Traits of a Strong Woman as Told by Strong Women

Explorer Chick Strong Women Collage“What would happen if we heard the voices of many strong women?”

I recently read an article defining traits of bad ass women. I found myself thinking as I read it, “What qualifies this author to define a strong woman?” I had no doubt she was herself, a strong, alpha female. Yet, this was the insight of only one woman with only her life experience for the basis of the entire article.

What would happen if we heard the voices of many strong women? Women with different backgrounds, ages, careers, locations, families.  I reached out to colleagues, acquaintances, and friends. I reached out to perfect strangers who I came to know through books or social media.

I asked all of them to define a Strong woman. Not strong in the physical sense, but mental. What sets the headstrong, get stuff done, living a happy life woman apart? What makes us tick?

The response was incredible! The ages range from the 20’s to the 70’s. Women whose journeys have just begun and women who have journeyed the world over. Women who are authors, professional athletes, reality television stars, firefighters, highliners, moms, daughters, sisters, aunts and more.

As told in their own words from their own experiences, these are the Traits of a Strong Woman defined by Strong Women.

Rita Golden Gelman

Rita Golden Gelman

A Female Nomad since 1986 when on the verge of divorce she decided there had to be more than one way to live life. She’s been nomadding in the developing world since with no permanent home and no storage!! She stays with families and she stays a long time, sometimes for years! She’s also an author of children’s books and travel literature for adults including Tales of a Female Nomad.

“Smile a lot, talk to strangers, accept all invitations, and eat everything you’re offered. Risk-taking, trust, and serendipity are key ingredients of joy. Without risk, nothing new ever happens. Without trust, fear creeps in. Without serendipity, there are no surprises.”

Margaret SchlacterMargaret Schlachter

The Editor-in-Chief of Mud Run Guide. She has been part of the OCR Community since 2010. When not working on the next article she can be found running from race-to-race as a competitor. She founded, an OCR community for women as well as former contributing editor for Mud and Obstacle Magazine and industry expert for She authored the book Obstacle Race Training.

“Find your “why.” What sets the mentally strong and the driven females apart from the rest is they have found their “why”. By this I mean they have created goals or a purpose to push further whether it be in their work, athletics, home life, or any aspect of life. Once we find our “why” we can find purpose in even the most mundane of activities and see how it fits into the greater purpose of our lives. Often we find our “why” first in athletics then transition that “why” into our other daily practices.”

Heather Larsen

Photo Credit: Dan Krauss

Heather Larsen

A professional Highliner who has been slacklining professionally for 4 years. Based out of Golden, CO, she has the opportunity to explore the many canyons and peaks that Colorado has to offer for her sport. She is very passionate about encouraging others to find their passions in any activity or hobby. Traveling to build the slackline community is at the top of her list of favorite things about her sport…Although she loves being on the line – the community is why she has stuck with the sport for so long. She cross trains with yoga and climbing and has been really excited to transfer her yoga practice onto the highline. She’s looking forward to getting more creative with the sport in the future!

Nothing other people do is because of you…whether it has an effect on you positively or negatively. All people live by their own beliefs and worldview. Therefore – do not take anything personally (from The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz). Taking things personally is making an assumption that other people live by your same beliefs and worldview.

I do believe there is a healthy balance when dealing with this concept…especially when you involve people in your life on a deeper level, but I think it’s a great philosophy to remember in any interaction. It has helped me SO much with all of my relationships and has shown me the freedom I have to create the life I want to live 🙂 ”


Explorer Chick Jascia RedwineJascia Redwine

A runner since 2006 when she decided to switch out two bad habits – smoking and drinking – with one good habit, exercise. She has since ran over 50 half marathons, countless marathons, triathlons, and mud runs. She’s a Coeur Team sponsored athlete and is training for the Chattanooga Ironman this year.

“It doesn’t occur to us that we CAN’T do it”

Explorer chick Liz HamiltonLiz Hamilton

A Project Manager for Comcast Business Division. In her free time she enjoys camping, hiking, earning race medals, and spoiling her niece and nephews. Her life’s goal is to finish a race in all 50 states.

“Strong women build other women up and rejoice in their successes as opposed to seeing others as a threat. They’re unashamed to speak up for themselves, but they also recognize that sometimes silence can say more than words.

Explorer chick Cheryl Drury

Cheryl Drury

A fitness class instructor, a road runner, and an OCR athlete. She’s constantly being told she’s just a little bit of a thing at 5’2″. Because of that, she does her best to live larger than her size. She runs too much, mostly because she’s not a runner. Usually the more it hurts and the more miserable she is, the louder you’ll here her laughing. That laughter is contagious and spreads like wildfire to all of those around her.

