I class myself as one of the luckiest people in the World. Every day I get to witness people changing their whole outlooks on fitness and athleticism and seeing their lives change for the better as a result of it. Starting to acknowledge and value our athleticism and fitness is such an amazingly positive experience, and the flow-on affects are nothing short of awesome: people are enlisting coaches, training harder, and taking the plunge and entering ‘that’ race or event. Our Body Positive Athletes Community on Facebook is one of the most energetic, supportive, positive, and inspiring ‘spaces’ I have ever experienced. Most days I simply get to sit back and watch the magic that happens when people lift each other up rather than tear each other down.
I could honestly go on forever about what I see happening when someone subscribes to the Body Positive Athlete line of thinking, but I like to let people tell the story for themselves. I am so grateful for Carin taking the time to share her experiences with us. Her honesty and decision not to sugar-coat her accounts shows the true spirit of a BPA, and I am proud to share her story:
My name is Carin and I am a Body Positive Athlete. I must admit to adding a strut to my step when I announce that. A little extra confidence oozes from me now that I have something strong I can proudly identify with.
The notion that exercising is purely for physical health is such an understatement. Sure, like most people, I train to make me physically stronger, to have less physical pain and reduce health problems. But the life changing part is the mental shift training and identifying as an athlete brings. I often joke that running is my religion. It offers me peace, answers my hard questions, challenges me and gives me a greater understanding of the world around me.
So 6 years ago when I decided I wanted to change, not only for myself, but for my children I was oblivious to the ride I was about to be taken on.
When I tell my story I would be saddened for it to be perceived that I wasn’t supported, because I was. Especially by those close to me. What did take me completely by surprise was the reaction, advice and sadly at times abuse I would get from the wider community. The majority of the communities perception of an athlete were black and white – athletes especially runners were lean & slim. End of story.
Well hang on just one little minute. I trained hard for my half marathons, each step I ran was the equivalent to every other runner that day. We all trained hard, physically and mentally to conquer on that day. We were runners. Athletes in fact. So why did I have to defend myself to comments such as “oh you don’t look like a runner?!” And ” you still aren’t skinny, why keep running?” It astonishes me on the occasions I have had loud abusive comments directed at me while out enjoying the peaceful solitary act of running. Well, I wont be part of that anymore. How do you get past this, and not let it shrink your self worth? Firstly surround yourself with the right people. People who are ‘doers’, positive people who know the fight and are out to help you overcome the battle. The Body Positive community is growing strong and ready to help you stand tall.
I remember training for my first half Marathon and triathlon and a terrifying issue that hung over me. What was I going to wear? I wasn’t concerned because of functionality. I meant what was I going to wear in front of people. Let’s forget the hours and hours, months of hard training I had put in.. My biggest worry was, how could I hide my body? I didn’t look like a runner. Did I even deserve to be here?
It was at this very moment I was introduced to Leah Gilbert’s Body Positive Athlete movement. For one of the first times in my athletic life I was shown images of strong fit women in a diverse range of shapes and sizes. Not only could I relate, I could be inspired by their athletic abilities. If I saw these amazing woman as athletes, hold on I must be one too!
It was at that time I chose to learn to love my body. Sure at times we had issues with each other, but the kinder I treated it, the better we got along. The more I got involved in the Body positive community, the more I let go of negative talk. Fitness classes became more about pushing myself to smash goals, and less how i looked while partaking in the class. I grunt, I sweat, hell bits of me fly around everywhere! Ha. It’s empowering and I want every person to experience it free from judgement and free from self hate.
As for that pink Lycra suit I wore at my triathlon.. Not only was it hugged tight to every curve of my body, it did the job comfortably- which was it’s purpose. Nothing more, nothing less. Why do some of us feel we deserve less? My shape may be different to someone else’s so I should or shouldn’t wear a certain thing? No. We all deserve to shine, sparkle and stand tall. Whether that be in tight bright pink lycra or plain black t-shirts. You choose. For your style, for your functionality.
No longer do I get depressed or deterred when someone at the gym chooses me as their workout partner at a fitness test based purely on their belief that I look easy to beat. It fuels my fire to show them what I am capable of. That’s if they can keep up of course.
Breaking down stereotypes is empowering. A famous quote that recently inspired me was “The woman who does not require validation from anyone is the most feared individual on the planet.” As an athlete I ask you to train both your body and mind a little harder.
Get involved, be the change to inspire such an empowering Body Positive movement. Xx