By: Arden Burrows
Female athletes often feel pressured to conform to a certain body type or weight for their sport. Running, figure skating, gymnastics, and dance all encourage thin, small body types. When athletes lose weight, their times begin to drop and they often find they perform better. Many professional athletes tend to sport very skinny physiques, leading young female athletes to believe that being skinny is the only way you can run fast or perform well. This is not true. More and more we are seeing healthier looking professional athletes competing at the Olympics and other international events, proving that having a strong build can lead to fast times and fewer injuries.
Everyone is built differently and if you are constantly chasing after an unattainable body goal in order to look like the top runners, you could be putting yourself in danger. Not adequately fueling for the amount you are exercising is a far too common issue among female athletes. Almost exactly one year ago, I was diagnosed with a stress fracture. At first we couldn’t understand why I was injured. My training hadn’t been too intense lately and I was coming off a weeklong break from running. Finally, we figured out that my bone density was being compromised because I hadn’t been getting my period. I wasn’t eating enough for the amount I was training and so my body was shutting down an essential function in an attempt to tell me that something was wrong.
Fortunately, I am still young and my long-term bone density was not compromised. If I had been a few years older, however, I could’ve have damaged my bone density forever. This would have significantly increased my risk for osteoporosis later in life and might have extinguished my hopes of running competitively in the future.
Attitudes are shifting but they need to keep evolving so that there’s more discussion around this issue between athletes, coaches, parents, and teammates. Female athletes need to understand the importance of proper fueling and nutrition and need to recognize that skinny does not always equal faster.