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 realise 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 the rest of my body, 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.