Being a vegan athlete can feel lonely in a world full of Paleo enthusiasts and bacon lovers. Being a female-identified vegan athlete can be even more so! Too often, we are the only women at the gym, and when we do see other female athletes on the news, on billboards, or in social media, they tend to fit a very particular mold. That’s why it’s so important to me to be active on social media and to follow as many inspiring, all-around-strong women as I can.
I went vegan 10 years ago for animal rights and for the environment, so I especially love it when athletes aren’t just vegan, but are outspoken about the ethical side of the vegan lifestyle. It takes a lot of guts to put yourself out in the public sphere as a vegan athlete, and I hope you will find the following list of vegan female athletes as galvanizing as I do!
1. Steph Davis, vegan climber
Climbing is a pretty amazing sport, requiring strength, dexterity, problem-solving skills, and courage; even more so for free climbing. Steph Davis is a climber and base jumper made famous for conquering some of the world’s most difficult climbs, and she is vegan to boot.
Always interested in health and nutrition, Davis went vegan in 2002 for health reasons, but over time realized that her choice had the added benefit of reducing animal cruelty.
She has achieved a number of firsts as a woman climber, and besides living vicariously through her adventures, fans of Davis’ Facebook page are also treated to stunning photos of dramatic rock features and sweeping vistas (and, as an added bonus, her adorable dog). This is one amazing athlete you will definitely want to keep tabs on!
2. Cristine Kohalmi (Cris K), fitness model
I couldn’t write any article about bold vegan women athletes without mentioning Cris K. I love following this aspiring fitness model and bikini competitor on Instagram @crisveganfit because of her unique combination of fitness posts, foodie shots, animal rights badassery, and adorable pictures of her pitbull, Benji. Seriously, who could resist Benji’s sweet face?
Kohalmi and her husband (@MrVeganPhysique) are an outspoken, animal rights activist couple who never shy away from telling the truth about vegan issues, even when it’s ugly or bold.
If you’re not afraid of strong language, strong imagery, and strong opinions, you’ll want to follow this strong woman. She’ll also be competing in her first bikini competition July 25 — the NGA pro/am classic bodybuilding show in Lebanon, Pa.
3. Laura Kline, runner and multisport athlete
This multisport athlete has been both a competitive triathlete and a vegan for more than 10 years, and she isn’t afraid to put her veganism at the forefront of her public face.
Kline recently completed the Ragnar Cape Cod with her all-vegan running team, Strong Hearts Vegan Power. The Ragnar is a grueling relay race in which teams of 12 runners (six for ultra-teams) run 36 legs totaling almost 200 miles. Strong Hearts brought three teams to the event — that’s 36 incredible vegan runners from eight U.S. states — and finished first overall among co-ed teams and fourth out of all 512 teams. Not to mention, they raised more than $2,000 for the Tamerlaine Farm animal sanctuary. Just a few weeks later, Kline completed the Cayuga Trails 50 — her first 50-miler — officially entering the world of ultra-marathoners.
Kline’s social media posts aren’t limited to her latest races and rides (though those feature prominently); she also shares important animal and social justice issues. You can find Laura on her website, Laura Kline – Multisport Athelete, on Twitter at @LauraJKline, or friend her on Facebook.
4. Leilani Münter, race car driver
Race car driver and passionate vegan Leilani Münter has been getting a lot of attention lately, especially since she was featured in Vegan Health and Fitness magazine, but she deserves another shout-out.
Münter has been vegan since 2011, and has delved into animal activism, becoming involved in protests against the dolphin hunts in Taiji, Japan, and posting about animal agriculture on her social media pages. Her recognizable tagline is “Never underestimate a vegan hippie chick with a race car.”
As if being a woman in a heavily male-dominated sport wasn’t challenging enough, she is an environmentalist in the carbon-dominated world of cars, and she has absolutely no fears about telling it like it is — she risked both ridicule and sponsorships by speaking out about global warming.
And if that’s still not enough for you, Münter puts her money where her mouth is. She doesn’t just talk about making the world a better place, she uses solar power to charge her personal car, works to bring more electric cars to market, and is even launching her own vegan clothing line in 2015. She is also a scientist, with a degree in biology.
5. Christine “Peanut” Vardaros, Cyclocross pro
One of my favorite things about Christine “Peanut” Vardaros — besides her incredible athleticism and forthright veganism — is her willingness to share both the good and the bad things about being an athlete. Her Facebook fan page is honest and fun, touching on the joy of training and racing, as well as the occasional misery of injury or a poor finish.
Definitely more joy than misery though; the Belgium-based pro cyclist and freelance journalist (she writes for CYCLOCROSS Magazine, Grit.CX, Start-Box.Be, Marin Independent Journal, Contra Costa Times, VegNews magazine, and others, and also works as a translator) clocks so many miles with such a grin on her face that you’ll want to hop on a bike and join her.
Besides all that, she is an incredible vegan advocate, speaking at animal rights events and moderating a Facebook group for Vegans of Belgium. She serves as spokesperson for The Vegan Society, In Defense of Animals, and Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
Being a former serious cyclist myself, Vardaros’ infectious energy and enthusiasm make me nostalgic for the bike. You can catch her on Facebook or on Twitter at @vardaros.
Cover image: courtesy of Christine Kohalmi.
Guest Post by Rachel Stein
Rachel Stein is a powerlifter on the Plantbuilt Vegan Muscle Team and has been an ethical vegan since 2005.
Her veganism (and lifting) is powered by animal rights, feminism, environmentalism, and cake. Professionally, she has built a career in economic justice and credit education, helping people improve their financial futures. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her bicycle and her two cats, who are prominently featured on her Instagram @fistifluffs.