EL­SPETH

EL­SPETH DANA

Oxygen - - Thrive - For more about these strong women — in­clud­ing an ex­clu­sive work­out from each — and about the Women Strong move­ment, go to oxy­gen­mag.com/women-strong.

NPC BIKINI COM­PETI­TOR, ISSA PER­SONAL TRAINER, AFAA GROUP FIT­NESS IN­STRUC­TOR AND LI­CENSED COSMETOLOGIST

For much of my life, body-im­age is­sues had a grap­pling hold on me men­tally and phys­i­cally. When I first got into com­pet­ing, it was all about the aes­thet­ics, which made it very dif­fi­cult to not re­lapse into un­healthy habits. It wasn’t un­til I made the con­nec­tion that it was more about how I felt in­side than how I looked out­side did I be­gin to heal. Now I do work­outs sim­ply be­cause I en­joy them rather than fol­low­ing a reg­i­mented plan or crank­ing out end­less hours of car­dio to burn a cer­tain num­ber of calo­ries, and the num­ber on the scale doesn’t dic­tate my hap­pi­ness.

While there have been tremen­dous strides made in the realm of fit­ness and ath­let­ics, there are still stig­mas at­tached to gen­der. As a fe­male in this in­dus­try, I have def­i­nitely ex­pe­ri­enced the pres­sure to fit into a cer­tain mold and to look a cer­tain way. My re­ac­tion to that judg­ment was to dis­tance my­self from those de­liv­er­ing it. I wasn’t go­ing to give up com­pet­ing, but I stopped seek­ing feed­back and ad­vice from peo­ple who were us­ing their po­si­tions of power to take ad­van­tage.

Women have al­ways been strong, but now we have more of a voice than ever. It is our duty to use this plat­form to in­spire other women and to be­come the strong­est ver­sion of our­selves both men­tally and phys­i­cally. One quote I love is by Zen Shin: “A flower does not think of com­pet­ing with the flower next to it, it just blooms.” We as women should work to­gether, strug­gle to­gether and cel­e­brate to­gether, never let­ting jeal­ousy dampen any of our suc­cesses. Re­mem­ber: Never be afraid to take the big chances, even if you stand alone.

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