I spent countless hours in the weight room as a college athlete. Each session, I entered through the double doors, opened the drawer, and routinely pulled out the sheet of paper with my name at the top. There it listed each exercise, and the goal for the amount of repetitions I perform on each one. I embraced the challenges, and felt satisfaction from the pain I endured throughout each lift. I pushed with all my might as my arms trembled from the bench press, and watched through the mirror as my legs shook uncontrollably; true signs of strength, muscle gain, and resilience. The feelings were both exhilarating and empowering.
It was clear I played a sport on campus; and not just from wearing gear embroidered with “Michigan State Women’s Soccer,” all over the front. I was muscular. I was toned. I was athletic-looking. My legs were defined, and thicker than most girls. My arms were cut, and defined. And, even on a night out, when wearing a dress and heels, my calves bulged out and were undeniably accentuated. But, I was a college athlete. So, those features represented strength, success, and dominance.
I was lucky at the time. It didn’t take much for me to build muscle through weight lifting and training. Whether it was genetics or the many years of competing at a high level of soccer, my body had always been distinguished as “athletic.” But, when the time came, and I graduated college, completing my four years of eligibility, I was confronted with insecurities that I never had experienced.
I went from girl to woman; from athlete to coach. I went from being a student-athlete to being an employee in the workforce. I was friends with people who had never even played a sport. I was no longer in the elite category of “college athlete.” I no longer could excuse my muscular body for playing college soccer. The once accepted and admired Adidas sweatsuits were quickly recognized as masculine, unattractive clothing.
Without even realizing, my wardrobe immediately shifted from Adidas soccer apparel to Lululemon athletica. Though both of these companies manufacture sports gear, one is viewed as much sexier, more feminine, and stylish. I jumped on the bandwagon. I wanted to be trendy, attractive, and accepted in this new world of young, savvy, and career driven women.
No longer an “athlete,” my role model had quickly gone from Serena Williams to Kim Kardashian. I desired a different body type; one that, outside of my college athlete bubble, society depicted as ideal. I entered the world of Lululemon, and the first thing you see when you walk into the store are those mannequins lined up throughout the store. Sure, they are displaying their newest leggings and pants; but, they are also using this figure to present the body type that best models their clothing.
Not only do the mannequins come close to having their thighs touch, but they flaunt their lengthy, skinny legs that I have only ever wished of possessing… For even just one day! How is it possible to go from confident, bold, and strong in my college ensemble to feeling fat, unworthy, and unqualified in my new post-college attire? I have the power to choose my wardrobe, which I did not have as an athlete.
There are many obstacles college athletes are confronted with following their playing careers. Some may come upon a weight gain struggle, an identity crisis, or even a lack of motivation to exercise. While, I have also experienced other issues, one that continues to appear is my desire to appear feminine, attractive, thin, and appealing; attributes that would not have allowed me to be successful on the college soccer field. I have come to realize, I will never look like the Lululemon mannequin, and not even close to it. But, as I continue to wardrobe myself their in unbelievably comfortable, sexy, and trendy workout gear, I remember this: I was an athlete. I am an athlete. And I will forever be proud of being an athlete.