We're calling for an end to winter slump and the beginning of effective off-season training.
Working out is hard in the winter, especially in Minnesota where the days are short and the cold is relentless. It can be especially difficult for young women to find successful and healthy off-season training because of the lack of accessible resources that are marketed towards women specifically looking to start strength training. The majority of weightlifting workout plans and media are targeted at men. Women’s health material is often filled with content about diet plans, toning muscles and weight loss. In fact the 2016 most popular weight loss plan, the 3 Week Challenge, reports customer demographics with 60% women. An unfair reality for active women is that we have to struggle with mansplaining at the gym, finding female workout spaces, and navigating an industry that perpetuates sexist beauty standards.
(Check out this mansplaining at the gym cumulation by buzzed. Sound familiar?)
To support strong, powerful, active women and girls we partnered with Ascent fitness and trainer Marissa Lyons to create a six movement workout for ultimate specific gym training. These moves build explosive power and strength while considering the female anatomy and resulting in performance increases on the field.
What anatomical differences impact athletes of different genders in the gym? What is the most effective way to train as a female ultimate player?
Ultimate is an explosive sport and requires strength to sprint, jump and throw. On average, male athletes are stronger than female athletes, due to higher levels of testosterone and structure. However, research shows that with training women can be just as strong. Also, research shows that women tend to naturally have more stamina than men. So in short female athletes will see the most improvement when they get off the elliptical and hit the weights.
What specific exercises can non-male athletes train to improve their on-field performance?
These 5 exercises are my essential exercises for all athletes – and can be done anywhere. Once, you master these there are endless amounts of drills and variations you can do to increase strength, power and endurance.
A. Deadlift – The deadlift is the foundation of all athletic movement. It strengthens your posterior chain and builds core stability allowing you to jump higher, run faster, and throw further. You can deadlift a Kettlebell, barbell, sandbag etc. Get the form down and then make this one heavy (don't be shy)!
B. Bulgarian Split Squat – Ultimate is a super asymmetrical sport – we pivot and lunge on one foot, we rotate one way to throw, and you probably also tend to cut off of the same foot over and over again. This imbalance over time can lead to injuries. Therefore, it is important to Isolate each leg for strength training to balance out your strength and prevent injury. You should feel this one in your glutes - make sure your knee tracks your toes and does not go in - at the bottom of the squat flex the glutes press through the ground with your foot. The goal here is to work up to 8 reps with 2/3 your body weight. You can use dumbbells, kettlebells, or a barbell. Start light and work your way up. Protip: do this one without shoes.
C. Crawl – Most women (unless trained) lack shoulder stability. This inhibits our ability to throw far, jump in the air with confidence, and layout safely. The crawl is the best way to build core strength from the shoulders to the hips. Plus, if you do it enough you will be able to make it a cardio workout. The coal here is keep your torso stable – put something on your back and see if you can crawl 10 yards without it falling off. There are no limitations to how you can crawl: do a box, crawl in circles, crawl across a log…
D. KB Swing – The Kettlebell swing takes the strength you build in the deadlift and turns it into power. This exercise is essential for increasing strength, vertical jump, and is also great for conditioning.
E. Jumps – To be better and safer at Ultimate – women must practice jumping. Start by practicing landing. Go up on your toes and come back down into a squat. Then just practice - add a few sets of jumps to every practice. Start with jumps where you land on two feet and work your way up to single leg landing. For example, do 4 sets of 3 box jumps. Jump to a height where your landing is so soft you barely hear it. Keep the reps low and add sets or complexity as you improve.
F. Hang/ swing/ pull/ climb: As mentioned earlier, in general, women have underdeveloped shoulders compared to our masculine counterparts. Once again this is partly biological, but it is also greatly environmental. In general, boys are more encouraged to do activities such as climb trees and throw things - these practices develop strong and stable shoulders. So, to build the shoulder strength, stability and range of motion needed to throw further, mark better, jump higher etc, we need to go back to the origins of shoulder strength: hanging and swinging. Yes, the monkey bars! Start by finding a bar that you can hang from at full extension. Lift your feet from the ground and just hang there until you can hang for about 15 sec. Once you have that down start adding motion. Swing your body side to side and back and forth. Then practice hanging with your arms bent, one arm bent the other straight etc. After doing this for awhile, start releasing one hand from the bar. Pro tip: go find a playground and hang, swing and climb. This type of exercise will strengthen your shoulders in all planes of motion which will make you a better thrower. I've also found Climbing gyms to be a great way to ease into this - use your feet to take some weight off and explore pulling yourself up a wall in various positions and angles.
