Recently, I started a Journey of L.O.V.E challenge for my subscribers. I asked my audience to embrace self-love in various ways for 40 days. Clients are challenged to do various things, such as come up with a daily mantra, like "I am happy, strong, and capable," or to find 1-3 things they love about themselves each day, such as "I have an infectious laugh; I have strong forearms; I cook amazing." I decided to create this challenge for various reasons. One reason being the increased issues I see within American culture to compare oneself to others due to the ramifications of social media, mainly Instagram. What I observe are people expressing feelings of not being enough or feeling bad about themselves when they look at people's photos, which provide only life highlights and not the real thing. What I notice are increased feelings of depression, and I'm not okay knowing so many people are caught up in this mess, which is why I created the challenge. The platform I am ironically using for this challenge is in fact Instagram. The purpose of my challenge is to hopefully, positively impact some people to stop comparing themselves to others, and to embrace themselves more.
Since I started the challenge, has meant that I have to lead the challenge and participate in the challenge. Very early on a profound exclamation came out of me. I discovered on the third day of my Journey of L.O.V.E that one thing I love about myself is that I am an accomplished athlete! Yet, on places like Instagram, what is being advertised as an athlete is often not the case. As a female athlete, I feel I need to stand by the meme: In a world full of fitness models, be an athlete. In my opinion, athleticism is radically different than being a fitness model.
On Journey of L.O.V.E. Day 3, I decided I was going to focus on one thing I absolutely love about myself: I love that I am an accomplished athlete! On this day, I made it very clear on a social media post that an athlete is a person who has skills and TALENT within athletics (e.g. eye hand coordination, explosive power, stamina, the ability to visualize space and move through space with fluidity). Athletes are kinesthetic people. Athletes know how to connect with their bodies and adapt their bodies to various situations. Athletes often have quick reflexes, too. Athletes are generally driven to the point of obsession to be the best in their sport. When an athlete is injured, or unable to use their body, it is mentally discouraging and physically depressing. Athletes are people who have to physically work hard to feel complete. Athletes are people who need constant movement to feel like their lives have purpose. Athletes love the feel of elevated heart rates, sweat, and being pushed to exhaustion. Athletes are often people who see food as fuel, and eat in a way to provide them the best performance. For my athletes reading this, you know exactly what I am talking about. However, I personally feel that social media platforms, like IG, are confusing people, particularly women, with the true notion of what it means to be an athlete.
To begin, I think it is wonderful that more women and men want to get in shape, eat better, and strive for a body that they feel comfortable living in. This post is not about casting judgement on anyone pursuing a healthier lifestyle. Actually, this post is trying to minimize damage to huge problems we already have in our society: comparing ourselves to others, falsely advertising products, and the objectification of the female body for fitness, marketing profit.
First, I want to make it clear that working-out and exercising are not necessarily athleticism or training. To workout everyday is amazing and I completely support it. It takes discipline and dedication, but it’s not talent or athletics. Can it evolve into a sport or athletics? Yes, it most certainly can, but it does not have to evolve into an athletic endeavor. I do not even consider all people who participate in modern, regional bodybuilding shows to be athletes. Yet, at the national and pro-level of bodybuilding, I admire many life-long athletes, who turned to bodybuilding as a way to strive for competitions when they could no longer participate in a sport they once loved.
Likewise, being pretty does not make someone an athlete. However, it is the people with the pretty faces and overall, aesthetic package which get the biggest followers on social media, and support from some supplement and clothing companies. I see this typically happen more with women than with men, and this connects back to the underlying issue within western society to objectify women for marketing profit. In defense of female athletes, all the pictures I've used for this blog are to show the array which athleticism for women actually looks like. What a female athlete looks like and what companies project female athletes look like is drastically different than what gets recognition for many companies on places like Instagram. https://www.instagram.com
I would like to add, that athletes are the ones who can do more than dumbbell curls or look great in a bikini. Athletes are competitive creatures who need to work toward goals constantly. Athletes are always pushing themselves to either find a new PR (personal record for a one max rep https://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/other7.htm) for their deadlift, a faster pace for their mile, a new record for their laps in the pool, taller waves to drop from, a better landing for their round-offs, or to jump a further distance with their long jump. Whatever their sport is, a true athlete always wants to be the best, and when a true athlete is training it's not all about looks; rather, it's about performance. This isn't to say a female athlete can't chose to wear makeup to train or play a sport; rather, it means that what is valued more is being their best much more than looking the part. And let’s be honest, you can tell the difference between a real athlete and someone just trying to look the part.
In defense of supplement companies, I can understand why they turn to people who are aesthetically pleasing to sell their products because sex sells. We live in a capitalistic society, so whatever sells is what companies are going to use because money wins at the end of the day for business owners. However, who a supplement company or fitness apparel company uses as a model to advertise for them does not mean the person is an athlete. I can always tell who is truly an athlete or not just by exploring the model's social media page. When I explore a person’s site, who is marked as an athlete, and nothing they post is related to sports, strength, or fitness I feel annoyed, frustrated, and discouraged. As a female athlete, it tells me that sex appeal trumps athletic ability, and this to me is not okay. In my opinion, it is archaic thinking. In my opinion, this is where a shift in marketing needs a make-over.
I know I cannot change society alone, debunk the beauty myth alone, or see my opinions turn to reality overnight. What I can change, however, is who I support in the fitness industry. Starting now, I will only support companies and people who are true to athletes, sports, and fitness and nutrition experts. I’m doing this for my own respect as an athlete, scholar, coach, trainer, and humanitarian. I am also making this conscience choice for young girls and boys. In my opinion, our youth needs role models who truly represent what it means to be an athlete. I feel this decision will help our youth to see the true beauty of sports, bodies, strength, and talent. Hopefully, my decisions can create a ripple affect by encouraging more people to do the same. Hopefully, overtime, companies can start giving more credit to where credit is deserved.
I am a new mother who has her hands full! I juggle not just my coaching business, but I am also a full time educator. I also teach yoga in the Bay Area, and I mentor first generation college students.