“I changed my body for sport. No girl should.”
What is the current state of gender parity in sport? Ask today’s guest and she’ll tell you that women and girls are no longer content just to have a chance to play; they are demanding that sports be rebuilt altogether.
Meet Lauren Fleshman.
One of the greatest middle-distance runners in American history, Lauren has a storied history of breaking both records and paradigms. After collecting state championships as a standout high school runner, she matriculated to Stanford, where she garnered 5 NCAA titles, 15 All-American honors, and a spot in the Hall of Fame.
As a professional, her accolades include two USA Championships and five World Championship berths for Team USA.
Nonetheless, Lauren’s career was also marked with devastating setbacks. She holds the painful distinction of most likely being the best American distance runner never to make an Olympic team, her competitive career repeatedly impaired by injuries that had her on crutches at the wrong four-year intervals.
It’s the hows and whys behind Lauren’s hard knocks that interest me the most. Because it’s these very misfortunes that underscore her philosophic perspective on running. Her take on human potential. Her belief in transformation. And, perhaps most poignant, her passion for advancing the power and prominence of women in sport.
Now retired from professional competition, Lauren wears many hats. A prolific and talented writer, she is co-author of the Believe Training Journal series and shares her perspectives on her wildly popular Ask Lauren Fleshman blog — plus a book in the works.
As an entrepreneur, Lauren hosts the Wilder Running & Writing Retreats. She’s the co-founder of performance nutrition company Picky Bars alongside her professional triathlete husband Jesse Thomas, who graced episode 442 of the podcast. And together they host the Work, Play, Love Podcast.
In addition, Lauren serves up coaching duties to the elite women runners of Oiselle’s Littlewing Athletics. And she is the very definition of an active mom of two.
Most compelling is Lauren’s committed, stalwart advocacy for female equality, empowerment and advancement in sport.
Today we cover it all. From the doping scandals swirling around the Nike Oregon Project to revelations about the mental and physical health of female athletes under pressure, we explore how Lauren’s successes and failures fuel her as a coach, parent, businessperson and role model.
But more than anything, this is about fairness in sport. Advancing the role of women in athletics to forge parity. Creating an equitable financial ecosystem for NCAA and Olympic athletes. And how we can better calibrate the complicated balance between human rights and equity with respect to transgender and intersex athletes.
Perhaps most importantly, this is a conversation about the unique pressures and body image issues so many girls and women face in competitive sports. It’s about fostering healthier coaching dynamics. More supportive athletic environments — and ultimately more successful careers.
In companionship with our exchange, I urge all of you to read Lauren’s moving New York Times OpEd, “I Changed My Body For My Sport. No Girl Should” — a powerful piece she penned subsequent to our conversation.
Picky Bars Offer: As a simple thanks for listening, Lauren wanted to offer all of you a gift. For 30% off your first order of Picky Bar products, go to pickybars.com and use the code RICHROLL at checkout. Everything they make (bars, granola and oatmeal) is nutritionally balanced, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, non-GMO and plant-based (except for honey in a few offerings – check the label). While you’re there, be sure to check out their “Coexist” campaign which supports awareness and recovery from eating disorders.
Disclosure: I love Picky Bar products and use them regularly, but I have zero financial involvement with the company. They are not a show sponsor. No, Lauren did not pay me to appear on the podcast (I have never accepted money for a guest to appear on the show and never will) and I’m not an affiliate of Picky Bars. In other words, I get nothing from you using the above-mentioned discount code other than the satisfaction of sharing products I myself enjoy.
This one left an impact on me. I hope it does for you as well.
Peace + Plants,
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Thanks to this week’s sponsors
Jaybird: Pioneering audio for the active, Jaybird makes the most advanced and durable headphones I have ever tried. Their wireless Vista earbuds (my favorite) are not only waterproof and sweatproof with industry-leading battery life, they’re the only true wireless headphones that meet U.S. military rugged compliance standards. In addition, Vista’s cutting-edge JBS1 wireless technology ensures crystal-clear, zero-lag stereo sound for music and calls, and a reliable connection that pairs easily with your phone. When you’re ready to expand the horizon of your active audio experience, go to JaybirdSport.com.
On Running: Born in the Swiss Alps, On Running is the world’s fastest growing running brand. From their patented cushioning system to their gorgeous minimal design aesthetic, On has become my got to for all my trail and road running needs with gear that fits, performs and looks great. To learn more about On go to on-running.com/richroll, pick your favorite shoe or apparel piece, and run in it for 30 days after which you can keep ‘em or return ‘em for a full refund no questions asked – an amazing no risk deal.
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Note: One of the best ways to support the podcast is to support the sponsors. For a complete list of all RRP sponsors and their respective vanity url’s and discount codes, visit my Resources page and click “Sponsors”.
Background, Context & Reference
- Connect with Lauren: Ask Lauren | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook
- Picky Bars: pickybars.com
- Believe Training Journals: believeiam.com
- Work, Play, Love Podcast: pickybars.com
- Wilder Running & Writing Retreats: wilderrunning.com
- Littlewing Athletics: https://littlewingathletics.org/
- NY Times: I Changed My Body For My Sport. No Girl Should.
- NY Times: A Runner’s Career Ends, But Her Mission Goes The Distance
- NY Times: I Was The Fastest Girl In America, Until I Joined Nike
- NY Times: Nike Told Me To Dream Crazy, Until I Wanted A Baby
- NY Times: Allyson Felix: My Own Nike Pregnancy Story
- NY Times: Where Are All The Women Coaches?
- Outside: The Woman Who Took On Nike With Running Shorts
- Runners World: Guide to the Doping Allegations Against the Nike Oregon Project
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*Disclosure: Books and products denoted with an asterisk are hyperlinked to an affiliate program. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
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