I'm sure you know me quite well, but I wanted to take some time to share a few words. Naturally, as I got into gymnastics, you started to grow on your own (throwing around bodyweight is no joke when you're on the final tumbling pass of your floor routine). And, from ages 4 to 18, you supported me in a sport where even perfection isn't enough. Also, Dad tells me that I was practically born with you. See?
Our journey together from athlete to college student trying to navigate the gym was difficult, and though I felt like I'd lost a piece of me after giving up the sport I'd done all my life, you reminded me that I didn't need to be on a team or in a leotard to feel like I was worthy of my strength. Eventually, I wanted to maintain the muscles I had for goals that had nothing to do with sticking a beam routine or getting a gold medal. My biceps were no longer a sure sign that I was a gymnast; they were there because of the empowerment they brought me.
So, I wanted to thank you. Because of you, I out-performed the boys in elementary and middle school fitness testing. And, I was unapologetic about it. I didn't realize it when I exceeded push-up number 75 in fifth grade gym class, or when I finished my 16th pull-up in seventh, but you embedded in my mind just how powerful a woman can be (and, to the one boy who gave me sass when he tied with me for most pull-ups, my only regret is not fighting for my 17th rep). Back then, the significance of my strength wasn't something I thought about because, well, I wasn't familiar with the adversity women face when they're trying to succeed in life, let alone at the gym. I didn't need to break any barriers because I didn't know they existed. I know now, despite my naivety then, how much this meant.
Sure, because of you, I was and still am physically strong. But, you, biceps, have also given me the emotional strength to combat doubt and to power through tough times. When I untangled myself from a toxic relationship, you were there to not only lead me to the weight room, but give me a reason to keep going past the pain. Every push-up, every plank, was a reminder that I could fight through the next rep, the next day, towards a better tomorrow. That's just one example; I'm sure you know the rest.
I promise that I'll continue to work on your potential and give you time to recover when it's needed. You, and my body as a whole, have gotten me this far, and I owe it to you to keep you healthy and happy. With that, thank you for teaching me that strength is not just arms, it's heart too.