One Body Type for Athletes? No Way!

Posted: Sep 14 2017

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Hey SparkFire Girls,

It's Katherine Shai here again, with Part 2 of my three part story on the SparkFire Ignitor blog sharing my personal story about the body image challenges I worked through in my early years as a high school athlete starting in the sport of wrestling; the learnings I gained of how every body is designed for unique power, strength and ability; and the confidence I developed when I realized & embraced my true strengths (not really weaknesses at all!). As a female athlete who loves her sport, her body, and her self, I hope this honest insight into my journey to embrace it all. Here we go....

My dad was 84 pounds his freshman year in high school. In the late 1940's / early 1950's, his school had a high school wrestling weight class of 96 pounds. My mom was a gymnast and very petite. I certainly had the genes to be a small and petite woman coupled with the genes of an athlete. I was destined to be a small kiddo.  

It was hard to see past my body type. Well into my twenties, I was still plagued with body insecurities. What others said continued to effect me, but it took on a new form.

"You look too skinny", turned into "you're so lucky you're skinny".

Or, in terms of wrestling, "it's so much easier for you, you're trying to gain weight."

What many didn't understand was my challenge to gain weight also meant that I had to battle with the mentality of feeling overtly too small for my weight class. This is and was a huge problem in a hand-to-hand sport like wrestling. Wrestling is a sport where the name of the game can be “get down a weight class so you can be the biggest person in the weight.” 

Katherine Shai Olympic Women's Wrestler of LuchaFIT

Throughout my early twenties, I continued to believe that my body type was not right for the sport of wrestling. Granted, I had different obstacles I had to overcome in many strength departments. However, I still believed that other athletes with strong legs and compact powerful bodies would be more successful than I ever could be. I just couldn’t get away from people making comments about my body. I would cringe and brace myself for the rehearsed cheery response I had practiced since middle school. While innocent to them, they didn’t realize how they were directly hitting me right in a spot where it hurt - my insecurities. I would think, “Why did they always have to say something? It must be because my body type is so obviously wrong for this sport and I will always struggle because it’s a weakness.” 

Looking back, I know most of my early twenties were spent hiding behind these issues. It was difficult to escape in a world where comparisons are the name of the game. I was in a fish bowl, where all you could do was compare results, wins, and losses with those around you. Because...if you aren’t successful, how are you valued in the sports world?...

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This was the continuation of a long and arduous journey towards self-discovery, accepting my body type, and embracing my unique strength, power, beauty and self-worth.  Join me here again on the blog next week as I share a final chapter about the journey, including how I finally embraced what I thought were weaknesses were actually my strengths, with every body designed for unique power, strength and gifted ability.

Be The Spark!

Katherine Shai

5x National Wrestling Team Member, U.S. Olympic Alternate, Founder of LuchaFIT and Board Member at Wrestle Like a Girl

Katherine Shai Olympic Women's Wrestler of LuchaFITLuchaFIT logo female athlete empowerment


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