Embracing Strength: Navigating Body Image as a Female Athlete

Female flexing (Credit: The Amino Company)

Striving for Peak Performance While Honoring Individuality and Well-being

In the eyes of many, female athletes are seen as determined and inspirational figures. They dedicate countless days to training, recovery, travel, and balancing their lives with their sport. Female athletes must navigate numerous factors, including their physique, to achieve peak performance. Having the physique of an athlete brings pride and a sense of accomplishment.

Awareness and Impact of Weight in Athletics

As a former Division One (D1) collegiate athlete, I was keenly aware of how my weight affected my performance. I understood that achieving an optimal weight was crucial for excelling on the soccer field—the lighter I was, the faster I could move. However, weightlifting was equally essential in college athletics due to its many benefits. We incorporated daily weightlifting into our training regimen, and its impact was significant. My goal during training was to increase strength, which naturally involved gaining muscle mass and, consequently, weight. I found myself addicted to lifting—an addiction I embraced for the satisfaction and personal challenges it provided. I appreciated how muscle definition enhanced my physique, though the number on the scale often brought me down. I had to remind myself constantly that weight fluctuates, particularly between preseason conditioning phases and seasons focused more on weightlifting.

A female athlete lifting a barbell
Female Lifting (Credit: Times of India)

Embracing the Challenges of Body Image

The challenge of physique and body image is a common struggle among female athletes, affecting them mentally and physically. This struggle extends beyond the sports environment into everyday life. For instance, there have been times when I’ve compared myself to teammates with defined abs or muscular legs, questioning whether I was somehow inadequate. Even walking around campus, I wondered if people could tell I was an athlete.

During these challenging times, I found solace in my faith. Turning to God’s teachings helped me realize that comparisons were unnecessary and that my body is a temple.

Balancing Discipline and Healthy Practices

It’s crucial for female athletes to understand that while discipline in nutrition and achieving a desired physique is important, it should never cross into unhealthy territory. Each athlete’s journey is unique, and our bodies respond differently to the demands placed on them. It’s essential to set realistic goals and resist the temptation to push ourselves to extreme limits, especially when already performing well and meeting all necessary requirements in our sport.

Celebrating Diversity in Athlete Physiques

To the female athlete reading this, to the loved ones of female athletes, and to those who admire women’s sports: Recognize that achieving success in athletics while maintaining a positive body image is vitally important. The path each female athlete takes varies widely, from softball players with powerful arms hitting home runs to soccer players with uniquely strong quads scoring and defending goals. It’s important to appreciate that these muscle groups may vary in appearance among different women, and what truly matters is their performance success.

To every female athlete, take care of yourself both physically and mentally as you continue to make an impact in women’s sports.

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