Shout from the Stands: Strong is the New Beautiful

by SwimSwam 4

June 03rd, 2015 Club, College, Lifestyle, Opinion

Courtesy of Lindsay Fano. Follow Lindsey: @lindseyfano

Big shoulders, bulging thigh muscles, flipper-sized feet, the list goes on and on. It seems that swimmers are almost more famous for their body stereotypes than their participation in the sport. True, body image is an inescapable part of our society, but too often mainstream culture focuses on two categories: overweight and skinny. While there have been strides to rectify the “skinny standard”, I believe these two categories neglect one swimmers are all too familiar with: strong.

Being a girl and a swimmer isn’t always easy. I get it. I would love to go the store and find a pair of jeans that fits over my thighs but isn’t four sizes too big for my waist. I have passed up countless cute strapless dresses and avoid cap-sleeve t-shirts like the plague. I take comfort in knowing I’m not the only one to struggle with these side effects of swimming.

Recently, I was at the gym lifting. As usual, I was one of the only girls in the overly-male populated lifting area. (Being able to squat more than fellow gym members is another thing that sometimes makes me wish for smaller legs). As I was leaving the gym, someone I knew came up to me and said, “You are really strong”. For the first time it sounded like a compliment which made me start to think about why we- female swimmers- tend to under-appreciate our bodies.

There’s really no getting around it- swimming makes for strong bodies. Add lifting to that and big muscles are pretty much inevitable. But, instead of wishing for toothpick legs and feminine shoulders, we need to start focusing on what our bodies can do rather than what they can’t.

I can’t wear certain clothes but I can swim miles and come back the next day and do the same.

I will never have skinny legs but I can dominate a kick set.

I can’t always fit my shoulders in small places but I can swim a 400 IM.

You get the point. There is so much we can do with our fit, strong bodies; it outweighs any kind of negative image we may hold of our bodies. So my challenge to you, start thinking of your body in terms of all it is capable of because you swim. Change your mindset and be proud of all the hours, weeks, years you’ve spent getting yourself to this point.

Next time someone tells you that you have big muscles, smile and say “thank you” because, as far as I’m concerned, strong is the new beautiful.

In This Story

Leave a Reply

4 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
4 Comment authors
newest oldest most voted
bobo gigi

“Strong is beautiful” is the title of the WTA’s marketing campaign for a few years to promote its players with Serena as main example.


Having been swimming since the early 1990s with a few years off for college and grad school, I think the swimmer physique is amazing. Not just from an attractiveness standpoint, I think athletic physiques are the way to go, and the swimmer physique is the most ideal athletic physique in my opinion. I know we men don’t have the same body type stigmas that women generally have to deal with, but it does suck to go clothes shopping! Even when I’m at my peak swimming shape, I have to forego buying straight legged jeans for the relaxed fit versions, since my thighs and butt are too large to fit in my actual size. I wear a suit to work every… Read more »


Katie Hoff tweeted,”‏@khoff09 I get a little bit of satisfaction with 40 lb dumbbells in my hands next to girls with 10s in their hands wasting their time. #comeon

I loved that. She is always tweeting about what she does in the gym and how it feels good to be strong.She is a role model I would want my daughters to connect to when it comes to how they want to see their body.

Don't want to miss anything?

Subscribe to our newsletter and receive our latest updates!