“I don’t think strong women see themselves as strong. I think they just have a “never say die” attitude. It’s not because they are always the best, but they build everyone else up around them. They don’t just build villages they build armies of change that make the world better. When things get tough they laugh louder and push harder.”

Natasha Callaway Explorer Chick Nathasha Callaway

The first female volunteer firefighter & first responder for both Morris Volunteer Fire Department and Batesville Fire & Rescue in Southeastern Indiana. A mom-to-be come July 4th, a Natasha Fischmer-to-be, a full time Senior Business Analyst for a life insurance company, and a part-time Obstacle Course Racer and volunteer.

” ‘Some women are lost in the fire, some are built from it.’ You can be status quo and make it through life, or you can stand out and make something from your life. I’ve never had an easy road in life, but it’s always made me wiser, tougher and more determined in the end. Whenever I get knocked down or feel like falling apart, I put that energy towards volunteering instead. (It’s hard to have a bad day when you’re helping someone else!)

I worked towards a goal of becoming the first female firefighter on two local departments, and I did it despite all the doubt and negativity thrown at me. Being that strong, independent, badass woman means ignoring the haters, breaking down barriers, and going after your bliss no matter what obstacles come your way.”

Explorer chick Brooke Rosalie Van Paris

Brooke Van Paris

A competitor on American Grit on Fox, an OCR Junkie (48 Races in the last year), a fitness enthusiast, an adrenaline addict, 2015 OCRWC competitor, Her drive and motivation was the catalyst and fuel for her weight loss transformation– 40 lbs. in the last year. She overcame a horrific car accident that left her without the use of either hand for 2 full years between 2009-2012.

“It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up” -Babe Ruth ….. I’ve never given up in my life so far and I definitely won’t stop now. It’s making the difficult choice – because the easy choice isn’t an option. We are striving – not for perfection- but to be the best versions of ourselves we can possibly be. Believing in ourselves and our dreams when no one else does. It’s not about proving others wrong- but more so about proving ourselves right. Pushing ourselves to the limit and once we get there- pushing even harder beyond them.”

Jamie KmetyExplorer Chick Jamie Kmety

A medical student with a zest for adventure, Jamie likes to push herself and test her limits. She spent over a year traveling Australia, New Zealand and Fiji exploring some remote corners of the world, meeting incredible people from all walks of life, climbing and abseiling, and cage diving with great white sharks. She’s also lived in England teaching high school science for two years. Her latest adventure was planned in her head for years and in 2011 she enrolled in medical school on the Caribbean island of Saba. Now only 2 months from graduating and 4 months away from her first medical position, she continues to find the time to explore each beautiful location she finds herself.

“I think we like a good challenge. We recognize that most people are capable of more than they think and we like to test that; push ourselves to work harder and set bigger goals. I’ve come to realize that with a lot of effort and determination, I can accomplish anything that I put my mind to. So why stop now?”

Heidi Brown Explorer ChickHeidi Brown

An Indiana woman who found fitness later in life and a “home” through OCR and running. She never was nor considered herself an athlete, but she’s motivated by the enthusiasm and sense of community found in OCR. After a wake up call, she is now always ready to try new things and trying to live a big life in a complacent world.

“There are going to be set backs in life where you get knocked down, but sitting there and crying isn’t an option. Not that you can’t cry and take your time doing it, but you HAVE to get back up and find a new way if that is what is needed.


Explorer chick Nicki post surfingNicki Bruckmann

Head Explorer Chick and Propagator of Happiness

“And now my 2 cents! A strong woman knows what makes her happy. She takes that happiness and deeply buries the roots to protect it from ill weather, heavy rain, and strong winds (metaphorically speaking 😎 ). She shares her happiness with everyone, but is quick to protect it from those who chose to do it wrong or try to uproot it. She makes decisions that cultivate the life that makes her happy with courage, dedication, and perseverance. She leans in. Oh, and of course, she puts positive energy into the Universe asking nothing in return.”

Many thanks to each and every one of the ladies who offered their words. I am incredibly humbled that they collaborated to help me piece this together. My mission for Explorer Chick is simple: Impact. I hope in reading all of the thoughts, advice, and insight, women (if even just 1!) are impacted.

My heart is full of joy and appreciation.



Join our community of Strong Explorer Chicks on what Epicure and Culture calls the “Best Yoga and Extreme Adventure.” Not a yogi? No worries! Yoga is only a small part of our fitness trips. We also lift weights, jump on boxes, max out on pull ups, and more. Oh, and of course experience the best in adventures!

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