We’re drip-fed a stereotype of what fit looks like: lean, slim and magically, maddeningly sweat-free. But real fitness is messy, sweaty and comes in every shape and size.
Featuring our favourite new season sportswear picks from Very, we spoke to three women who are breaking down the stereotypes to find out what fit means to them, and why they love what they do.
Rini Jones (@abrowngirlruns), marathon runner
‘I got into running at 21 after moving to Paris as part of my degree; a friend signed up for the marathon and it sparked the idea in my head. I’d had quite a chequered past with disordered eating and exercise in my teens, and training for a race helped move the focus away from what I looked like and onto what my body could do.
‘My family’s reactions were complex. When I completed my first marathon, they were surprised, proud even. But when that first turned into a fifth, the novelty quickly wore off. Once I started lifting weights, their confusion turned to concern. In South Asian cultures, women are meant to be soft and demure, not strong and muscular. Even now, my family will say to me: “You look great, but don’t get any bigger.” I think to myself, “Don’t they understand that I can run for four hours straight, that I can squat 80kg?”
‘I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve rocked up to the start line and not seen a single other brown woman. Even now, I can’t think of a major campaign in which I’ve seen a South Asian woman running.
‘I’ve run at lots of different sizes. I’ve been thinner, I’ve been bigger than I am now, and I’ve been able to complete a marathon at every size. You don’t have to look a certain way to run, which I find really affirming. I didn’t expect to get messages from so many other women when I started my Instagram page, but it’s hugely motivating. I want to be the representation I wish I’d seen in my teens.’
Clara Holmes (@rollinfunky), boxer
‘I have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which is an inherited connective tissue disorder. It means my hips can no longer support me, and I’ve been a wheelchair user since I was 25. For the first five years after I became wheelchair bound, I was definitely grieving.
‘But I didn’t want to take that into my 30s. I could be here for the next 20, 30, 40 years – I don’t want to live like that. I had to accept that this was my situation, and start putting things in motion to improve my life. That’s when I started exercising again.
‘I began with stretching, then moved on to using dumbbells and resistance bands at home. Last year, I joined a gym and I’ve just been growing in