Time for a rant – people over size 14 like to run too.

For a while now, I’ve wanted a waterproof running jacket. I know it’s not an essential piece of kit however I do live in southern Victoria where the Winters are wet and cold so it’s certainly a desirable item to have. I’m also contemplating running UTA22 at some time in the future and a waterproof jacket is on their mandatory kit list.

This morning, after parkrun, we headed into the city to try some on. I approached this with a sense of trepidation as I already had an idea of the reality that would face me – they wouldn’t fit. And it turned out I was completely correct. Not a single women’s waterproof running jacket fit me. I had naively thought ‘Oh well, perhaps I’ll just swallow my pride and try on a men’s’ but that was also not to be as the arms were obviously a ridiculous length and completely impractical for me. I tried on multiple brands but the story was repeated over and over.

I left the shops (yes, multiple ones) feeling dejected, slightly embarrassed and, if truth be told, like a fraud. I AM a runner. I’ve overcome all sorts of mental obstacles to give myself that title and my speed, my place in an event nor any other factor has ever made me doubt it as much as not finding a jacket to fit today. Is it not acceptable for people over size 14 to want to exercise? There are definitely, slowly, more general exercise clothes becoming available in a range of sizes but not the specialist stuff that you need when you get to some serious, more intense events like those in the trail world. Am I not welcome at these events? Do manufacturers and retailers think I’m unworthy?

I scoured the internet and the situation in general is a reflection of what I saw today in the shops – most technical clothing for women is restricted to size 14 and below. While there are some token pieces at larger sizes, there are few and with almost no choice of style, colour or functionality. As if you should be grateful that they’ve bothered and be happy with their meagre offerings.

Just for the record, this isn’t limited to clothing. I also tried on some hydration vests today and found that, despite claiming to be designed ‘for women’, that they are actually designed ‘for small women’ or ‘women without breasts’.

The whole experience has left me disheartened and quite angry really. On the one hand, we’re encouraged to embrace a life of exercise and activity. Particularly if you’re considered to be overweight on visual inspection (because, unless you sneak into my house and watch me on the scales, you’re actually passing judgement on something you don’t know), all sorts of people like to have an opinion about how you should join a gym/take up a sport/get active. However those who make and sell activewear don’t think so. I’m sure, if asked, they’ll argue that there is no demand but I don’t think that’s the true picture at all. Lorna Jane suggested a few years ago that there was no demand but how do you know if you refuse to stock it? She recently tried to redeem herself by saying they’ve always stocked above a size 12 (even stating in the article that they stock up to size 18!) but a quick check of the website shows that a) the largest is size 16 and b) even items at that size are very few.

I’m not specifically picking on Lorna Jane – it’s just one example in an industry that’s littered with them.

To the manufacturers and retailers, if you’re waiting to be asked, here it is. I’m asking – PLEASE consider those of us who don’t fit YOUR idea of ‘normal’ or ‘average’ and extend your clothing sizes to be inclusive of all of us who want them. Don’t be complicit in locking active lifestyles down to those that fit the mould, leaving the rest of us feeling unwelcome and without the tools we need to live the lives we want to.

Ambassador of awesomeness for all

I recently was fortunate enough to become an ambassador for a wonderful brand of exercise gear, RunFaster. Clearly, as you would expect of the ambassador role, I do get something out of it and, in exchange for saying lovely things about them, get discounted gear. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know that I’m pretty open about saying both good (and bad) things about brands that I’ve encountered so I think it’s important that I’m transparent about this new role.

Saying lovely things about this brand isn’t hard and it was no happy accident that I stumbled upon them and their exceptionally eye catching running tights. As a runner whose bodily dimensions don’t fit the stereotypical image of an athlete, finding funky gear hasn’t always been easy and I’ve had to do some searching. Lots of searching. Apparently, people of my shape and size aren’t welcome in many of the high street sports retailers or at least that’s how I feel when there are no clothes in their ranges that will fit me…other than socks. I am welcome to buy funky socks from them. Er, thanks.

What drew me to RunFaster is that their clothes are gorgeous and available in a wider range of sizes which acknowledge that women of all shapes and bodily dimensions enjoy exercise and want to look good and feel good while doing it. That seems like a little thing but it really isn’t. Not being able to find clothes that fit and make you feel fantastic can be enough to put women off exercising, particularly if you’re starting out and already feel self conscious. Seeing only images in the media and in retail encounters of women who look nothing like you can be enough to make you feel you don’t belong in this ‘healthy’ club and should head back to the couch. When I saw RunFaster’s social media accounts with pictures of a beautiful array of women enjoying healthy lifestyles, I knew that it was something I wanted to be a part of as it aligned so well with my story and my beliefs.

So I might get some ambassador perks for which I am very grateful but I’m more excited to be able to be associated with a brand that is putting out such a positive image about health and wellbeing for all. And I’m more than willing to share the love – if you have been thus inspired to try out some of their amazing gear for yourself (especially if you’ve visited their website and seen the new patterns just out!), use the discount code GL10 at checkout to get 10% off. You’re welcome 🙂

Ambassador promo graphic - Gillian