The month of March is a significant month for women around the world. Not only do we celebrate key dates such as International Women’s Day and Mothers Day, we also celebrate Women’s History Month and remember all of the trailblazing women that have made a difference in our society and have touched lives and paved a way for others.
PT Today were thrilled to have a chat with 4 x UK Fitness Champion, a former GB Adventure Racer, Joey Bull and find out about her fascinating journey, what she has recently been up to and how she plans to make history by making a positive difference in the lives of others.
PT:The fitness industry was traditionally recognised as a male-dominated industry. In your experience, is this the case?
JB:Whilst I am well aware that there are major disparities in opportunity and reward in many industries, the truth is I have always felt that the health and fitness industry is a comparatively fair, balanced and positive field to work in.
PT:What has the past year been like for you?
JB: As with the vast majority of people it has been a massive challenge. Things were compounded for me as I moved back to the UK from the Swiss Alps where I’ve been for 14 years, just a few months before lockdown. I built my studio, created a Woodland Workout Trail in the grounds, was renovating a house, managing temporary accommodation and being a mother. Things were just getting underway in terms of the house build, getting the children fully integrated and enjoying school and my training business, when it all shut down. The upside for me is that I’ve had international clients for some time so I was immediately able to switch everything online and I added extra broadcasting and streaming facilities to my new studio to ensure I could provide the best possible service in these restricted times.
PT:Have you experienced gender inequality in your career and, if so, how did you manage this?
JB:Not knowingly! And it would feel disingenuous to claim otherwise. I competed around the world in Fitness Competition and was UK champion four times, that opened for door for international adventure racing, I’ve been on numerous magazine covers and inside many magazines and papers over 25+ years, I’ve made nine DVDs which sell around the world and written a book. So, I cannot feel excluded or shortchanged! However, I think what can happen from a woman’s perspective is that once you are no longer the bright vibrant young thing the likelihood is the market moves on and looks for the lady who is. I’m not sure that’s the same for men who can mature into the industry as they get older. An older man can be regarded as experienced and wise whereas an older female fitness professional might just be regarded by some as old! I’m mindful of flying the flag for ‘oldies’. I’m in my mid 50’s now and have three decades in the business, but I’ve an upcoming fitness magazine cover, still have a voice and try to inspire and motivate as best I can.
PT:What do you think needs to happen to achieve gender equality in the future?
JB:I think one word sums it up – Respect. As long as people who are worthy of it receive it and are held in the right regard and given the career path, promotions and rewards that they deserve, then there can’t be any complaints.
PT:What does being a woman mean to you?
JB:We have the advantage of playing a few roles throughout life and if we enjoy the diversity of that, there shouldn’t be a sense of just being a woman in a man’s world. We can be mothers, lovers, hard-nosed business people, driven career girls and voices of reason and calm in situations that can become testosterone combustible. The options are vast and all it depends on is the limits of your own repertoire.
Why is it important for more women to enter your field? Because we’re great at it! I think women have a wonderful knack of working with men, women, children and older folks. I’m not saying men don’t but I think women can seem more accessible, empathetic, less intimidating and may often have a better fitness version of ‘bedside manner’.
PT: It is Women’s History Month this month, which female figures do you take inspiration from?
JB:This isn’t to downplay any famous figures that we have to choose from, but how much of their everyday person is on view for us? Lots of women have inspired me and they tend to be those who have their hands so lightly on the reins while managing home life, relationships with family, friends and a partner, a fabulous self-developed businesses, enough room for fun and being fit, and all accomplished with a vibrancy and happy outlook. But if you want a name from history – Mata Hari, the dancer turned spy!
PT:This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #ChooseToChallenge. How are you choosing to challenge gender inequality?
JB:I’ve always believed in giving things a go regardless of whether I was ‘supposed to’ or not. This started when I was at ballet school but spent holidays climbing mountains and rushing around outdoors in breach of everything they told us. This carried on into later life where I continued to climb the world’s major mountain summits, went on expeditions and took part in horrendously grueling international adventure races – and all as a 5ft2 48kg girl from a ballet dancing background! But I just thought why shouldn’t I? I also did the first series of the TV show SAS; Are You Tough Enough? I wasn’t but I gave it a go! What many of these experiences did show me was that no team benefits when male egos collide. At best it’s annoying, at worst I have seen it nearly lead to loss of life. In these situations it has often been a woman who saves the day. When this happens it’s amazing how quickly any misogyny evaporates! I also live with six males (my partner has five children!), four of them teenagers, which leaves three girls in the household, me and two eight-year-olds. They have developed their techniques to ignore, avoid or diffuse overt and overbearing boyishness I can help them navigate this but I think the best thing I can always do is set an example and act as a positive influence and try and show what’s possible both for young girls and ‘old-timers’ like myself!
PT:How do you intend to make history in your life and career?
JB: Wow, a big question! If a few people in the industry remember me, that will be nice! I’m proud of my achievements so far, but awards and championships and physical accomplishments are fine but the best feeling is knowing that I’ve reached thousands of people and made a positive difference. We improve health, fitness, the physical and mental, and we deliver body confidence. That’s what our industry allows and it’s a very privileged position. Also I’ve had a few messages over the years from people who said I inspired them to get into the fitness world and they’ve gone on to do great things, so that is a huge thrill for me.
Joey Bull is a 4 x UK Fitness Champion, a former GB Adventure Racer, author, columnist, broadcaster, DVD presenter, a fitness professional of over 25 years and Bioregulatory Medicine practitioner. www.joeybull.com