Almost a year ago, I officially ended my career as a student-athlete at Princeton. Upon concluding the season, I wrote a similar article to this for my weekly column in the “Prince”, our school newspaper. It focused mainly on the sense of identity I formed as a female athlete, and consequently, the confidence I developed with regards to my body and its athletic abilities. Having been in the “real world” now for nearly 8 months, I am pleasantly surprised to find that these lessons I learned as a college student have allowed me to further evolve as a female athlete and fitness professional. Here are a few of the “lessons” I’ve learned throughout this ongoing journey- which I think every woman should embrace, regardless of her level of athletic experience.
1) I own my body and its strengths
Throughout the last few years, I have noticed how almost all women are self-conscious about their bodies (I am not exempt from this). However, being a female athlete has made me much more aware of and also more comfortable with my body. Sure, there are times when I wish I could wear flowy frocks that look good on thin, frail models. But then I remember how weak I feel on the squash court after having failed to fuel properly before a practice. I remember how my body helps me to run, bike and hit a squash ball. The sense of accomplishment and personal pride I gain from success in athletics far outweighs the feeling of being a delicate model. Is my butt too big for those pants? Oh well, I can lunge on the squash court. A sweater is too tight on my shoulders? Hm, well I (almost) did a chin-up yesterday and that was pretty cool.
In my opinion, if you feel good in your body, it probably looks good too. And to be honest, who is scrutinizing it anyway? Playing squash, which appeals to a wide range of body types, has certainly opened my eyes to the variety of talent and skill which is used in the game, and for that I am grateful.
2) I appreciate eating well
Another topic that is somewhat contentious amongst females in our day and age besides body image is food intake. As an athlete, I eat to perform. My primary reason for eating well is not to keep a certain body fat percentage so I can wear a smaller-size squash dress (which, to be honest, fits me like a long shirt anyway). I eat well so that I can play well in the dress. Furthermore, I feel fortunate to not worry about being judged for what I eat. I truly enjoy good food, and being an athlete not only gives me a pass to eat as healthy as I want, but to splurge on “other” foods as well. Having a specific reason (such as an upcoming tournament) not only helps me stay on track, but also helps me avoid judgement from my friends and dinner companions.
3) I can beat guys (and I like it!)
Throughout my 12 years of competitive squash, I have had my fair share of games against both women and men. This has taught me that the battle of the sexes on court can be evenly matched. Some of my best performances have been against men, who, on paper should annihilate me. Developing this confidence from the squash court has transferred over to my professional and personal life, where I now feel comfortable competing against, training, or working out with anyone- regardless of gender. (In other words- I’m no longer intimidated by the buff guy at the squat rack!)
4) I have an excuse to wear cute workout gear
Gone are the days of yoga pants being restricted to the yoga or spin studio- and thank goodness! Not only are workout clothes extremely comfortable, but they have also become increasingly more stylish! I don’t know exactly which store or which celebrity we have to thank for creating “Athleisure”, but my legs and shoulders thank you. It can be difficult being a tall woman with an athletic build trying to fit my butt into certain skirts, and my shoulders into fitted blouses. I can truly say that wearing cute workout gear makes me feel both confident and comfortable. Win-win!