic teams. Coaches need A LOT of education. And what sets my hair on fire even more is (well-meaning but uninformed) medical providers who recommend that the athlete go on hormonal birth control to "jump start" the period (even though it's not a real period and says nothing about someone's nutrition/hormonal health status). Okay, rant over!

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Oct 19, 2023Liked by Christine Yu, Virginia Sole-Smith

I loved this, I hadn’t thought about the aspect of puberty influencing my leaving teams, it certainly was the reason I quit dance. I felt VERY uncomfortable as a 9 year old in a larger body and very aware I was heavier than every other person in my ballet class. I also quit basketball when I was 12 but I was really nervous about trying out for the school team and switched to band. As a small chested person until the last couple years I haven’t had as much sports bra drama but it’s been bad the last couple years since I became a 38 band size with a B cup size- a lot of them roll up on my rib cage! As a fellow WFH mom I have perfected the art of the 3-3:30 nap before I walk to the bus stop!

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Oct 19, 2023Liked by Christine Yu, Virginia Sole-Smith

Christine is a good friend of mine, was so excited to see this interview in my feed this morning! It was fantastic. I really appreciated the conversation about menopause too.

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Oct 19, 2023Liked by Christine Yu

This was a great interview. I especially appreciated the intersection of women who are into exercise or other movement they enjoy and the need to better understand menopause. I have a strength coach who is such a great supporter of women's health and fitness, and women knowing their bodies (particularly postpartum and menopausal bodies) but there's a strong undercurrent of diet culture in her rhetoric that I struggle with. Working on taking what serves me and leaving what doesn't.

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The over 40 yo conversation really resonates with me. I joined a barre/dance fitness studio with mirrors on the walls. It's hard not to compare myself to the 20-30 year olds. My body is changing shape, I'm hormonal. Exercise is about the only thing that makes me feel more comfortable in my mind/body. And yes, to more sports bra recs! The mirrors don't lie; my girls are bouncing!

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Oct 20, 2023Liked by Christine Yu, Virginia Sole-Smith

Looking forward to read Christine’s book in full. Just ordered!

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Oct 30, 2023Liked by Christine Yu, Virginia Sole-Smith

I am so tardy to this party but like… this episode breaks my heart. I ride horses and there is so much fatphobia, ranging from folks making comments about someone being “too big” for their horse* to just arguing that riders should have a particular look. It shows up when most major brands don’t sell breeches over the equivalent of a size 14, or the way that a calf measurement over 15” is considered wide in boots.

Someone I know who rides is an amazing rider and trainer and does intermittent fasting and like… she has a lot of chronic health issues and I just cannot imagine that not eating helps. But I don’t comment on what people eat or their bodies, so I don’t plan to say anything, it just makes me sad and I try to mind my own business.

*I have looked at the studies on this and they are flawed at best. One of them used a total of eight riders of different sizes and put them on horses and looked for pain signals in the horse which like… riding is a dynamic process, and I know from personal experience that the same horse will find it much easier to carry a larger rider who has better control over her body than a much smaller rider who is tense and unbalanced. I also have real beef bc this is so often weaponized against women in English sports where no one says anything about large men riding small horses in the Western world. There are a lot of factors that contribute to whether someone is an appropriate size for their horse, and so much of it is about judgment and perception that smacks of concern trolling.

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Oct 25, 2023Liked by Christine Yu, Virginia Sole-Smith

My mom will be 70 this year and still plays soccer multiple times a week and does aerobic exercise daily. That said, her stupid f*&^$ing doctor just told her to start intermittent fasting because "her cholesterol is a touch high." I almost cried when she told me.

This article is REFRESHING and I will be buying Yu's book for her this winter (she's also a voracious reader). Fingers crossed it makes her think and stop this bullshit.

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I recently read Lauren Fleshman’s book Good For a Girl about her experience as a female runner. She discusses many of the points echoed here- natural performance declines (and subsequent returns), amenorrhea and it’s long term consequences, what a “runners body” looks like. It was a revelation and I cannot recommend it enough.

All people deserve to experience the joy movement can bring, and the confidence that comes from finding out exactly what your body is capable of. I’m so thrilled to be finding these conversations.

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