On a recent Pintrest binge, I saw a funny quote: I have an irrational fear of wasting a good outfit on an insignificant day. I had to laugh; I am SO guilty of this. I know that a perfect hair day or a great outfit put an extra bounce in my step and happiness just oozes from my pores. And I have been lucky enough to learn that this good mood–Thank you perfect shade of lipstick!–trickles down to my workout.
On these days, I run faster and farther than I ever intended and I feel great! Until recently, I did all I could to deny this. it couldn’t be true that my happiness and performance tie in so heavily to my outfit and lipstick?!?
As it turns out, it’s a real thing. In recent years, there have been countless studies on this exact topic: women perform better when they feel better. Despite the fact that I know this to be true, I have struggled with balancing my athleticism and femininity over the years. Would I be taken seriously or be seen as less of an athlete if I concerned myself with looking and feeling pretty while pushing myself physically?
I know that women haven’t always had the athletic opportunities that we have now. It wasn’t all that long ago that the best options for high school girls were to play on the boys’ soccer team in poorly fitting hand-me-downs from other teams, or not at all.
It was after all, only 47 years ago that Kathrine Switzer ran the Boston Marathon as the first female numbered participant, and, in brief, she was definitely NOT met with hoards of supporters. So, knowing all of these details of the past, I asked myself if I was properly honoring the brave women that forged the path for today’s athletes by concerning myself with style.
Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to speak with an incredible athlete and entrepreneur. She is someone who is no stranger to balancing strength, performance, femininity and all around BAD-ass-ness! She is the founder of Skirt Sports, and winner of the 2004 Wisconsin Iron Man, Nicole DeBoom.
I dare you to read the interview and not be inspired to push yourself physically, and not want a running skirt from her incredible brand.
Jeni Leigh (for Girlnetic): Were you always an athlete?
Nicole DeBoom: YES! I was always drawn to swimming and running. I exceeded at swimming, and at 16, I made it to the U.S. Olympic trials for breaststroke. I swam at Yale and when I graduated, I was looking for a new challenge. I remembered, as a child, seeing a triathlon where Julie Moss had to crawl across the finish line. I wanted to some day push myself to the point of having to crawl across the finish line.
Just so our readers know, an Ironman is a FULL Triathlon, an event where participants do a 2.4 mile swim, a 112.0 mile bike ride, and a full marathon (26.2 miles).
Jeni: When did you do your first triathlon?
Nicole: When I was 22, I had just graduated from college I was looking for a new goal. I decided to do a Tri. I borrowed a friend’s bike and started with a Sprint without any formal training, The following year, I bought a bike and started to train.
There are 5 distances of Tri: Open, Sprint, Olympic, Half and Full (or Iron Man).
Jeni: Did you ever find it hard to balance your athleticism and femininity?
Nicole: As a professional athlete in the late 90’s, I was not inspired by the ‘unisex’ gear that women were offered. Everything was done in men’s shapes and sizes with no good colors or fits. I had an epiphany run in the winter of 2003. As I was checking out my reflection in a shop window, I realized I looked like a boy! I cut my run short and went home and scribbled on a piece of paper “PRETTY”. I wanted to feel pretty while working out.
Jeni: How did Skirt Sports come to be?
Nicole: I realized that Juicy Couture took the ugliest and most basic item–sweat pants–and made them sexy. A month after writing down PRETTY, I drew my first batch of designs. I showed my husband and he advised to choose one piece and to do it well.
Jeni: When did you make your first prototype?
Nicole: The year I won the Wisconsin Iron Man, I knew it was going to be hot and I figured I’d do most of the race in my swimsuit. I wanted to have something to cover up the areas I was uncomfortable showing off while running. I remember when I started the run, I was in third place. People were cheering me on, “Go woman #3!” When I came back for my second lap, I had put on my first prototype of the running skirt. This time, people were saying, “What is she wearing?”, “She’s wearing a skirt!” They started to cheer me on, saying “Go Skirt!”, and not in a negative way, but in a supportive way. Three days after winning Wisconsin Iron Man, Skirts Sports was incorporated. The first line of skirts were launched in February of 2005. A year later, big companies came out with their own skirt line. They knew I had hit on something big!
Jeni: How did you find most women to react to the idea of wearing a skirt while exercising, running, or competing?
Nicole: It’s a big misconception that women wearing a skirt were trying to be overly sexy, but in truth skirts fit the body better and perform better. They cover up more. They give the illusion of sexy, but you are actually showing less skin. The skirts have gone through lots of tests and trials to make sure there is comfort and utility as well as a great look. The goal with our test wearers is, if you can forget you are wearing it, it is done right. Shorts often ride up or bunch; the skirts don’t do that.
Jeni: What is your favorite style from your brand? Mine is the Jette Skirt–it’s AMAZING!
Nicole: My favorite has the built in spankies. The skirts have changed over the years. There is a style for every type of woman and activity.
Jeni: What do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment?
Nicole: Being married to the same person for 17 years!
To learn more about Skirts Sports, to keep up-to-date with what’s going on in Nicole’s fitness life, or to shop their online store, make sure you check out www.SkirtSports.com.