I'll Never Be A Skinny Runner

I'll Never Be A Skinny Runner

And that's OK, too
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I've been involved in sports since I was five years old. It ranged from soccer to volleyball to gymnastics. I LOVED being active and playing with my friends. I didn't eat the healthiest throughout my elementary and middle school years (But what kid does?). I absolutely loved chocolate or anything sweet. I was never overweight, but I wasn't healthy.

In seventh grade, I lost my period for months and enjoyed every minute of it. At the time, I hadn't the slightest idea of what that actually meant. It's not healthy. I just knew that I was free to wear a bikini all summer without worry. I ended up quitting soccer when I was 13 to join my school's track and field team. There, I started out with sprints like the 100-meter dash. My eating didn't change much, but I was still fairly tiny.

In high school, everything changed.

I joined my school's track team to run the 400-meter dash my first year. I ran well — well enough to join cross country the next year. If I could race a lap, I can race about three miles, right? The next three years of my high school career opened new opportunities for me to race mid-distance events: the 800, 1000, and the mile. However, I noticed my body changing. My butt got bigger, arms got more muscular, my thighs grew, I gained weight, etc. I had to eat more to support my exercise intake. In races, I wasn't stepping up to the line with as much confidence because I was bigger than other girls.

I wasn't built like a distance runner.

I felt awkward running cross country. I felt awkward wearing spandex. I felt like an outcast — I was no longer comfortable running in my own skin. I hated eating because I was so scared of getting bigger. I weighed myself everyday to make sure I wasn't gaining any more weight. Every time I did eat, I'd go exercise to burn it off. This eventually led to my body shutting down in my second race of the season — and that's when I knew I couldn't fight it anymore.

I had to learn how to be comfortable with this new body. I started eating healthier and weighing myself less. I'd see girls who were smaller than me running and beating me, so I thought that I had to be a certain size to run fast. Once I admitted to myself that I'll never be as small as those other girls, I started to run those same times, but with my own body.

Today, I still struggle with body image, but I have to remind myself that everyone is different. We all have different bodies with different functions. My goal is to be STRONG. Not small. To be LEAN. Not skinny. I may not look the part — but it's important not to count myself out of the race when it hasn't even started yet. I love to run. To race.

I hope other girls can continue to be confident and comfortable with their own body because it's unique and it's completely theirs to show off to the world.

Cover Image Credit: Candace Jones

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To The Coach Who Ruined The Game For Me

We can't blame you completely, but no one has ever stood up to you before.
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I know you never gave it a second thought, the idea that you're the reason I and many others, never went any farther in our athletic careers.

I know you didn’t sincerely care about our mental health, as long as we were physically healthy and our bodies were working enough to play. It’s obvious your calling wasn’t coaching and you weren’t meant to work with young adults, some who look to you as a parent figure or a confidant.

I also know that if we were to express our concerns about the empty feeling we began to feel when we stepped onto the court, you wouldn’t have taken the conversation seriously because it wasn’t your problem.

I know we can't blame you completely, no one has ever stood up to you before. No one said anything when girls would spend their time in the locker room crying because of something that was said or when half the team considered quitting because it was just too much.

We can't get mad at the obvious favoritism because that’s how sports are played.

Politics plays a huge role and if you want playing time, you have to know who to befriend. We CAN get mad at the obvious mistreatment, the empty threats, the verbal abuse, “it's not what you say, its how you say it.”

We can get mad because a sport that we loved so deeply and had such passion for, was taken away from us single-handedly by an adult who does not care. I know a paycheck meant more to you than our wellbeing, and I know in a few years you probably won’t even remember who we are, but we will always remember.

We will remember how excited we used to get on game days and how passionate we were when we played. How we wanted to continue on with our athletic careers to the next level when playing was actually fun. We will also always remember the sly remarks, the obvious dislike from the one person who was supposed to support and encourage us.

We will always remember the day things began to change and our love for the game started to fade.

I hope that one day, for the sake of the young athletes who still have a passion for what they do, you change.

I hope those same athletes walk into practice excited for the day, to get better and improve, instead of walking in with anxiety and worrying about how much trouble they would get into that day. I hope those athletes play their game and don’t hold back when doing it, instead of playing safe, too afraid to get pulled and benched the rest of the season.

I hope they form an incredible bond with you, the kind of bond they tell their future children about, “That’s the coach who made a difference for me when I was growing up, she’s the reason I continued to play.”

I don’t blame you for everything that happened, we all made choices. I just hope that one day, you realize that what you're doing isn’t working. I hope you realize that before any more athletes get to the point of hating the game they once loved.

To the coach that ruined the game for me, I hope you change.

Cover Image Credit: Author's photo

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An Open Letter To The Coach Who Inspired Me Forever

Anyone who's found a love for a sport (or sports) while playing for rec teams, club teams or teams for a local school, can agree.. that somewhere along the way, there was a coach that changed everything.

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When I was five years old, my parents signed me up for my first organized sport. It happened to be the Fall of the year I entered kindergarten and the sport happened to be soccer. Now, at this age calling it, an "organized" sport is quite a reach. We met once a week, put on our colored pennies and ran around in a big field while a volunteer coach really thought they'd have the chance to corral us. That year, I continued through the seasons and got my first glimpse at a number of other sports. Cheering, basketball, and t-ball were all on my to-do list, and soon I was hooked.

Every week I would look forward to games on the weekend and a practice or two along the week. By the third or fourth grade, I believed I had narrowed down the sports I really wanted to play: soccer, basketball, and baseball. I played all of these until the fifth grade when it was first suggested that I switch over to softball.

I absolutely hated the idea of this but, that spring it happened. I was the first one to be "drafted" onto a team, that come to find out, was the team that always finished last. Even knowing this, I continued to play and learn every position and somehow leading my team to its first championship in years.

This.

This was the moment I learned to love the sport I least expected to, and first met the coach who would change my view on the game. Although the story leading up to this point may not have been the same as yours, we all know the moment we realized, this coach was going to change us.

For me, this coach over my middle and high school careers became one of the most important people in my world now revolving around this sport. He fought for my spot on the middle school team when the coach claimed I was "too young" and wanted to give older girls a spot. He pulled me to the varsity lineup as a Freshman and trusted me to catch every-game behind the plate of the senior pitcher who clearly had the speed and talent to pitch collegiately. He continued to mentor me, step by step as my role on the team transitioned from freshman catcher, to second baseman, to senior captain pitcher.

This coach changed everything for me. He taught me respect and accountability and I'd get out what I put into not only the sport, but all my other endeavors. He taught me integrity, and perseverance. But he also taught me how to have fun while I played. How to step onto the field and play my hardest, but know no-matter the score as long as I did my best it was a good game.

I had never known what it was like to have someone other than my parents be so invested in my success before. Of course, they're going to be there for every game, every carpool to practice and every early Sunday morning tournament. But often times, the coach who leaves it all on the field goes unnoticed. The coach who will sit after a game and cry with you after you played your very last game... the coach that truly made you believe in yourself.

So here's to him. Here's to the blood, sweet and tears left behind. Here's to "the good, the bad and the ugly" as he'd say, and learning that any bruise can be fixed by rubbing a little dirt on it. Thank you for your devotion. Thank you for shaping me in to the player I am today, and continuing to do so for others. Thank you for inspiring me everyday to be the best I could be.

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