We Chat to Stef, Amber and Bryony...
As you've probably seen across our website and social channels, a couple of weeks ago we launched our summer sporting campaign called #BeStrongBeBeautiful, with the aim of starting a conversation around strength and beauty.
We've teamed up with three amazing athletes to celebrate the strong female form and to hopefully encourage women of all abilities to feel confident in enjoying sport and be proud of their bodies. We chatted to Bryony Shaw, Amber Hill and Stefanie Reid about their individual journeys and what strong means to them...
Q: How did you find taking sport seriously at a young age, was it difficult?
A: My mum remembers me when I was 15 saying I wanted to go to the Olympics, which is quite young really. It was around then when I started really training and the more and more I trained, I'd get more muscular legs and shoulders. At that age, rather than celebrate that physique I ended up being quite timid about it. At school, being sporty wasn't the 'cool' thing and I didn't like being labelled as a 'Tomboy'.
Q: How did that affect you?
A: At the time it meant for me that even though I was serious about this sport, I was actually going to cover up parts of me that I didn't feel were feminine. But in the end, I was able to escape that kind of attitude and be with like-minded people who really celebrated that physicality.
Q: How do you feel about your body now?
A: I love looking at my body now. I'm really proud and I'm happy to show it off with sleeveless tops and things. It's definitely a shift in my own self confidence and it's really helped me blossom as a person. It's quite tough for girls in sports to feel comfortable in their own skin and what I'd say for young girls getting into sport is instead of trying to fit in, try stand out... and don't be afraid to be different.
Q: What do you love most about sport?
A: I think what I love most about sport is the ownership it gives you over your body... you just learn to how to inhabit this space [of your body]. For me, I'm most satisfied with my body when I feel it reflects who I am - I want to be someone who is strong, confident and competitive and not afraid to go after what I want. Once I started realising I could do pull-ups, squat racks etc, I noticed a change and I felt really strong.
Q: Do you think that there is a wider problem that so many people don't think femininity and strength go together?
A: It's tough... but I think strength is gender neutral. I believe in equality but not sameness, males and females are different and that's fantastic. But men do not have a monopoly on strength.
Q: Why to you is strong beautiful?
A: It speaks of a quiet inner confidence. It tells a lot about a person if they are strong and where that strength comes from... it doesn't come from circumstances around them, it's internal. You can't fake it, it is something you have to live out every single day.
Q: When you first started training for shooting, did you notice any changes in your body?
A: I used to be quite shy and didn't have a lot of confidence but I think getting involved with sport and training at the gym three times a week made my confidence grow massively. I started to feel like an athlete in myself, started to feel strong and feel in the best shape.
Q: Why do you think school girls are more likely to drop out of sport teams than boys are?
A: To compete at a high level, you need to train hard and a lot of girls see that as changing their body shape, not seeing it as feminine. I think that's where we need to start changing perceptions - strong is a normal body type. A lot of girls want to emulate what they see on Instagram, but I think we have to teach girls that you've just got to be comfortable with who you are and don't worry about what everyone else thinks... worry about what you're doing and what makes you happy.
Q: Why is being strong important to you?
A: It's the confidence that it gives me to know that I've worked hard to look like I do. My body isn't perfect but I'm on a journey and as long as I feel confident now, that's what really, really makes me feel good.
To watch our full length Q&As with each girl, click here.