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Black Girl Magic

11 Aug

11231849_10155925756280268_3757726510498463682_nI don’t know what’s changed recently, but I’ve noticed a trend. I didn’t so much see it coming as much as I was so caught up in the whirlwind of it that I couldn’t see what was happening around me. But others did. They saw. They noticed and made sure others did. And it’s amazing.

Not one, not two, but three amazing fitness goddesses are gracing the covers of magazines this week. Not just any goddesses–black goddesses. These women are the epitome of black girl magic. And they are working it!

These three women exemplify what Black Girl Magic is–black women working hard and accomplishing the goals they’ve set out for themselves. It’s not often that the world gets to see such power, atheleticism and elegance exemplified by black women on the covers of national magazines. It’s uplifting and remarkable to see. I know I’ll be picking up my copies and learning more about these phenomenal women.

Serena Williams

11817170_10153516713484826_5534474984263977955_nMy love of Serena is well-documented on this blog. I don’t have to remind you of how her dedication to her sport is awe-inspiring. I don’t need to reiterate how watching her repeatedly defeat her opponents in such swift manner gives me the giggles. I shouldn’t have to tell you again that her body is my life’s goal.

What I will tell you is that she will head into her fourth and final Grand Slam of the season at the end of the month. I’ll fill you in on the fact that if she wins the U.S. Open, it will be the first time in decades a woman has completed a calendar-year Grand Slam. I’ll spill some tea about how Serena has learned to stop being so hard on herself and just enjoy the game. That glee at just being a part of the sport she loves so much has allowed her excel far more than anyone would have expected this far into her career.

And when she takes the court at the end of the month, I’ll be watching as many matches as possible. Because my hero deserves it.

Misty Copeland

misty_essenceJust as I have used a great amount of server space fawning over Serena, I’ve begun to notch out some room for Misty. I love dancers. I loved dancing as a kid. I still have impromptu dance parties by myself in my living room. The freedom of expression through movement is such an incredible craft to master. And Misty has done that in spades.

Like Serena, Misty was met with odd comments about her body. She is muscular, where many of her contemporaries are not. But she is athletic. She can take difficult choreogrophy, attack a move and still make you think she’s moving through the air like a feather. Because she’s awesome.

Essence magazine thought so, too, when they gave her the cover of September’s issue. In one of her spreads, she’s surrounded by several young black ballerinas who are looking up to their role model: the first black principle ballerina for the American Ballet Theater.

Misty is an inspiration to millions of young dancers who may not be the perceived ideal of what a prima ballerina looks like. She is the new ideal.

Ciara

ciara_shapeCiara’s had it rough in the press this summer. Not because of her album. Not because of any diva tirade she’s gone on. And not because of any scandal she’s created. She is an adult involved in a romantic relationship with another adult that doesn’t involve sex. This news would have blown over swiftly if it hadn’t been for her ex-boyfriend questioning her as a mother and her relationship decisions.

Instead of clapping back (as I would have), she took the high road. She ventured a couple of little subtweets and moved on having fun with Russell Wilson.

Then she went on to release the video that makes “Ride” and “Body Party” look like Kidz Bop videos.

Now, to top it all off, the mother of one is on the cover of Shape magazine looking like she’s ready to fight. Ciara has always had a great body. Like Misty, her body is her instrument. She’s an amazing dancer and keeps her body healthy to maintain those physical demands. Like Serena, she has studied the greats and uses that knowledge to make herself better.

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In Shape to Work Out

29 Jul
womens_running_cover

Courtesy of Women’s Running

I have large thighs. Occasionally they look like tree trunks. As I’ve gotten older, my arms have gotten wobbly. I have the opposite of a six-pack. And there’s flab in places I’d prefer it not to be.

I’m also a runner.

When perusing health magazines–or magazines in general–you won’t come across people who look much like me. But get out on the trail, and you’ll find us there. Those of us with short legs and jiggly butts. Those of us who’ve never had flat stomachs but possess awkward gaits. We’re out there with the supermodels and the model parents. We’re making full use of what nature has provided in order to make ourselves healthy.

We’re out there with people like Erica Schenk. It was such a treat to see Erica on the cover of Women’s Running magazine. The August issue features Erica mid-stride in her super-cute running wear, looking like many of the runners I pass (but also pass me).

Erica, who was being shot for a spread on the different available sizes in athletic wear, ended up being the editor’s choice for the cover.

“There’s a stereotype that all runners are skinny, and that’s just not the case,” editor-in-chief Jessica Sebor said in an interview with Today.com. “Runners come in all shapes and sizes. You can go any race finish line, from a 5K to a marathon, and see that. It was important for us to celebrate that.”

It’s important to celebrate athletes of all sizes. Just as Amanda Bingson is a powerhouse at the hammer throw,  Prince Fielder is an amazing hitter and Misty Copeland is a technical wizard at ballet, you can excel at your field.

Or you can just participate in it. Being of able body doesn’t mean having the perfect body. We can’t all be shaped like Brittney Griner or Michael Phelps in order to succeed at a sport. It helps if you want to excel. But the only requirements for participation is a wilingness to try.

