Strength and Beauty: Using Athletics to Empower

Women’s sports are absolutely winning right now. The US Women’s National Team cinched their third World Cup title, the Williams sisters continue to demonstrate their dominance at the 2015 Wimbledon, and the “strength is beauty” campaign is stronger than ever (pun intended). The face of athletics, of women’s empowerment, and women’s body image is on the brink of redefinition. How can we continue the upward momentum while bypassing the continuous photoshop fiascos? Athletics may be the answer.

Our New Normal

Women (and men) begin to learn the cultural constructs of body image at a young age. These images are perpetuated throughout our lives. Images of models, muscles, and perceived perfection are everywhere. ESPN the magazine has used their power to redefine perfection by releasing the “body issue."

This themed issue highlights popular athletes bodies in an editorial fashion, while noting why they are built certain ways- a way of highlighting body function as an explanation to its outside appearance.

Function over Form

ESPN hit the nail on the head with body image: FUNCTION is the key. Yes, you may fit into a smaller size top, but can you support your body weight in a pushup? Can you support your own weight PLUS a barbell in a squat? Once we start finding worth in what the human body is capable of, the idea of image changes; people can look at their body by what it has accomplished and the work it took to get there.

Dr. Joel Young agrees with this ideal as well, stating, “Your body’s job isn’t to be appealing to others. Its purpose is to carry you through the world.”

All sports require a certain set of skills that dictate how your body develops. This is the most exciting element of sport: you can see yourself change based on your specific activity- all of which are better than comparing yourself to anyone other than yourself.

Practice. Play. Thrive.

We may not all be World Cup champions, tennis stars, or CrossFit Games athletes- but we are all champions in our own right. You’ve set out to achieve a goal, and no matter the size- the accomplishment is validation that you are capable of amazing things thanks to your body. Ability transfers to confidence, which is beauty-radiating out from within.

Whether it’s CrossFit, soccer, tennis, basketball, swimming, lacrosse, running, or anything else in between- try it, practice it, and find what keeps you active and motivated the most. There are goals attached to these activities that are more measureable, attainable, and rewarding than anyone else’s definition of ‘perfect’.

It’s great to be muscular. It’s even better to be strong. It’s a great time to be a female dedicated to health, wellness, and happiness. How do you redefine what’s perfect? Chances are, stepping into a gym, pool, field, or court gets you closer to your meaning.