Women’s Running is officially our magazine of the month for shattering exercise myths with a cover featuring size-18 superbabe Erica Jean Schenk. Erica Jean is 18 years old and likes to go running. She was originally booked as model for a plus-size activewear spread featured in the magazine, though ended up on the cover due to the slayage of her running shot. See Exhibit A below:
For the most part, the internet thought it was awesome that running was being presented as a form of exercise for all, rather than an exploit of an elite few with visible six-packs and Equinox memberships.
Major kudos to Women’s Running Magazine for their efforts in redefining the Cover Girl in fitness magazines!… http://t.co/bfbe9ijnyl
— Afro Pickin’ Patriot (@bgg2wl) July 17, 2015
Love this recent cover of Women’s Running Magazine! Love the fact that runners/athletes come in all shapes & sizes ???? pic.twitter.com/JuSMNwfHFA
— Chompoo (@chomsowhat) July 17, 2015
— Tamara Abraham (@TamaraAbraham) July 16, 2015
But we all know women’s bodies, especially larger ones, can’t exist without being critiqued and criticized. And not everyone is giving Women’s Running a hearty fist-bump. Actually some people are legitimately pissed off that the magazine would give a not-thin body such prominent placement.
Really? The editors thought this was a good idea?” asked some faux-concerned Redditor in a thread about the cover. “I realize they are in the business of promoting a ‘running’ lifestyle and this was surely pitched as “let’s reach out to a new audience, yo!” but come on, that woman is at least double her healthy weight. The impact forces from running on her joints are going to be massive, and BAD for long-term joint health. She needs to be swimming, rowing, biking, hiking, or some other form of low (or no) impact exercise. Disservice to everyone to promote running at that size as a good idea. Even more of a travesty that it is receiving positive press.”
Really? You thought it was a good idea to take your discomfort with seeing a larger body in spandex and disguise it as genuine concern for this woman’s physical health? Did you lie awake after writing this and pray to God for Erica Jean Schenk’s long-term joint health? If you want to talk about disservice, how about the disservice of denying marginalized plus-size runners the chance to see themselves in a fitspirational magazine cover model? Or plus-size non-runners to see that their bodies are capable of being physically active?
Even many activewear manufacturers are unable (or unwilling) to envision larger women wearing their apparel. We all remember the Lululemon see-through yoga pants debacle, after which the brand’s founder said something along the lines of, “oi, fatties, stop stretching out our shorts.” There’s also currently a discussion taking place on Women’s Running‘s Facebook page about running shorts with too-short inseams. Women who don’t have thigh gaps — aka a large majority of the exercising female population — are complaining about the common phenomenon of chafing. “Not unless I want to start a crotch fire,” said one runner when looking at the spandex hotpants in the photo. It’s often easier for plus-size women to buy diet pills than it is to buy workout gear.
Not that becoming thin is the only reason plus-size women go running. Erica told Women’s Running that it helps her clear her head and functions as a form of therapy. She also thinks it’s fun. And considering she’s been doing it for 10 years without suffering health consequences, it’s probably not going to have a serious negative impact on her knees or the country’s economy. Ditto with the millions of other plus-size women who go running. If only other people were as comfortable with their own bodies as these women are with theirs.