Chrissie Wellington on… Beating body confidence issues

"Whether I fit into small, medium or large items of Lycra is irrelevant," says the Kona legend. "It’s whether those pounds are serving my goals that truly matters"


Feel self-conscious in a tri-suit? You’re definitely not alone, and many athletes deal with the same concerns. Even pros, with their toned physiques, sometimes feel inadequate, insecure and anxious. I speak from personal experience.

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For some of my young adult years I hated my external body. I compared myself to others. I would stand in front of the mirror, my mind full of criticism at the image staring back. Even as a pro I would look at my peers and worry that they looked so much stronger, more toned or fitter than me. But, really, our bodies are not the external form, but the internal – muscles, bones, blood, tendons and, of course, the mind.

>>> Chrissie Wellington’s six top tips for triathlon beginners

Our focus should be less on what our bodies look like, and more on what we can do with them each and every day. Our bodies and minds enable us to achieve great things. That holistic perspective is what enabled me to slowly develop an appreciation for the mirrored image.

Whether I fit into small, medium or large items of Lycra or am 9st 1lb or 9st 7lb is irrelevant: it’s whether those pounds are serving my goals that truly matters. I’ve seen enough six packs walking an Ironman marathon to know that toned ab muscles don’t always lead to better performances.

It’s not a beauty contest that you’re entering. It’s a test of mind. The focus must be on training the brain so that it’s capable of withstanding self-doubt, wobbles in self-esteem, adversity and discomfort. Developing that inner confidence to wear your tri-suit with pride is part of this amazing journey. It’s part of the triathlon challenge. One we all take.

>>> Chrissie Wellington on… Mental strength

It’s not about vanity – it’s about having the self-assurance to a) set a goal and b) go out there and achieve it in clothes that you can be both physically and emotionally comfortable in. Never forget that you’re doing something that so many would not dare to do. That is, enter triathlons. This means you have courage and confidence.

The next step is to try to view your body less as an external ‘visual’ image and more as an amazing vehicle that will help you achieve this amazing sporting goal. And, like cars, these triathlon vehicles come in all shapes and sizes. Even at pro level we’re built differently, so try not to compare yourself to your peers. There’s no one ideal triathlete shape or size.

Of course, through triathlon, your body shape may alter but it’s the internal changes that are key: the development of strength in mind and body, power, and the happiness and enjoyment that comes from training and racing. You will continually develop confidence and belief through challenging yourself, testing your limits and achieving your goals.

It may also come from joining a club and leaning on those around you for support and encouragement. When I have confidence wobbles I remind myself that I am not alone in having these feelings, plus, no one is looking at me in the same way as I look at myself.

>>> Overcoming a severe bonk to post a new Ironman PB – blog

I bet that, come race day, you’ll be more focussed on your race plan than your reflection. And what’s more, at mile 5 on the run, everyone’s in the same boat. Cameras will capture hilarious facial expressions, sweat, blood, mad hair… it’s all part of the sport!

I’ve seen people that are 80lbs and those that are 250lbs complete an Ironman. We must celebrate our individuality, and be grateful for the opportunity to do this sport, to be healthy, to race, to be with friends, visit new places and challenge ourselves.

Whether or not we have a spare few pounds around our waist shouldn’t define us, or our emotions. So please – be kind to yourself. With your body you can achieve great things, inside and out of sport. So wear that tri-suit with pride and confidence, and go get your goals!

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