Hands up if you’re feeling the winter blues. Anyone? Everyone? Me too. I personally feel like I don’t have enough hands to put up. These day after day after day AFTER DAY of grey skies are getting to be a little too much for me, yet just as I type this, the sun is starting to peak out of the clouds just long enough to beam in through my window. As the youth these days say, BLESS UP!
Anyway, I’m coming at you today because there’s something I’ve been working on for a long while. Some of you may remember me hinting at a blog collab with my gal pal Alice of ChatterRunGirl, and I’m happy to say that we’ve finally hit publish!
This is the 1st of 3 segments that highlight 2 different stories, of 2 bad ass ladies, so if you are looking for a dose of inspiration, motivation, or some help in finding your why, stay tuned and keep reading. Enjoy!
Alex is an athlete. A friend. And also has a “larger body”. None of these things define her, yet all of them affect her story, and how we end up here, today, on this blog. Here is part 1 of a 3-part co-interview on what defines an athlete, what motivates us to do what we do, and how people’s perceptions do not define our abilities.
Alex: Coming from a place of having a larger body, what motivated you or got you interested in living an active life?
CRG: I feel like I always wanted to lead an active life. We didn’t have the means growing up – or really prioritized – to have me signed up for sports camps, teams or leagues. In school, I was pulled towards the arts more than athletics, in part because I was not very good at sports. Cue to being a young adult at my heaviest weight (over 220 lbs). I was sedentary – in the truest sense of the word – but I didn’t lack energy or stamina. Looking back, I think there were a few reasons I wasn’t leading an active life. The first being that I didn’t prioritize it. And I did not prioritize it because I didn’t value it. I treated my body like sh!t – I ate too much, I ate poorly. I worked 80 hours a week. I smoked. I was stressed. So that’s a pretty big reason. Another reason is that my body didn’t move in a way that felt like it was MY body. With all that weight, it was difficult to fit workout clothes that I felt good in, I had let so much weight creep on that I felt out of place in a 23 year-old’s body, and I was self-conscious.
At the time, and to this day, I’m not sure what I was hiding from, running away from, or scared to admit, but it definitely led me to a place that I was not happy with.
The MAIN motivation that got me moving was when my doctor told me I’d have a stroke by the age of 30 if I didn’t change my habits. It wasn’t a thing back then, but talk about a major league mic drop, doc. But the cool part was, that when I started actually moving my body, breaking a sweat, getting those feel good hormones to make an appearance, I realized I really LIKED those feelings. That it felt good. That because of my natural stamina and energy, I could in fact do it. Over time, I noticed that it was part of my lifestyle in a way that I could not change – it wasn’t about burning calories, or hours spent training, or looking good, it was about how I felt in body and mind when I made me a priority.
And that’s how I started to change my own idea of what my body image dictated as I forayed into athleticism… so Alex, my first question to you has to do with your experience as an ‘insert-visual-of-athlete-here’ in a ‘insert-label-of-a-larger-body-here’. What is the main thing you have struggled with in this respect?
AM: The biggest challenge for me is the difference between how I feel on the inside and how I look on the outside. I am obviously human and have my “oh my gosh I REALLY don’t like what I see” days where I am self critical and get frustrated with myself. I’ve let society’s perceptions of athleticism dictate to me what it means to be an athlete for far too long, and it’s totally that image piece that doesn’t fit society’s norms when it comes to looking like an athlete.
The times I feel like my appearance really affects this perception is when I have to purchase athletic gear or step into a gym/athletic facility. The perceived perception is that I don’t really have use for the gear, that I won’t fit into the gear, or, that I’m just another unfit person who needs help getting into shape.
It’s essentially an underlying sense of judgment. It’s not a malicious judgment, but more of a misunderstanding or assumption. As a person who believes in opportunity, I have always approached judgment from a place of positivity and a chance to share my story. Usually once I drop a few lines on races I’ve run or goals I am working on, or even share my story, people are genuinely supportive. In return, I think this is awesome and usually end up picking up a few more friends because of it! I just wish that those assumptions didn’t exist to begin with. I wish I didn’t have to prove myself just because of the way I look and that I could walk into a space just knowing that despite being larger, I am still accepted as an athlete.
Next week, on part 2 of 3: how to self-identify as an athlete, how to push past other people’s perceptions.