Strong Enough: How I Went from Books to Barbells

In my cul-de-sac culture town, you grew up doing:

(a) Dance

(b) Soccer

(c) Karate

(d) Nothing

After cycling through options A & B and passing on C, I landed squarely on D. Nothing. Self-conscious and shy, I told people I was “never really into sports”. I had a natural aptitude for school so I threw myself into getting good grades instead. At thirteen, it seemed like the most logical thing to do. Labeling myself and letting others label me as “smart” told them how to treat me and how I should treat myself. I couldn’t touch my toes but ask me what they were saying in Romeo and Juliet, and I was your gal!

Which is why I never considered myself an athlete and no one else did either.

ath·lete /ˈaTHˌlēt/

Noun. A person who is proficient in sports and other forms of physical exercise.

The path to Katahdin may be blazed, but all of the prep details can be dizzying.  The question of physical ability seemed like a good place to start after I made the decision to hike. I had hiking experience in the Whites of New Hampshire and in Alaska, but I still doubted my capabilities and worried, worried, worried that I wouldn’t be strong enough to make it. I decided to spend the past summer and autumn doing trail work in Arizona to make sure the in tents (sorry, had to) life was for me and to strengthen up physically and mentally. Today, I practice GSL (Gym, Shakespeare, Laundry) and I think a lot more about the food I eat and where it comes from. (I also eat a lot of cannolis because I know I will miss them.)

Still, me… an athlete? Nahhh… Nah?

It wasn’t until a few weeks ago, when I took an aerial hoop class that I actually felt like an athlete. Sweaty and graceless, I pulled myself into that hoop as an eleven-year-old boy cheered beneath me; “Your arms are so strong!” “Thanks!” I grinned and looked back in victory at him, almost losing my balance. But realized then that I am strong enough. I am flexible enough. I am skilled enough.

I am in fact an athlete.

I think for women especially, it can be hard to find the physical activity you love. There are the sports you think you’re supposed to like, the ones you don’t think you can do (because why?…), and the ones that “aren’t really sports”. Plus there’s that “25% of all thru AT hikers are women” stat floating around. Numbers and societal norms be damned, if you’re getting in your own way like I was, take a deep breath remember your strength comes from within.

Your “athletic capability”, your sport, is an expression of yourself. Find it, do it. 

See ya out there!


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Comments 5

  • Carla Robertson : Jan 28th

    You sound totally ready and will have an awesome journey! Excited for you!

    • Taylor Ciambra : Jan 28th

      Thank you so much Carla! Feelin’ good, thats for sure!

  • Mischa Egolf : Jan 28th

    Thank you for this. I spent some time doing Krav Maga and it did make me feel strong and healthy, but I always felt like an impostor around the others in the class. Your post makes a great point, that strength comes from within and the benchmark shouldn’t be based on others!

    • Taylor Ciambra : Jan 29th

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Mischa, I definitely understand that feeling! Best of luck!


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