Strong Women are Beautiful Women: Growing Up in a Swimmer’s Body

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Strong Women are Beautiful Women: Growing Up in a Swimmer’s Body

By Lillian Nelson (From the Archive)

Whether you are 13 years old and just growing into your body, or 20 years old and reshaping your body with college swimming, this sport really forces you to be aware of your own presence.

I cannot speak on behalf of our male counterparts in the sport, but growing up as a female swimmer, I can fully relate to the feeling of exposure swimming induces. When you are wearing a swimsuit in public for a few hours every day, it can feel as though your body is developing, maturing, and being shaped under a microscope.

Having extra wide shoulders, bulky biceps, and big quads aren’t exactly the features emphasized on the Disney princesses we grew up idolizing, and we’ve all been in that situation where we can’t buy that dress or that shirt because when we went to try in on in the store, it got stuck on our shoulders and we needed help getting it off.

Being a fairly big girl myself, I have experienced pretty much the full spectrum of the struggle. On my journey to growing into the athlete I am today, I have experienced being slightly overweight and I have experienced being slightly underweight, but regardless, I’ve always been bigger than my peers. Long arms, long legs, big hands, big feet.

At age 19, I stand at 5’11” and weigh 155lbs. I’ve always been among the tallest of my friends, even the boys, and “dainty” would not be a word I would use to describe myself.

It has taken me my whole life to work on being totally comfortable in my own body, and though there are definitely some insecurities that linger, over time, I have come to learn that a strong woman is a beautiful woman. There is no better sport to celebrate this in than swimming.

Next to the ESPN Body Issue, there have been many recent movements and endless literature on loving and accepting your body, especially aimed toward young women.

As I fall into this target audience, I have learned a lot lately from articles, speakers, etc. One of the most important things I’ve come to understand is that everyone is insecure about their bodies at some point or another, yet no one has the same set insecurities. Being insecure with your body comes with growing up. But that doesn’t mean you should always feel that way.

Being an athlete, a swimmer especially, can open up a whole different world of insecurities. When your uniform is a swimsuit, there is very little you can hide. That being said, it is so important to remember how lucky we are to even have bodies that allow us to do what we do, no matter what magnitude we compete at. Not all ‘strong’ bodies are going to look the same. Swimming is one of the most physically demanding sports, so that in and of itself should make you confident that you are doing good by your body with every practice you finish.

Instead of being uncomfortable and insecure in your own body, no matter what you may criticize on yourself, own it.

Celebrate what you have been given to work with. We often forget the value of our own opinion on ourselves, and how much that opinion can make or break us on a daily basis. Your body is a wondrous tool you have been given to shape and use to reach any goals you may have. So get out there, and show yourself and everyone how beautifully strong you can be.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

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Haven’t swam competitively in 30 years, but I still have the swimmer shoulders!

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7 years ago

Me too!!!

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7 years ago

and me!

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7 years ago

and me!

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7 years ago

Me too! And the back!

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Michelle
1 year ago

Me too!

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Haven’t swam competitively in 30 years, but I still have the swimmer shoulders!

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Deborah
1 year ago

And the pumpkin quads…!

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Tami
3 months ago

Me too! I’ve learned they look great in photos if you tip them just such. But the struggle is real getting stuck in dresses at the store! I love the statement about looking at your body as a tool….how could we swim fast without our swimmer bodies?

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Pam
7 years ago

Everyone has a body, it is important to be confident no matter what. Each and every day I see girls struggling to have that princess body or be something they are not. I strive as a coach to make sure every child knows that they are special the way they are. I was a swimmer to and went through body changes on top of body changes but being a swimmer and wearing basically nothing made me confident and proud no matter how my body has changed. Own who you are.

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7 years ago

Keeli Shae Wood…?! You are beautiful my love.

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7 years ago

The best thing swimming has taught my daughters is that they have a strong, beautiful body.

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7 years ago

The dress. Yes! LOL Many times. Gotta find one with a halter top. 😉

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Liz
2 years ago
Reply to  Karen Smith

This is so true!! ? Still struggle now 20 years on, those swimmers shoulders are here to stay!

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Perfect!

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7 years ago

Way to go Meghan Small! 🙂

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7 years ago

Always the most gorgeous, most toned of any athletes…

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Love ❤️?

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7 years ago

I love this sports so much I hate when I not in the water swming

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7 years ago

Amen!!!

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7 years ago

Brianna Bearden the most beautiful swimmer of all.

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7 years ago

This is great! Thanks

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7 years ago

Andy Landy

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7 years ago

???

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7 years ago

Annamarie Webber

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7 years ago

Hanna Blewett

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7 years ago

Annie Gleeson

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7 years ago
Reply to  Margie Gleeson

Thankyou that was sweet!! Xx

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issa
7 years ago

Outstanding,beautiful woman.

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7 years ago

Great article! I was always so self conscious about how big I was, but now I am grateful for being so physically fit through my childhood.

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7 years ago

An excellent article – sharing for our swimmers 🙂

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7 years ago

Ugh

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7 years ago

John Beckworth

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LuckyStar
7 years ago

We swim because are too sexy for a sport that requires clothing

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Karin Palle

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7 years ago

Cassie Workman

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7 years ago

😀 Indira Ma’ruf

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7 years ago

Toni Moore

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7 years ago

Sophie Vergone

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7 years ago

Sophie Blewitt

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7 years ago

Any swimmer knows the astounding diversity of body shapes that can go fast. I can empathize that a typical male swimmers body (think Phelps or Adrian or Grevers) is held near ideal for society and you don’t hear the same for women. It’s nonsense. Hopefully more articles will focus on accepting the body shape that you were given and developed to go fast. In the end, as swimmers we want to go fast and any body that can do what we do (or done in my case) is perfect.

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7 years ago

Erin Braden Goss for Zoe and Emma

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7 years ago

Megan Dennin Michelle MacCallum Powell

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7 years ago

Omg Ann-Sophie Czech lie sa!

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7 years ago

Ca dit tout!❤️

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7 years ago

Tamara Thomas

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7 years ago

You !! Chantell Peiter

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7 years ago

Why thank you??

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7 years ago

Bailee Spivey

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7 years ago

Just have not been on the comp often thanks for the shares will now be watching more just send it on~ I have already missed so much.

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7 years ago

Andrew Mason

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Alex
7 years ago

Great article Lil. FYI, the most beautiful women are the ones that race is the water. Sorry Robin.

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Sandy Thatcher
7 years ago

My wife and stepdaughter are both gymnastics coaches, and much the same can be said about female gymnasts who wear leotards in public.

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2 years ago

Being a master swimmer has provided myself more security on my body as I had learned to be proud of all the things we had done together

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2 years ago

Georgi Griffin

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2 years ago

Madi Humeniuk

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2 years ago

Jess Hardstaff

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2 years ago

Joanie Elmore Hurst ?

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2 years ago

What an incredible message!!

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2 years ago

Brent Moore

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2 years ago

Love this and will share with my daughter

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2 years ago

Evie Stockill agree with that statement ???

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