That’s it. You just have to want to do it. Getting better at it will come with time. As I said, definition is not the definition of success. Success is defined as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” Did you accomplish the task by finishing your run? Did you do the extra laps at the pool you’d intended on doing? Were you able to increase your resistance and not pass out?

Success! And you did it all without looking like a fitness model.

Do the work and worry about the image later. If you want further defined legs and arms, then make that a goal. Worrying about what you like like on the road to success will only slow you down. As for me, I’ll take my tree-trunk thighs to the pool, spin class and even the park because it’s what I enjoy doing. And my in-shape brethren will be there with me (likely eating my dust).

Have you ever let your size deter you from trying a new fitness activity? If you were able to overcome it, how did you do it?

Like a Girl

7 Jul
Courtesy of Tumblr

Courtesy of Tumblr

I run like a girl. I run like someone who has been female my entire life. I pound one foot after the other on the pavement as fast as I can for as long as I can and am overjoyed when I finish. Because I’m a girl who thrives off of that feeling of accomplishment. I did something that many people can’t or won’t do. I did it for me and I did well.

I also spin like a girl, swim like a girl and Zumba like a girl. I’m working on yoga-ing like a girl and eventually cross-fitting like a girl.

There’s nothing wrong with doing things like a girl. Always had a great campaign last summer reminding girls that competing like a girl doesn’t mean they’re going to lose. Right now, female athletes are killing it in their respective fields. Find one person who can defeat Ronda Rousey. Go on. I’ll wait.

venus_serenaLook up a better rivalry than that between Venus and Serena Williams. You won’t be able to find one. They are each others best competition. Monday’s match went by fast but it was hard-earned. These are two women who love and appreciate each other, respecting one another’s talents to cheer even in defeat. Like girls.

And let’s not forget the epitome of #squadgoals right now. The U.S. women’s national soccer team just won the FIFA World Cup, making them the winningest team in women’s FIFA history. And just like girls, they went out on the pitch and dominated as only girls can. Within 17 minutes, the team had all but secured their victory with four goals. FOUR! Do you know how rare it is not only for four goals to be scored in 17 minutes, but for three of them to come from the same person? It’s so rare that Carli Lloydd, who scored three of those goals, pulled the fastest hat trick in FIFA finals history. Girls. I tell ya.

Well now, there’s a new girl on the scene. As in last year’s ESPN Magazine Body Issue, the editors decided to incorporate a woman with a less-than-Aphrodite appearance. Meet Amanda Bingson.

Dense would be the right word for me. I think it’s important to show that athletes come in all shapes and sizes.

Courtesy of ESPN Magazine

Courtesy of ESPN Magazine

Amanda competes in the hammer throw like a badass girl. After moving from Las Vegas to Texas, the Olympian has come to embrace her curves. While there are limits to what she can do physically, they can’t stop her from becoming great. Here are few things I’ve learned about my new hero Amanda from her interview with ESPN Magazine.

I have a very strong core. For training, we do a lot of twisting motions because that’s what our event mainly is: twisting. But I don’t have a six-pack or anything else like that. I have, like, two rolls in the back, but I still think I’m pretty strong in my core.

Definition is not the definition of fitness. Amanda can throw a hammer, mostly using her fingertips, more than 200 feet. She has to engage her core to make this happen. You will learn a lot about yourself on your weight-loss journey, but one of the hardest lessons is that your body may not transform the way you want it. Blame genetics, blame surroundings or blame Dr. Phil. Still you must come to terms with this and make the best with what you’ve got.

I’ll be honest, I like everything about my body.

After coming to grips with the body you have, loving it and accepting it will follow. Depending on how you deal with things, this may happen quickly or it may take a while. But the day you look in the mirror and say, “I look pretty damn good,” will be your a-ha moment. You’ll go on a “Fellin’ Myself” spree, and I will applaud you from here.

If I medal in the upcoming Olympics, I’m just going to chug a beer. I’m going to get up on the podium and just go “Stone Cold” Steve Austin on it. I’m working on some things. Everyone will be looking at me like “trashy American.” But at least we’re still No. 1!

Courtesy of ESPN Magazine

Courtesy of ESPN Magazine

Celebrate yourself and your accomplishments. If you’ve done well this week, have a celebratory cookie. If you’ve run the hard race on your schedule, cab load with some pancakes and a mimosa. Anytime you reach a goal or surmount a final hurdle, take a moment to look at how far you’ve come. You did something amazing. Going “Stone Cold” on the situation might make you feel even better.

Like all girls, these women won’t allow anyone to shut out their accomplishments. They are the goals in the their sports. They are the ones who inspire other girls to dream the impossible and to win.

On the Women’s World Cup

30 Jun
When the U.S. defeated China 0-1. Courtesy of Tumblr.

When the U.S. defeated China 0-1.
Courtesy of Tumblr.

Last year around this time, I observed the fascinating male form that runs around a soccer pitch and kicks at other people. Last year was the men’s World Cup (congrats, Germany!). This year, the women get to impress.

