Chrissie Wellington: Bodily Love
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Being an athlete requires me to be totally in tune with my body. To be able to read it, listen to it, respect it understand it, and, yes, love it for what it enables me to do. Do most people not love their bodies, or does it sound arrogant to admit that you actually really do love your body and are prepared to verbalize this? Of course, people’s views of “body beautiful” vary over time, across the sexes, and between cultures. But, it is more common to hear the claim: “I hate my body, my legs, my butt, my…” and find men and women taking a variety of actions to alter their appearance, in the hope that they might be happier.
Thinking about this issue required a strong cup of coffee and a conversation with my best friend, Georgie. First, we had to decide what “love” meant to us in this context. I love my family, my boyfriend, my friends, and I also love racing Ironman and eating steak–but the love I have for the steak isn’t the same as the feeling I have for my parents. To me, love is adoration, respect, faith, happiness, and acceptance.
So three coffees later and the definition of love agreed, Georgie threw me a curveball when she asked, “What do you mean by 'my body'?” When we talk about “my body” we’re invariably referring to our external, visible image–the one that stares back at us when we look in the mirror. What many of us tend to ignore, myself included, is what’s on the inside; the body that we don’t see–the bones, the nerves, the ligaments, the tendons, the blood, water, the veins, the arteries, the muscles, and the organs.
The relationship I have had with my body has changed over time, and hasn’t always been an easy one. For some of my young adult years I disliked many aspects of my external body. I would stand in front of the mirror, my mind full of criticism at the image that stared back at me. Today I have a very different relationship with my body. I have to say, I am moving towards the point where I can say I love my body, inside and out.
My body is what has enabled me to work in jobs I love, to travel all around the world, to participate in a range of sports, to write, to paint, to enjoy music, and most importantly it has taken me to the top of the world and enabled me to become triple Ironman World Champion and take advantage of the amazing opportunities that this brings.
I push my body and mind to their limits, and even though I haven’t always treated my body with the respect it deserves, it has never let me down. It heals itself, withstands the pressures I place on it, and, as such, I have come to trust it. It is this faith in my body and mind that has enabled me to reach the huge highs and overcome the lows that come with training and racing. Of course, I am never satisfied, and I continue to strive to get more out of myself and my body–testing it, challenging it, and reaching for the stars. I don’t look in the mirror and think I am gorgeous–but I am slowly developing a love for the image that stares back. For everything my body has enabled me to achieve, I am so grateful.
Chrissie Wellington stunned the world of triathlon by breaking the Ironman world record for women in Roth, Germany, in July 2010. The time she beat was her own, clocking in at 8:19:13, 12 minutes and 46 seconds faster than her previous record. The Brit also has the distinction of winning the most esteemed triathlete victory three years in a row: Ironman Kona in 2007, 2008, and 2009. She'll be back this year to go for number four. Be sure to check the Outside Blog for more posts by Wellington as she heads toward the big day at Kona.