Pro Triathlete Kara LaPoint – Body size and being a “bigger” athlete

karaHere is a wonderful, tell-it-like-it-is article from Pro Triathlete Kara LaPoint about female athletes, body image, and the TRUTH about body size – smaller is not always better…

A different take on “Fitspiration”: Embracing YOU

I have to say I’m glad that January is over. While that first month on the calendar brings the promise, potential and opportunity of a new year ahead and a fresh start, it also tends to bring a LOT of talk, in a whole lot of unavoidable spheres, about fitness, weight and body image… essentially, a lot of talk about how we should be trying to be lighter — and therefore “better” — versions of ourselves. A lot of talk about body “transformations,” and diets, and whatever fitness or food craze might come next. A lot of talk implying that our self-worth is directly tied to the number we see when we stand on a scale.

Sorry, but that’s complete bullshit. And I’m tired of sitting back and watching it all unfold, and watching so many women and fellow female athletes be made to feel not-good-enough because society says they should look a certain way, maintain a specific weight or fit a designated mold. I’m tired of the quantification and classification of our bodies and the way that it seems to be so socially acceptable. So I choose not to accept it, and I encourage you to do the same.

While the New Year’s resolution hype always makes me feel especially and inescapably inundated by the weight loss and body image talk of January, this is a topic that comes up very regularly in my life as an elite athlete. Our bodies are the epicenter of what we do, so there’s just no getting around the reality that as a professional triathlete, essentially it is my job to fine-tune and prime my body for performance. Inevitably, there’s a lot of ‘body talk’ associated with that, and unfortunately a lot of comparison as well.

I’ve gotten more comments than I could count with respect to my body and how it relates to my performance, from all kinds of people. I’ve been told countless times that I “don’t look like a triathlete.” “You look more like a basketball player than a triathlete!” they’ve said. (But what does that even mean…?! Who says triathletes, basketball players, or any type of athlete should only look one certain way?!) People have told me they “can’t believe” or “just don’t understand how” I can run so fast. (Because apparently you can only run fast if you’re a certain size…?!). Recently, I heard from a friend of mine that after we’d been swimming together she was approached by another swimmer at the pool who said to her, “Wow, I’m surprised to see how big Kara is for being such a good athlete… That’s really cool.” And at Xterra World Championships last year, after one of the best performances of my life where I finished 13th and just a few minutes out of the top 10, one of my competitors (who I had dropped on the longest, steepest climb) said to me, “I’m shocked that you like the climbs because you are so much bigger.” The list goes on and on, and on…

And how does all of this make me feel? Honestly, it makes me feel not ashamed or embarrassed, but DAMN. PROUD. Why yes, I do love the climbs, because they challenge me to push harder than I think I can and I love rising to that challenge even when others back down. And yes, I did drop that competitor and several others on the many grueling, seemingly endless climbs of the World Championship course, despite being a “bigger” athlete (or maybe it was actually because of all the power that my “bigger” body was able to generate…?!). Yes, I have climbed the ranks through my sport and achieved success as a professional endurance athlete “despite” having the “wrong body type,” or not “looking the part.” And yes, that is really cool. Every single time someone says to me “I don’t know how you do that,” I actually smile real big inside. Because yep, I am doing this, and doing it well, in this body – in MY body, just as it is supposed to be.

Frankly, I really don’t think that numbers should even matter here, or ever, but to provide some perspective — and hopefully also some relatability, or perhaps even some inspiration — I typically weigh 155-160 pounds during the off-season, and between 150-155 during race season. In a peaking period when I am at my absolute fittest, I might just dip under 150. At any rate, I am not a particularly “light” person, especially in the context of professional triathlon, where I weigh significantly more than the majority of my competitors. I race against some athletes who are literally 2/3 my size…

Read the full blog HERE.

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