While on your weight-loss journey, you’ll look around for inspiration. Because I’m so active, I tend to look at athletes. Serena Williams is my spirit animal. Ronda Rousey is a beast. I think these women’s bodies are incredible. They work out and take great pains to keep themselves in top condition to participate in their sports.

Brandi Chastain

Brandi Chastain

When I was in college, the U.S. women’s team won the World Cup and the poster girl for the sport became Brandi Chastain. With a look of pure glee and a body rippling with muscles, Brandi embodied athleticism. This year I have a new crop of athletes to look up to.

They are disciplined, dedicated and successful. They are accomplishing things most people in their field could only hope to accomplish. And they are good. Really, really good.

That’s why I take issue with anyone who doesn’t appreciate women in sports. Regardless of what some may say, including an actual sports editor at Sports Illustrated, these women deserve the title of role model. They deserve to be inspiration for girls who want to excel in athletics. They deserve to be on the vision boards of women who seek body inspiration. And they deserve praise for getting over the physical and mental hurdles it takes to compete at the highest level.

What I take most from these women is  not so much a desire for their bodies. It’s more a desire to maintain that level of discipline. To achieve what these women have, you have to keep your goals at the forefront of your mind. You have to really want it. The same goes for your weight-loss goals.

So as these women attempt to do what the men’s team couldn’t last year and defeat Germany, I’ll be rooting for them from the couch. And I’ll have Seth and Amy’s “Really” tirade running through my head. Because, really? You don’t think these women, and all female athletes, deserve to be watched? Really?

Serena Williams Is ‘Working It’ in Vogue

25 Mar

serenaI remember one Saturday morning in high school, I turned on my television to see a black girl with braids playing tennis. I’d heard of Althea Gibson, but her heyday was way before my arrival on earth. This was a girl who looked about my age volleying a tennis ball back and forth on a court with a white girl—and the black girl was winning! I was stunned because the little I knew about tennis was that it was a sport for the wealthy. In my mind, back then, I couldn’t fathom how wealthy a black person could be in order to afford the sport of tennis.

Then the commentators began talking about the girl, who’s name on the scoreboard was “V. Williams.” The spoke about how she was new to professional tennis. How she plays differently than anything they’d seen before. And how she was coached by her father on the cracked tennis courts near their home in Compton. Compton! What the hell? This was another ghetto girl like myself who was doing the damn thing in her field. She was unstoppable.

Until little sis began to dominate.

“V. Williams” is the older sister to S. Williams, or just plain Serena. Though plain would be a misnomer now because that other little ghetto girl is now on the cover of Vogue magazine for its shape issue. And Serena is killing another game: the fashion game.

I’ve admired the Williams sisters for years, but I’ve had a special affinity for Serena. Like the super athlete, I am a dark-complexioned girl with large breasts and a large butt. My thighs are thick. My calves are shapely. And I have to make the best of what I’ve got.

I know I’m know Serena. She is in amazing physical shape. But she overcame serious blood clot to return to peak form and completely dominate her field. That’s why I took away a few pieces of advice from her cover profile in Vogue.

On the off season. Like all of us, Serena puts on winter weight. It’s cold, Winter Boo has you hemmed up with snuggles and peanut butter, and the snow won’t let you be great. “I should have gone on a diet weeks ago,” she moans. Maybe, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start now. Serena is in training for the upcoming Grand Slam tournaments, which will require peak physical ability to withstand the endless matches and rigorous schedule. If you’re like me and not participating in a Grand Slam match, look at this time of year as spring cleaning. After the coldest winter ever*, bring some heat back into your life with a few resp at the gym. Put down the endless bowls of chili and try a salad or three. It’s too late to regret how this winter ruined your routine. Just get back to doing what you feel is right, and you’ll be fine.

Be the change you want to see. Before the Williams sisters took over the professional women’s tennis courts, the game had the same pallette. Lots of women in similar skirts and tops, similar haircuts, and similar intensity on the court. No one had heard grunts like those of the Williams sisters before. Those grunts came from using so much strength and power to defeat an opponent. “When I started out, it was about being consistent and steady,” said Mary Joe Fernandez, captain of the American Fed Cup team. “When they started hitting with so much power, everybody had to change their game too.” You can be a game changer, too. You can decide that maybe running or swimming isn’t doing enough for you. Maybe you want to try Caipoeira or kickboxing. Do it! There’s nothing stopping you from change but you.

Know that there’s always something better. “I feel like I have a desire to be better than ever,” Serena says. “I am never, ever, satisfied. I always want to do more, be more, reach a new level. Not just in tennis but in everything I do.” When I began my weight-loss journey from 200 pounds, I thought the most I’d lose is 20 pounds. And those 20 were great. They got me into my first bathing suit in years. They allowed me to buy shorts that didn’t cut off my circulation. They let my jaw be visible again. But soon I realized I wanted more. How far could this weight-loss journey take me, I thought. So I kept trying, running more, spinning more, cooking my own meals more. It’s all about deciding how much you want for yourself.

What did you think of Serena’s cover? Did you take away any words of wisdom from the article?