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Why Growing Up in Sports Taught Me to Appreciate My Body – And What You Can Do Now to Have Positive Body Image

My journey with my own body image and fitness has definitely evolved throughout my life. Growing up, I played basketball, ran, swam, and danced. I don’t remember being concerned with how my body looked until I got to highschool. Prior to high school, I was heavily involved in swimming. I grew up taking swimming lessons and then eventually I got into competitive swimming. I noticed that when starting to workout in a gym, losing weight or attaining a certain body was kind of an implied goal. While I would love to get more in shape, the goal of myself working out is not to fit a certain size jeans. 

Thinking back now, the goal of swimming was never to look a certain way. This is what I miss about swimming and sports in general. While competing in sports, you tend to get in better shape, because you are strengthening your body and gaining more endurance. But the purpose of sports is not to look a certain way. My experience in sports taught me to appreciate all that my body can do and that I am capable of more than I may believe. So why do we as adults do this when thinking about working out? This mentality that we need to change how we look, weigh a certain amount, and fit into a certain size of jeans, is so toxic and negative. This mentality is oversimplifying all that our body does for us; our worth should not be cut down to our weight. We as a society need to start teaching one another to appreciate and love our bodies for all that they do for us.

As I try to piece together a more positive sense of self and body image, I am simultaneously working on retraining how I view working out and my intentions with it. I do not want my motivation to go to the gym to be that “I hate how my body looks” or that “I want to look more like this person.” Those are hollow goals that only reinstate a mentality of self hatred. Working out to gain more endurance, become stronger, reach a new goal, improve mental health, or to simply have time to yourself are more positive perspectives to have. 

Lately I have been going to the gym 3-4 times a week to give myself a change of pace, especially being home from school and having more free time than usual. I typically do free weights and ab exercises and then some form of cardio, whether that be interval running or high incline speed walking on the treadmill or the stairmaster for a set amount of time. I leave the gym with a sense of satisfaction, that I pushed myself and accomplished something. I feel relieved of some stress and more centered in my body, because I was able to focus on simply moving my body. I am trying to get more comfortable slowly adding more to my strength workout and also gain endurance when it comes to running. I’ve never been the greatest runner, especially long distance wise, but I’d love to challenge myself and see what happens! 

Moving your body is known to increase endorphin production within your body. The hypothalamus and pituitary gland release endorphins in response to pain or stress, in turn relieving stress and creating a general sense of well-being, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Viewing fitness as a stress reliever has helped change my intentions when it comes to working out.

When I think back to when I was swimming, I wasn’t focused on how my body looked. I swam 4-6 times a week and simply loved the sport. It was a fun break after school to see my friends and fool around, but it also gave me an outlet to grow and challenge myself. Learning to appreciate my body for all it’s worth is not a linear journey, but bringing this mentality with me has definitely helped. Trying to move your body regularly, whether that be walking, biking, running, swimming, playing basketball, or lifting weights, can be a great way to relieve stress and appreciate your body as being a complex system that is truly capable of so much.

Elizabeth is an undergraduate student at MSU studying Neuroscience. In the future, Elizabeth hopes to attend medical school to become a physician. Outside of being a writer for Her Campus MSU, she enjoys spending time with friends, cooking, spending time outside, working out, swimming, and traveling. She loves writing and hopes to gain more experience through Her Campus!
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