Women are flexing their fitness muscle in Charleston

As documented by Hanna Rosin in her 2012 book,“The End of Men: And The Rise of Women,” females are taking over the world. CEOs. World and national leaders. Lawyers, doctors, business owners, college degrees, you name it, guys, we’re done. It’s been amazing to watch how quickly it’s all happened.

Last week, the theme seemed to resonate even in the realm of Charleston’s fitness community, as I found myself blogging about an array of really gutsy women and even missing the boat on one remarkable local achievement.

The adventurers

Charleston played host to two incredible adventurers.

Last Tuesday, climber Emily Harrington gave a talk to a crowd of about 75 at Charleston Museum. The event was hosted by Half-Moon Outfitters and presented by The North Face as part of the company’s “Never Stop Exploring” speaker series.

The 27-year-old recounted her recent adventure of climbing a 3,000-foot big wall on Morocco’s infamous Atlas Mountains and last year’s summit of Mount Everest along with other “first female” ascents.

Then on Friday, world-record ocean rower Roz Savage spoke at The Charleston Library Society’s Wide Angle Lunch series in a talk titled, “Storms, Solitude and Soul-Searching: One Woman, Three Oceans.”

The 45-year-old has rowed across the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, was named Adventurer of the Year in 2010 by National Geographic, and was recognized by the United Nations as a “Climate Hero” in bringing attention to global climate change.

Talk about feeling inadequate.

The entrepreneurs

Women behind two different fitness businesses, Charleston RIDE and Pure Barre Charleston, both celebrated second anniversaries last week.

Jenn Vannata and Jen Gustis Leitch opened two Pure Barre studios, the first in Mount Pleasant and the second in Charleston, and often pack classes.

I posted a Q&A with Leitch on the Get Fit blog on Thursday where she talked about tapping into Charleston’s thirst for fitness.

“Because Pure Barre is a national fitness lifestyle and Charleston is a world-class city with an incredible fitness ‘flair,’ we knew that Charleston was the perfect place to open a studio, a perfect merge of both,” says Leitch.

“We have a deep love for this city and its culture as well as its fitness lifestyle, so we were thrilled to be able to bring it here. And Charleston embraced us immediately. We are thrilled that we have had such a successful two years.”

Charleston RIDE, a Spinning studio on Wentworth Street, was opened two years ago by Rebecca Young and Luciana Marcial-Vincion.

In another Q&A posted on the Get Fit blog, Young summarized the two years that featured 2,000 Spinning “rides.”

“We have hosted specialty RIDEs, weight loss programs and trainings with six Spinning Master Instructors from the United States, Belgium and Australia. We take great pride in being an education center for the Spinning program,” says Young.

While barre and spinning are entirely different, both Pure Barre and Charleston RIDE have similarities. Both serve as facilities to train instructors and both make charities a major focus.

In fact, Charleston RIDE came to be because nine Spinning instructors, including some men, first came together to organize the Pedal 4 Pattison’s Spinning Marathon, which has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Pattison’s Academy annually since 2007.

Quiet achievement

Meanwhile, South Carolina’s most accomplished marathon swimmer, Kathleen Wilson, did her own thing pretty much under the radar last Tuesday.

Wilson swam from S.C. Highway 41, down the Wando River and Charleston Harbor, around the Battery, and up the Ashley to Interstate 526. That’s 25 miles.

Wilson, a veteran of marathon swims from the English Channel to the Molokai Channel, says she chose a longer, solo swim in Charleston because “2013 was slipping away and I wanted to do a swim this year having turned 50 last June.”

“New Zealand (Cook Strait) did not go quite as planned, though I’ll get another crack at it at some point, and this swim was always on my wish list so I decided to make it happen,” says Wilson.

“After scouting tides, I knew that this week was going to be good and with only a week’s notice, we decided to go,” says Wilson, adding that she was indebted to friends Lesley Fanning and Dennis Lane for helping her with a support boat and “feeds.”

The swim took seven hours and 43 minutes.

“I worked hard the entire swim,” says Wilson. “Lesley gave me a final time and I had her repeat it a couple of times because it was a very fast swim and quite similar to the Manhattan Island swim in 1999 in which I covered 28.5 miles in 7:38.”

Tip of the ice berg

That’s just a slice of action from one week, which ended with Charleston’s biggest celebration in the fight against breast cancer, the 20th Komen Lowcountry Race for the Cure on Daniel Island.

And speaking of running, as I have written earlier this year, female participation in running road races in the U.S. surpassed men about three years ago. Last year in the United States, 8 million women finished races, which was 2 million more than men.

In Charleston, where nearly 20 yoga studios exist, women are the helm at nearly all of them. Granted, yoga remains an activity predominantly practiced by women.

Even in sports that remain male-dominated, such as cycling, I’m seeing more women in Lycra hitting the road.

Frankly, I’m glad to see it all. Athletic women are strong and confident — and that, to me, is pretty sexy.

All that said, guys, we need to step up and keep pace, or we will be left in their dust.



Reach David Quick at 937-5516 or dquick@postand courier.com.

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