Photo provided by Nikki Stone
With the weather being unseasonably mild, I slipped on my shorts to head outside for a late afternoon run. I knew that a few people might gasp at someone wearing shorts in the middle of winter in a ski town. But I knew that none of those gasps would come because I was a WOMAN wearing them. In fact, most of us would never think twice about not wearing shorts simply because of our gender -- though the same is not true for a friend I made halfway around the world.
Through some volunteer work as an Athlete Ambassador for a charity called Right To Play, I had an opportunity to speak at a United Nations Development Program meeting in Dakar, Senegal, several years ago. I was invited to speak about how Sport for Development uses sport and play to enhance the healthy physical and psychosocial development of children and build stronger communities. While there, I met a young woman from Mali who told me how she'd been shunned by all the boys in her community for participating in sports.
As a young girl she was told not to wear shorts to play sports or she would never get a boyfriend. It was, of course, okay for boys to wear them and participate in sports, but there continued to be a rigid bias against girls doing so. Another volunteer told me that when approaching the local children's parents, the sports and play participation was eagerly accepted for the young boys, but met with confusion or even denigration for the young girls.
This young woman chose to buck the system and pursue her love for running. Through her passion and dedication to her track and field endeavors, she was eventually given a chance to travel the world, make money and build her self-esteem. She was no longer letting her circumstances limit her; she was creating her own advantages.
I could only imagine how this woman has become an enormous role model for endless young girls -- and boys, for that matter -- in Mali. My short time with her energized and empowered me. As this young woman bravely shared her story, I couldn't help but wonder if I would be as strong in the face of such social pressures. And I now think of her every time I pull on a pair of shorts. It always forces me to ask myself in what new ways I'm pushing my boundaries. I have to admit that even as a retired aerial skier, my risks pale in comparison to my Malian friend. But I do vow to try to continually make the effort. If you haven't already made YOUR New Year's Resolution, take the risk to put your "shorts on" too.
I've had the great honor of working with some of the Biggest Loser contestants and it has inspired me to leave motivational diet, health, and wellness tips at the end of all of my blogs. These tools have been driven from actual advice I've shared.
This week's tip:
It's the easy way out to hide under layers of clothes. Like my new Malian friend, be brave enough to put your on your shorts, bikini, or short skirt. These items are much harder to hide behind and will encourage you to make the changes you need.
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