Embracing Strong One Triumph At A Time
When I read Brett's story it brought me back to the realization that we as a society are so quick to put stereotypes and ideals on a women's body type. I am so happy that Brett has decided to share her story with you all. Share it with your daughters, sisters, friends, and co-workers. Make sure that every women in your life, especially young female athletes, know that there is no ideal body shape and they can achieve whatever they put their minds to. You can follow Brett on Twitter at @BrettZorich800 or Instagram at Brreeezzzyyy.
Up until the end of my freshman year of high school body image was really something I never thought about. My whole life sports had been my outlet. I dreamed of playing soccer in college, and wanted to do anything I could to get better. Growing up in the Mia Hamm era, strong females were something I looked up to. I decided to run track my freshman year so that I could get in better shape for soccer, and I ended up falling in love. Running was mentally and physically challenging, something very new to me, I was hooked. On the soccer field I was always one of the smallest players and it never crossed my mind that I needed to look a certain way to be successful.
After my first season of track I had decent success and was very excited for next year. I was chatting with friends about plans for the next season when for the first time in my life someone brought up puberty negatively affecting female runners. She went on to tell me as women get older they have a harder time not gaining weight. That many female runners find success early, and slowly decline after because they become “womanly” and or get “bigger”. At the time I was rail thin, 5 feet tall, and barely breaking 100 pounds. The idea of not being small had never been something I thought about. I just knew though that I didn’t want what she was talking about to happen to me. That is the moment my struggle with body image started.
I decided to train even harder, and cut all foods I classified as unhealthy out of my diet. I constricted my food, I would go out late at night or early in the mornings to run or workout on top of the practices I was already going to with my team. I gained confidence and defined myself with how well I was performing. My attempt to beat puberty was working. At the beginning I saw lots of success on the track, but I was so consumed by the way I thought I had to look to be successful. I didn't even begin to realize how I was damaging my body. I was always so outwardly confident and tough, but internally I was loosing it. Eventually I became injured, and even after I got healthy I was never able to run as fast as I had before. When I decided to run in college my main goal was to prove to myself that I could in fact run fast and eating normally. I wanted to prove to myself that I didn't have to over exercise to achieve my goals. Once I started to take care of my body and I began Olympic lifting, I started to look strong again.
Even though it took 6 painfully long years to run well again, I went from being sickly small to now being a “thick” distance runner, as my teammates at UNLV would tell me. Every time I was called "big for a runner" I would grimace, still in the back of my head coming into my senior year all I wanted to do was be healthy, and run well. I poured every ounce of my heart and determination into my senior year, where I pr’d in the 400m by 2.5 seconds and 7 seconds in the 800m. I was strong, happy, and finally able to believe that I didn’t have to be stick thin to run well. There is no shape or size that a runner or athlete needs to be, and I finally realized that. I was still in the eyes of others “bigger” but that no longer bothered me anymore. I took a lot of pride in how strong I had become and never looked back.
I am now a middle distance coach at a small Division one school named Saint Mary’s, which is nestled below the hills in the East Bay. While an on going Achilles injury has kept me sidelined from competing at the elite level, I still want to show my athletes what it is to embrace your strong. I don’t ever want my athletes to think that they have to look or be a certain way to be successful. I never want them to define their confidence by their performance, I want them to embrace their strong however that may be for them.