Strong is Beautiful
Triathlon means so much more than just swim-bike-run to me. I started training for my first triathlon in the midst of recovering from an eating disorder that had plagued my life for a long time. After years of self hate and meal-avoidance-maneuvers, I was ready to make a change. I was definitely on the up when I found tri, but my image in the mirror still made me cringe. I had been running A LOT for a number of years as a means to burn calories, essentially. I had turned being active into an obsession. Once I found triathlon, I realized I wanted to train for a different reason. I wanted to be strong and I wanted to be healthy. We're constantly being told the shape of our body determines our worth. I was ready to break that wall and learn to love myself no matter what.
I had spent years trying to change my body-make it smaller and smaller-until there was very little left, all in an attempt to love myself. In an attempt to be happy with who I was. An eating disorder is not just about how much you eat, or even your weight. It's about a mental illness that controls your every thought. I was floating through life obsessing over every bite of food and every bit of "fat" left on my body. I know this is a heavy subject (no pun intended), but it's something I think more people should talk about openly and not be ashamed. I'm one of the lucky ones. I was able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I owe a lot of that to the support of my family, friends, and loved ones…but also to triathlon and the community that surrounds it.
Training for a triathlon takes dedication, we all know that. You have to dedicate numerous hours of your time, but you also have to dedicate your body to your training. There's no "right" body for triathlon. There's no mold you have to fit into before you're allowed to sign up for a race. I love seeing every shape, size, and color meandering about transition getting their area race ready. I love the support athletes show, even though we're all competing against each other. This community is about positivity, uplifting one another, and being healthy.
Once I started training I knew I couldn't be competitive if I didn't have the proper nutrition- and I don't just mean during the race. The body needs fuel and I was ready to give mine premium…and plenty of it, when I wanted it, and stop when I was full. I wanted to be strong. I wasn't dreaming of being skinny like girls in ads anymore. That word-"skinny". It's a term regarding a number on a scale or on a pair of jeans. It holds no weight as to whether or not you're a valued human being.
Being strong and healthy has helped me feel truly beautiful for the first time in my life. Looking in the mirror after a long, sweaty run…that's when I feel beautiful. Crossing the finish line of a triathlon feeling like I'm going to puke…that's when I feel beautiful. I have more confidence and far less insecurities simply because I've stopped degrading myself and replaced that with a constant "damn girl, you look fine!" repeating in my head. I can't express enough how much learning to love myself has changed my life. I am able to love other people on a deeper level than I knew possible. I have learned to enjoy life in a whole new way. I love my thighs. I love my small chest. I love my butt. Why? Because I'm a living human being and this is the only body I'm going to get. No reason to waste time hating it. I think triathlon actually helped save my life. I found a love for a sport and a love for my body that I didn't know was possible. A positive mind leads to a positive life. LOVE YOURSELF.
By: Cori James
Follow Cori's journey on instagram! @colorful_tri_child