Sadia Kabeya column: ‘I shied away from gym sessions to avoid muscles’

129397831 bbc sport project chameleon columnist banner 4db1d97e 517c 4868 9b8b 458d52db530c


A picture of Sadia Kabeya smiling in an England shirt next to the words 'Sadia Kabeya BBC Sport Columnist'

Venue: Musgrave Park, Cork Date: Saturday, 22 April Kick-off: 14:15 BST
Coverage: Watch live on BBC Two, iPlayer and the BBC Sport website and app; follow live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app.

I want to talk about something I am proud of, but have sometimes found challenging to accept: my muscles.

Body image can be a difficult topic for all women and sportswomen are no different. I had a bad relationship with my body growing up.

I competed in gymnastics, athletics and now I play rugby for England. Whether I liked it or not, naturally my body has always been quite muscly.

Growing up, social media told me that having muscles made me masculine and that I should be slim.

I would go into school and people would comment, saying they could see my muscles through my blazer.

I felt really insecure because I almost had two images of myself in my head.

I wanted to perform at my best, but I also wanted to look a certain way. I wanted my body to reflect what I thought was beautiful, what I thought was feminine.

That is why I feared getting bigger.

‘Food is fuel’

When I first joined the women’s rugby Premiership aged 17, I shied away from going to the gym. I did not turn up for group sessions.

If I did go to the gym, I would train really hard and only eat a salad when I got out. That was completely backwards.

I was training to get strong but you cannot get strong when you are not eating properly.

That was quite a big problem for me when I first joined Wasps aged 18. We had a pre-season game and about halfway through I had no energy.

At the end of the game the head coach asked if I had fuelled before, if I had eaten well.

Nobody had asked me that before. I realised that I had not at all.

On a game day then I would probably have a slice of toast. Now, I would have two or three eggs, a bagel and maybe a carb shake.

Learning to eat well was definitely a journey.

Growing up, I felt like the more I ate, the bigger I was going to get and the worse I was going to look. That was completely the wrong mindset.

Now, I am comfortable with eating to fuel myself. I can always tell the difference on a day when I have not eaten enough.

At the end of those days I am zapped and I have not given my best performance.

On days when I have fuelled well, eating the right protein and carbohydrates, I feel ready to go.

In the early days, eating right was something I worked through on my own and I would love to see more support for girls at grassroots level.

At England, we have got sports psychologists, nutritionists and strength and conditioning coaches.

At grassroots level, girls are making a decision on whether they want to stick with rugby and get bigger. That can be a scary thing without someone to help you through it.

‘My muscles help me do what I love’

My feelings on lifting weights and getting bigger first started to change during the Covid-19 lockdown and really shifted when I joined Wasps after that.

When I was at Wasps I was still pretty small, but I was falling in love with the idea of becoming a better player through work in the gym.

When I moved to Loughborough Lightning the following year, I would often still get dominated on the pitch.

Then I was called into the England set-up aged 19. I got a lot of strength and conditioning help and there were talks explaining why work in the gym would help us on the pitch.

They explained that gaining muscle and weight was not something to be afraid of, but it was still a long process for me.

Now, I am in the gym three or four times a week, lifting heavy weights and getting personal bests.

I have got big shoulders and big arms and I feel strong.

I am playing well on the pitch and I feel happy with how I look off it because I know the muscle and strength I have gained is helping me to do what I love.

‘I can be aggressive and still feminine’

I am still not all the way there with my body image but I am miles ahead of where I have been.

When I am around a rugby crowd and in places I am comfortable, I am so happy to get my arms out, wear shorts and feel like I am being unapologetically myself.

The times I probably dip is when I go back home or go somewhere where I am not surrounded by athletes, by people who look and train the same as me.

It helps that there has been a shift in social media and that there are athletes out there sharing their stories.

I wanted to talk about it now so that any young girl out there who feels this way sees there is someone she can relate to.

I know now that I can be an athlete, I can be aggressive, I can lift heavy weights and have muscles and still be feminine.

I can wear a dress with my muscular arms on show and still feel like I look good.

For younger girls coming up in sport, I want them to get the message that nobody can do you better than yourself.

It is hard to shut out what society says is pretty or feminine, but I am strong and that is why I am one of England’s starting players in this Women’s Six Nations.

If I was still eating salads and avoiding the gym, that would not be the case.

Sadia Kabeya was speaking to BBC Sport’s Becky Grey.

If you, or someone you know, have been affected by any issues raised in this article, support and information is available at BBC Action Line.

Listen on Sounds bannerListen on Sounds footer


Source link

What do you think?

Leave a Reply

GIPHY App Key not set. Please check settings

    129398365 screenshot2023 04 18101018

    King Charles coronation: Troops take part in midnight rehearsal

    ideas life aliens science perception

    What Would It Take to Imagine a Truly Alien Alien?