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Lauren Fleshman Is Empowering Women Athletes

By January 20, 2020January 23rd, 2024No Comments
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Episode #493



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.

You can write your own story. You can make your story worthwhile. Tell your own story and readers will find you. It's so empowering.

Lauren Fleshman

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.

“I changed my body for sport. No girl should.”


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 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.

You can watch it all go down on YouTube. And as always, the conversation streams wild and free on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

This one left an impact on me. I hope it does for you as well.

Peace + Plants,

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Thanks to Jason Camiolo for production, audio engineering and show notes; Margo Lubin and Blake Curtis for video, editing and graphics; portraits by Ali Rogers; and theme music by Hari Mathis, Tyler Piatt & Trapper Piatt.

*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 and affiliated sites.