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.