Good luck on the workouts! Shoot us a picture of you or your team taking on the gym #StronGirlsMakeStrongWomen and check out Ascent Fitness of Facebook!
Through Cross Cultural programming at the University of Puget Sound, I was able to participate in a lecture and workshop with race theorist and author Dr. Robin DiAngelo. As we discussed the nature of white allyship it became more and more apparent to me the need for the gender equity in sports movement to re-shape the standard we hold our male peers to. Just as having “black friends” doesn't make you anti-racist, being teammates with a woman doesn't make you a feminist. Going into the off-season, it’s the perfect time for ultimate players to take time to educate themselves and their teammates, read, learn, reflect and start thinking about where our community has room to grow in 2018. Here are five reminders for male allies, specifically in the context of youth ultimate, to keep our community on a progressive slope towards equity.
1. Consider your positionality. Dr. DiAngelo, when introducing positionality, began by laying out the the systems of hegemonic oppression within our society which are visible through our white patriarchy. In her words, “Oppression is so organized, so manifested, that we don't see it. Could men take away our right to vote? The answer is yes.” There are two aspects of positionality that male allies in ultimate need to understand: firstly, their positionality as a male, most likely a white male, that allows them to live their life with power and comfort. Secondly, their positionality within ultimate allows them similar powers and comforts shown through small, seemingly meaningless power differences based on gender. For example, in the article, Male Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, which challenges privilege through the lens of ultimate, some of the prompts asked: If I am not getting passed to on the field, "I can logically assume it has nothing to do with my gender" and "I am rarely asked to speak on behalf of my gender." In a hierarchical society, positionality has an impact in all social environments. As a male ally it's important to be aware of where your position is on a team and what privileges come with it. Constantly be thinking about your own comfort vs. the comfort of those around you and the power you have just because of your gender. When going into a new environment ask yourself the question: What is my position within the group and what privileges does that give me?
2. Actively work to understand and Educate yourself. Women of the ultimate community have worked tirelessly to create an abundance of different educational materials for equity and allyship. Recently open players and the Gender Equity Action Group produced Step Up Step Out and publicly challenged male-identifying players to take a stand. Just being aware of gender discrepancies isn't enough. Male allies need to take control of their education, use the resources their peers created for them and engage in dialogue about sexism in our sport. We cannot progress if men aren't trying to learn about gender equity, talk to others about gender equity and work to understand gender equity.
3. Promote female identifying and non-binary players. When you Youtube search “Ultimate Frisbee Highlights” the overwhelming majority of top results are AUDL and open ultimate. To break the stereotypes and microaggressions towards female and non-binary athletes we need to actively increase the promotion of their play and athleticism. Women’s and girl’s ultimate deserves equal coverage, access, and most importantly, respect. As a male ally it is important that you are spreading awareness about inequitable coverage of promotional material based on gender. More importantly, when you have access to that material, PROMOTE IT. Increase your personal support of women’s, girl’s and mixed ultimate and encourage others to do the same.
4. Don't just think about it, DO something. As a male ally you need to challenge male silence. When you see inequity on and off the field, challenge it. Remove the burden of confronting sexism from the hands of your female teammates, peers, youth athletes and friends. Start the conversation, don’t just participate in it.
5. SUPPORT GIRLS ULTIMATE. Based on USAU member demographics for 2017, only 34% of U19 players were registered in the girls division. Girls ultimate is often troubled with the impact of low-turnout, lack of programs, having to transition to playing open and a significant lack of promotion. As a male ally you can encourage girl’s ultimate by coming to local events, sharing updates on social media about youth teams, coaching a program and donating to advocacy organizations like GUPI and AGEUP.
