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Finding the Strength to Grow

Paige Roberts C'21

jumping with joy in front of campus after a workout in the ARCC gym

For a long time, I thought running was the only way to be fit. I never enjoyed running but used to force myself in the unbearable mugginess of Maryland summers and the nipping cold of the winter when gusts of wind would leave my cheeks rosy and frostbitten. Naive to the world of fitness, I stayed in the cardio section at the gym, alternating between the treadmill and the stairmaster. The weights were intimidating and crawling with brawny guys, and I couldn't help but feel silly and scrawny. 

Everyone has heard of the "freshman 15", the extra pounds sometimes gained when making the transition from home to college life. I was always active in high school, playing field hockey in the fall and lacrosse in the spring. Two hour practices filled with technique drills and lots of running kept me thin and lanky, but a decent athlete. I never gave my body the credit it deserved for making it through those sometimes dreadful practices in the same Maryland mugginess in the summer and wet cold in the spring. But I do remember looking in the weak reflection of the microwave after  field hockey practice, lifting my practice pinnie to see my stomach, only to think, "why don't I have abs?".

It was always about being smaller; shrinking myself by using exercise as a chore or a punishment. Never once did I think that growing would become my goal. I've learned that the only way to get stronger, both physically and mentally, is to accept growth. 

Mount cheer team mid-stuntI didn't learn this until I decided to try out for the Mount's cheer team after intense convincing from my roommate (who is still my roommate) and close friend, Mary Stratton. Barely making it past tryouts after struggling to do a somersault, I was named an alternate cheerleader, which meant that I would practice with the team but was not guaranteed time on the court for halftime performances. I figured this was fair since I had zero experience and very little natural ability for the sport, so I was happy to simply to be a part of the team. The season began with memorizing over 15 different chants with sideline moves to go with each as well as 6:00 a.m. weightlifting sessions. I had barely stepped foot in the weights section of the gym before, so there was definitely a bit of a learning curve. I remember feeling especially weak while using the cable chest fly machine, struggling to bring my hands together even on the lightest weight setting.

Stunting taught me the importance of strength and balance over speed, skills that weren't emphasized as much in field hockey or lacrosse. My teammates quickly became easy to talk to and even easier to laugh with. There's nothing like practicing a stunt sequence 30 times at a 3 hour practice that will force people to bond. I cannot thank the Mount cheer team enough for the discipline I developed by dragging myself out of bed and into the weightroom through my sophomore fall semester. Even though Mary and I weren't happy to be up before the sun was, this routine translated into a hobby and more broadly, a lifestyle that makes me happy to live.

3 Mount cheerleaders at a women's basketball gameI can't explain how good it feels to have found a form of fitness that I actually enjoy and that empowers me to become more confident and strong. I encourage you to do the same. Ditch whatever doesn't make you happy; if pilates is boring or too challenging, try taking a walk around your neighborhood. Take a kickboxing or spin class. Who knows what you might discover! The options are truly endless, and there is so much more beyond running. Find what feels best for your body. Change is good, and we aren't going to have our high school bodies forever...and honestly, who would want to? What an awkward phase. Turns out, the freshman 15 wasn't such a bad thing after all. 

Shoulder pressing 30lb dumbbellsThank you for reading! Have a happy St. Patty's day and enjoy your week. Take time to honor yourself and your strength. 

Don't forget to check back throughout the week for more unique content from our student writers. As always, go Mount!

Paige Roberts C'21