While I was growing up in this sport, I focused a lot on other athletes. I focused on what they were doing, what they looked like, how big/small they were, and what equipment they were riding. I became obsessed with my body image, changing how I acted and looked, and doing what I saw others doing…it never registered in my mind that throughout all this time, I just needed to be me.
The concept that we are all each individuals….we race differently, we train differently, we fit to bikes differently, we all have different CdA’s and bone lengths…we each recovery differently and use nutrients different…why was I so obsessed with training just like that girl, or looking as thin and fit as that person, or riding that same exact bike even though I felt terrible on it?!?!
As most girls do, I went through a phase of eating disorders. To some amazements, I was still able to perform decent at junior nationals, and into my collegiate years. But I did so much damage to my body in the process. To this day I still have severe issues with anemia. At one point in college I had multiple transfusions to normalize the cell levels in my blood because living at altitude had exacerbated my condition. For years following I rode unconfident and insecure because I didn’t think I looked, raced, or was good enough. I stood next to string beans on the podium and I never understood why I wasn’t like them. I would think…her calves are bigger, I should do calf raises, or her legs do this weird flick thing, I should do that too. By the time I had graduated college, I had served my purpose in the collegiate world. I was part of the collegiate all-star team, I’d won a national title with my team, I’d been part of leading them to the #1 D1 team ranking for multiple years. I thought I was doing “ok”.
When I moved to LA, things started to change. I became surrounded by girls just like me. Girls with big legs, and big butts. Girls who ate lots of food, and didn’t care what other people thought. I started to realize that I was just fine the way I was, for the first time. It had taken me 6 years to realize this since entering the world of cycling. I accepted my body as my own. I have tiny feet, I have a big butt that hits the TV box and turns the cable off, I have wide shoulders, I have tiny ears, I have these little balls of muscle that sticks out like a bump on my shins, and I have chubby cheeks that I’ll have until I die. I am me. And once I realized this, I became happier, and healthier, and fitter, and faster, and better, and stronger. I stopped focusing on everyone else, and started focusing on me.
Once I started focusing on myself, I started to get lean. I started to build my body up, instead of breaking it down. And I started believing in myself and what I was doing. I could train hard and know that I was making my body function at 100% for what it was made for. I started winning races, I started making gains in the gym, and I started dropping time off my efforts.
I often look back and ask myself, “What if?”. What if I had someone slap me on the head and say, “You aren’t her! Stop trying to do that! You are Missy Erickson!” It seems like such a simple task, but it could have won me that junior national title. It could have saved me from devastating my body. It could have made me as a teenage girl, become strong and confident, and in control.
So here’s your “slap in the face”! We are all individual. There is no “standard”. When you find yourself comparing your accomplishments to someone else, stop yourself. Accept who you are, what you do, and what you’ve been blessed with. And maximize what you have, and what you are doing, and become the best version of “you” you can be. By comparing yourself to someone else, you are setting yourself up to fail. Each day we set out to accomplish goals. Make sure those goals are making you and you alone better. Consume your thoughts with positivity and confidence. And be happy, healthy, and you. Believe in your extra padding, your muscular thighs, your strong shoulders…and realize that somewhere out there someone is comparing themselves to you….they just don’t know any better.