Ask Hope: How can I keep my body “type” from holding me back in the outdoors?

This is an issue that I struggled with when I first started rock climbing. I saw all of these long, lean, hardbodies and thought “How in the world is a curvy girl like me supposed to get my (ample) ass up that rock?”

What I came to discover was that my body “type” and its supposed limitations was all in my head. True, if I had a few more inches on me it might be easier to dominate those “reachy” holds. Granted, if I were ten pounds lighter it might be less harrowing to haul my booty up the wall. But, on the flip slide, my legs are extremely strong from hiking and provide me with the ability to stand up in tough spots and my back, along with being sexy, is broad and getting more muscled by the day.  I work with what I have and so can you. Here’s how.

Mind Over Matter
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caught myself saying, “ I just don’t have a climber’s body.” This broken record was holding me back in so many ways until I went to the National Climbing Championships in Boulder, Colorado and saw that several of the female climbers were just as “curvy” as me and were kicking ass.

The stories we tell ourselves can either make or break us, so instead of telling yourself that your body isn’t capable because of your height, weight, or proportions, remind yourself of all of the ways your body is magnificent. Use mantras like, “I’m strong”, “I’m bodacious”, “I’m fit”, “My legs are like tree trunks” (my friend says this all the time and I simply love the image).

Mind over matter, my friends.

Use Your Assets
Instead of allowing your supposed “shortcomings” to hold you back, focus on your assets. For example, I have teeny-tiny feet. One of my ex-boyfriends used to call them hooves. In rock-climbing, this is actually helpful because I can get my feet on itty-bitty holds and feel perfectly comfortable doing so.

If you have thick, meaty thighs, use your legs a lot. Chances are they’re strong and good for hiking or skiing.

Feel like your lean, waif-like frame is too delicate for mountaineering or kayaking? First off, it’s not… I assure you. Secondly, try sports like slack-lining or bouldering where a thin frame and lean muscle are typically helpful.

Don’t Limit Yourself
If I had a nickel for everytime I’ve heard someone make a “limiting” comment, my student loans would be paid off. Examples of “limiting” statements are as follows: “I can’t hike because I had foot trouble as a child.” “I can’t ski because I have no balance.” “I’m not good at rock-climbing because I have no upper body strength.”

First off, I HATE the phrase, “ I can’t” because, most often, it simpley isn’t true. Furthermore, what you’re really saying when you utter this limiting refrain is, “ I don’t want to put in the necessary effort that it would require for me to actually be proficient or master this outdoor activity.”

So be real with yourself and don’t limit yourself. If you simple don’t want to rock-climb, then don’t. But stop blaming it on your perceived lack of upper body strength. I didn’t have any either when I started climbing and, guess what, I got strong…fast.

If you want to ski but think your balance isn’t on par, then work on strengthening your core. Do yoga, slack-lining, and maybe even take a dance class. These will all help you gain the balance that you think you don’t have.

The beauty of it is that when you push throw the negative and limiting self-talk what you’ll find on the other side of it is your reality and, in reality, you do have balance, strength, grace, and athletic ability. We all do. You just have to put in the work to find it.

Be Proud of Your Body, As Is
Now, I know this is easier said than done. Even though I’m a healthy, athletic, strong gal I still have my “fat” days where I just wanna smear chocolate all over my face and curl into a ball of mush. These days happen to the best of us but the trick is to allow yourself to feel gross, bloated, or unattractive while still knowing deep down that you are beautiful and that this phase will pass.

Wanna start having a better body image? Do two simple things:

First, stop reading magazines like Cosmopolitian,Vogue, and even some of the fitness mags like Shape. Though these magazines occasionally offer a realistic view of weight, beauty, and body type they are often so contradicted by the airbrushed and photo shopped images accompanying them that any real, healthy, message is lost.

Second, go to the gym. Look around. I guarantee you will see extremely fit, healthy, beautiful people who are every bit as “flawed” as you think you are. They will come in various shapes and sizes. Some will have pudgy love handles but will be out performing everyone. Others will be “skinny” as all get out but they’ll deadlift more than you’d ever imagine. One man at my climbing gym has one leg and a prosthetic limb. You won’t hear him saying, “ I can’t” because “can’t” doesn’t exist for him. And it shouldn’t for you either.

On any given day, I’m one of the curviest girls at my climbing gym and, you know what, that’s alright by me. Because I’m there, I’m healthy, and I’m doing what I love. In the end, that’s all that really matters.

Love yourself and stay wild!