Why I TriSeptember 12, 2011
Women may exercise for several reasons: to reduce stress, to have fun, or to promote their health. The most common reason I hear, however, is to lose weight. It can be easy to end up resentfully seeing exercise as a chore you have to do to make up for those cookies you ate or to look thin for an upcoming event. As somebody who has been guilty of having this mindset, being an athlete has provided for me what Title IX has provided for so many girls and women in opening access to sports teams: the sense of loving your body for the amazing things it can accomplish rather than what it looks like.
The past several months, I have spent over 20 hours per week training for the Nation’s Triathlon, a race that includes a 1.5 km swim, a 40 km bike ride, and a 10 km run. Despite the fact that the swim portion was canceled, I exceeded all my time goals and enjoyed the sense of community as about 4,000 people of all different body types gathered in the supportive and friendly environment. While racing, I heard only encouraging comments from other participants, since we were all there to do our best and feel good at the end.
Instead of associating exercise with all of the negative body image messages women receive, triathlons and other races provide me a sense of accomplishment other than burning calories. The experience of training for this race improved my time management, goal setting and planning, discipline, and health. In a culture obsessed with women’s appearances and being thin, I’m privileged to be able to participate in events like this one that make me a healthier person mentally and physically. Enforcement of Title IX should be a priority so that girls and women in schools across the country can be guaranteed access to sports so they can enjoy the same empowering experiences and benefits.
This post was written by AAUW College/University Relations Intern Vanessa Wolbrink.