The other day my friend and I were throwing a disc on the quad. Both of us are coming into college with multiple years of experience playing Ultimate, having played on competitive teams and captained our youth programs. We were reflecting on our first impressions of college Ultimate. We had been playing lots of fun but low-level pickup, usually split 50/50 between never-evers and experienced players. The women’s team historically has been a lot of more successful than the open program and as young women who had played competitive frisbee before, we were at the top end of players across all genders.
I made a comment about how horrible the pulls had been in the last game, “They went out every single time, half the game was retrieving the pull” I joked. We observed that when we had each taken a turn pulling, the disc had been in bounds both times. I posed the question to my friend, “Why didn't you offer to pull the rest of the game?”
Both my friend and I were content pulling successfully a single time instead of pulling for the remainder of the game and likely saving numerous innocent students walking to class. The boys would pull over and over again, pretty badly, maybe incorporating a spin into their windup and were still confident enough to continue.
The men playing in our pickup game were there to play pickup. They were there to have fun, mess around, and throw bad pulls with a triple spin windup. They were there to play casually and their actions within the game had no impact on our assumptions of their abilities as players. We knew that they probably could perform better if it was a serious situation. My friend and I were arguably some of the more experienced players there but didn't want to mess up our pulls because it could potentially impact the assumption our future teammates would make of our abilities.
This realization juxtaposed with the confidence I was feeling as an experienced player who was enjoying matching up on guys, talking about club and showing off made me realize that the reason I was able to be so confident was because I had already proved that I was good. I had been validated by my male peers and was at ease. The games were empowering to me because I had already shown that I could keep up and make plays.
My girl friends who had never played before were tentative to jump in, they were nervous about messing up and spent more time on the sideline than on the field. This reaction seemed normal to me because I was very familiar with being intimidated. However, once I began thinking about the gender dynamics within our daily pickup games I realized that at least 30% of the players were freshman boys who also had never played. They were eager to show-off, learn and become good at the sport and they did this with confidence that wasn't echoed by my female friends.
A lot of the insecurity I saw within my teammates was probably related to the gender division we had to play with on our mixed field. There were less girls who wanted to play and who were nervous about participating which meant that we often were playing 5:2 or 6:1.
All of these situations are familiar issues we talk about when we are discussing gender equity in Ultimate. I was aware of the presence of these incidents in our sport. I am writing this because I failed to notice things that, though minor, were happening right next to me, included me, and were making my peers feel excluded."My privilege as a student who was able to play Ultimate in high school gave me a confidence that was unique going into the pre-tryout season.
Thinking about this made me realize that the people who often face the most subtle, ingrained and problematic sexism is new players in this sport. We as a sport, registered in USAU and in pickup, youth, and college ultimate, have a problem with lack of female participation. How can we increase the amount of non-male participants if the sexist dynamics of athletics and sports, even in casual situations like pickup, are isolating to women and girls?
I end this post with that question. What can we do? As a community who recognizes the need for growth, who is leading the charge for conversations about gender equity and as a community that tends to consider ourselves progressive, make our pickup and introductions to frisbee more inviting? How can we make sure that girls don't need to prove themselves and instead are given a space to learn, grow, and throw bad pulls?
Introducing Inside Out, a weekly blog written by GUPI board member, Emma Piorier. Inside Out will reflect on Emma's experiences as a youth athlete within Club, high school and college Ultmate through the lens of gender and gender equity. The goal of Inside Out is to highlight the experiences of a youth female athlete, introduce thought provoking questions about gender in our sport and comment on current events within the Ultimate community. Emma hopes to create dialogue about the sexism that plagues athletics, dismantle the apathy we have towards subtle sexism and promote youth ultimate players.
Emma Piorier founded GUPI her senior year of high school when she became frustrated with the lack of inclusion, appreciation of and advocacy for youth female athletes in the Ultimate community. She is now attending the University of Puget Sound where she is playing frisbee, studying spanish and politics, hiking around Washington and writing for GUPI.