Rachel Avenido, Photo by Ron Wilbur
Rachel Avenido, Photo by Ron Wilbur

Rachel Avenido

Growing up, I never played contact sports. I first attended a Minnesota RollerGirls game in 2009. Even though I didn't know how to roller skate, I immediately thought, "I have to do that." I saw many different body types and ages of women skating. I knew I wanted to be part of the power and energy of the sport.

Through a recreation league, I learned how to skate from veterans, and made it onto the Rockits team.

It can be challenging to make new friends as an adult. Through roller derby, I've made connections and joined a community of badass women and non-binary people who work together to support one another and sustain our revolutionary sport. I love the opportunity to be unapologetically strong with my body and innovative with strategies. Because we are a self-run business, we keep ourselves accountable in fitness and organizational goals.

Through derby I've been empowered by teammates. I travel all over the country with the Minnesota RollerGirls All-Stars. Last year, I was part of the first Team Philippines in the Roller Derby World Cup. As a first-generation Filipina-American, it was inspiring to be able to connect with other powerful Filipina women through roller derby.

Cindy Johnson Suplick
I was a tomboy growing up. In the late 1960s at my high school, a girl could participate in synchronized swimming or cheerleading. In 1972, Title IX was passed, which prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded educational programs, including sports. Transformational, but too late for us.

So how did my generation achieve athletic prowess and spirited adventure? We sought challenge in unconventional ways.

For me, it is rigorous solo sports, wilderness sojourns, and adventure travel. When I was younger, it was the physical accomplishment that mattered. I swam, sailed, and skied. I worked for a Colorado-based backpacking manufacturer and retailer. I loved testing the packs, tents, sleeping bags, and other equipment in heavy weather, relying on my own skill and strength to survive in a storm. I preferred to solo backpack, because in nature I found solace, serenity, and spiritual renewal.

I bought a one-way ticket to Europe and roamed over 40 countries by backpacking, motorcycling, rail travel, hitch-hiking, and bicycling the back ways. Vivid memories: standing room seating for the Vienna symphony, peering out of an Afghani hotel window at a 4th century B.C. fortress built by Alexander the Great, red tassel-adorned horse taxis, the empathetic eyes of an Iranian mother on a bus when I wasn't feeling well.

Later, as a college graduation present to my youngest daughter, we spent three weeks in the Daintree Rain Forest, Great Barrier Reef, and camping in the Outback of Australia.

In my retirement, I seek adventure travel in a more mindful way. It is about personal empowerment and self-care. I went on a five-day trek in Bhutan. I met a woman yak-herder my age. I booked a trek to Slovenia, and then discovered I had breast cancer. Undeterred, I went anyway, in between lumpectomies. The challenge and incredible scenery buoyed my spirits. I recently joined my daughter in a 10-day trek to Machu Picchu and the Peruvian jungle.

I am definitely decelerating, but I linger longer and more appreciatively over the landscapes. My highlight on the recent trip was meeting a mother with her three-year-old daughter safely swaddled on her back. She proudly showcased 62 varieties of potatoes she was cultivating, reined in her alpaca herds, and showed off a plethora of guinea pigs in the corner of her house. It is these cross-cultural connections that I treasure most.

L.A. Reed

I love sports. I played sports growing up, but stopped in my 20s when doing political work. That was a mistake. Wisdom.

I had loved being strong, even as a teen. Although I had back injuries and brain damage, I could still play softball: a glove in my hand in the field, catching balls at a time when women and girls were minimally permitted. Who cared? My love was catching flyballs. You spot a ball flying off a bat, track it to see where it will go, and move your body to it. No matter how high the ball, I could track it. Running to meet it was exhilarating.

That ability to “track” stays with me: the ability to stay focused on a goal. In my 40s, I became permanently disabled, and lost the ability to work or sit upright in chairs, but I could still walk.Then I started to lose the ability to throw a ball, until one day I said “no” to that. I started throwing a koosh-ball against a wall, graduating to a tennis ball, a cushy softball, then a heavier baseball, building up muscles and connective tissue. And I began to throw a light ball up really high, tracking it and catching it. Wonderful! 

Now, I continue to throw a ball, but I also do yoga, albeit gently, an hour or more each day. I walk outside in the summer, on a treadmill in the winter. I’m doing jumping jacks again. Slowly is the key. However, getting support is the bigger key: I cannot do it alone! What a joy having my body get strong again.