Our bodies: something our society is fixated on. Everywhere you look, there’s a new trend to help us shift the number on the scale, stay lean, or build muscle. There is no one size that fits all when it comes to athleticism, and any professional you talk to who is worth their stuff knows that to be a fact. (Psst – you can read more of my viewpoint in more detail in the June issue of Heels Down Magazine.)
When it comes to athletes, you will be hard pressed to find one body type that is relatively better than the next. Yes, there is a difference between what a healthy body composition is for each individual and what an unhealthy state is physiologically. When it comes to how we perform, demonstrate our athletic abilities, and ride, what matters most is not weight, body composition, or size. Those three things are the least important on the list of things that impact our performance and our label as athletes.
I use this example often. When I was competing full-time as an equestrian athlete in my early twenties, I weighed in at 180 lbs. I was training 4-6 days a week both in and out of the tack, eating the healthiest I ever have, and maintaining a full time university schedule. Then, I broke my leg, went through a bad case of burnout and depression, took a break from riding, then got mono which knocked me flat for six months (it was a rough 18 months).
Health and athleticism are in no way, shape, or form related to body size, weight, or appearance.
My weight stayed at 180 lbs. Did I look and feel different physically? You bet. The weight did not budge. Fast forward to a couple years later. I was launching a business, graduating, and then trekking to Everest Base Camp. My body composition changed drastically, yet my weight stayed at 180 lbs the whole time (even at insanely high altitudes, getting dragged up a mountain by very tolerant Sherpas). All through my adult life, regardless of how “athletic” or “un-athletic” I’ve been, my weight has not varied much. It’s proven to me that weight and body size is just a number. Our structure does not equal our ability.
As athletes we are under pressure physically, mentally, and emotionally. As humans we are the targets of marketing at all times. Branding and marketing experts know how to communicate to our brains the perceived need to always improve, lose weight, eat better, jump higher, and run faster.
On top of this, many of us get caught in a bubble of comparisons – particularly in this day and age, with social media being the main forum where many of us connect. It’s human nature to compare, but it’s also human nature to relate. Dealing with our monkey minds often means remembering that all the insecurities and things you feel you need to change about yourself are likely the same as those the person you’re comparing yourself to goes through, too.
One of the biggest things I’ve learned in the health, fitness, and athletic development industry is that everyone from elite athletes to grassroots amateurs experiences very similar (or identical) insecurities, worries, anxieties, and desires. We also share the same successes.
Key points to remember here are that health and athleticism are in no way, shape, or form related to body size, weight, or appearance. Our physical composition is made up of not just muscle and bone, but also of water retention, lymphatic fluids (and various other fluids which fluctuate by the minute), and can even be influenced by emotional and mental perception. Our eyes tell our brain what’s in front of us (or in the mirror), but our brain can also influence the reality our eyes see (no, I haven’t watched The Matrix too many times).
Take comparisons and judgements against yourself with a healthy dose of salt – we all struggle with loving our physical appearances. I truly believe that if we all talked about our insecurities with each other more, we would all have less of them.
Kathlyn Hossack is a regular fitness columnist for Heels Down Magazine and is a Certified Athletic Therapist and Kinesiologist. This month and every month, Heels Down Magazine is feeling the #RiderBodyLove. It’s your body. Ride in it. Click the banner for more.