"What's Wrong with Twice-weekly Pilates?" A Critical Approach
Suzy Ben Dori and Adriana Kemp
The popularity of endurance sports in Israel has grown considerably in recent decades, particularly among women aged 40-60. Why do women take part in these demanding sports, and what keeps them there? This article explores these questions from a critical perspective, combining sociology of sport, gender, and the life course perspective. Based on in-depth interviews with 15 women aged between 40 and 60, the article examines how marathon and ultra-marathon runners and "iron women" experience their participation in this arena, and how their experiences correspond with social constructs and normative perceptions of age, body, and gender. The findings show that the women challenge the popular discourse that situates them in a biomedical "age of transition" and frames their activity as a syndrome. Instead, they link their activities to crossing multiple cultural boundaries through temporal embodied transitions. These transitions undermine the stability of definitions of femininity and masculinity; liberate the body from the cultural constructs regarding age, body, and gender; and create new identity options for the participants as athletes, women, and individuals. Phenomenological examination of the embodied transitions' temporal aspects allows a critical reading of the dominant perceptions of time and age, while illuminating the inherent potential of the endurance sports arena to enrich images and representations of women at these ages, and cultivate a new feminine narrative.