by Julia Bluhm

It’s uncommon to see magazines where a woman posing on the cover isn’t surrounded by head-lines about losing weight, clothes, or fashion. It is common to see magazine covers with woman in sexy poses, in fitted dresses, lathered in makeup. Even in athletic ads, they find some way to make the model look “attractive.” But really, when you’re pouring sweat and working out, is being “hot” or “sexy” on your mind? Or are you completely focused on pounding over the finish line? It’s nowhere near realistic, but it’s what you see in these sexy workout ads all the time.

Maybe that’s why the women on the cover of these magazines sitting on my sister’s desk caught my eye. I saw healthy women, not stick-thin, wearing gym shorts and a sports bras, with their hair in an average ponytails. She wasn’t modeling some sexy pose, or a designer dress, just her smile and some really nice abs. Abs of a woman who came across as strong and confident. When I looked at them, I didn’t think of “pretty,” or “hot.” I thought “fit,” “runner,” and “power.”

The Runner’s magazine featured an article on Shalane Flanagan, who just might be a super human. She didn’t start running until high school, but quickly put the world on notice after “smashing the U.S. record by 17 seconds” in her first ever 10-k. She won an Olympic bronze metal, and got second place in her first-ever marathon. “She moves like an assassin. Whittlesey, her college coach, says he recruited her because of those amazing mechanics: ‘She kind of floats,’ he says.”

While talking about extreme women, I have to mention another name… Felicity Ashton. While most take planes or vehicles to see to the point of the north pole, this woman plans to ski, all by herself, right past the north pole. She wants to be the first person to cross all of Antarctica using purely muscle power. And she’s doing it all by herself. She will also set a record for the longest polar expedition done by a woman. Her trip will be about 70 days.

Last, but most definitely not least, comes a mountain-climbing goddess named Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, who was listed as one of the adventurers of the year by National Geographic. She tackled the 14 8,000 meter plus peaks, including K2 and Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen, or porters. At elevations as high as Mount Everest and K2, the air is so thin that it makes it hard to breathe even if you haven’t been climbing for hours. But Kaltenbrunner had. She said that “from the very beginning, it was very important to me to climb these peaks with my own energy, without the high altitude porters, and of course, without supplement oxygen.”

There’s little that’s more inspirational then hearing about amazing women like these. These women could conquer the world. They’re the real super heroes. Watch out spider man, after all, you’ve never run a marathon, crossed Antarctica, or climbed Mt. Everest. And these women don’t need your super powers… just confidence, will power, and their own pure strength.