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Naturally Fit: An Investigation of Experiences in a Women Only Outdoor Recreation Program

Sandra M. Bosteder and Karen M. Appleby

Researchers have noted several barriers that may exist in relation to women’s pursuit toward and participation in consistent physical activity. These barriers include, but are not limited to, unrealistic social expectations, body image, physique anxiety, evaluation concerns, and lack of a positive support network (Focht & Hausenblas, 2003; Lloyd & Little, 2005; Salvatore & Marecek, 2010; Vrazel, Saunders & Wilcox, 2008). Other researchers have indicated that physical activity pursued in outdoor environments may alleviate some of these barriers (McDermott, 2004). Therefore, the purpose of this study was to use a feminist framework to qualitatively describe the experiences of participants in an all-female outdoor recreation program in relation to confidence building, motivation to pursue physical activity, and social support. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 10 participants who had been active in the group for two or more years. The results of this study suggest that through participation in this women’s only group, they gained confidence in their physical and leadership abilities, were motivated through both environmental and social means, and experienced social bonding and networking among others. The authors provide applications and recommendations for future research.

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“Female Energy at the Rock”: A Feminist Exploration of Female Rock Climbers

Karen M. Appleby and Leslee A. Fisher

Rock climbing has been traditionally defined as a “masculine” sport (Young, 1997). The experiences of women in this sport have rarely been studied. The purpose of this study was to investigate the experiences of high-level female rock climbers. Qualitative analysis of interviews with eight high-level female climbers (ages 19 to 30 years) revealed three general themes: (a) compliance to hegemonic gender norms, (b) questioning hegemonic gender norms, and (c) resisting hegemonic gender norms. A discussion and analysis of these themes suggests that these female rock climbers engaged in a process of negotiated resistance as they attained a climbing identity, gained acceptance into the climbing subculture, and increased performance in the sport of rock climbing.

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“Running in and out of Motherhood”: Elite Distance Runners’ Experiences of Returning to Competition after Pregnancy

Karen M. Appleby and Leslie A. Fisher

Although a few studies on the experiences of mothering athletes have been conducted that investigate issues such a training patterns of elite and non-elite athletes, quality of life issues, and track and field athletes’ return to competition after pregnancy (see Beilock, Feltz, & Pivarnik, 2001; Balague, Shaw, Vernacchia, & Yambor, 1995: Pederson, 2001), none of these capture this experience from a critical feminist perspective. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to use a critical feminist framework to qualitatively explore the athletic experiences of elite distance runners who returned to competition after having children. The results of this study indicated that elite female distance runners who returned to a high level of competition after pregnancy experienced a transformative process as they negotiated their new roles as mothers and integrated this new lifestyle with both the social discourse surrounding motherhood and their own objectives to continue running at an elite level. Implications and theoretical connections between this research and future research are also provided.