We are bombarded with pictures of what society deems beautiful people – everyday we scroll through social media past images of rock hard abs and skinny legs, only to look up and be confronted by an advert depicting a sweatless woman who supposedly just finished a run.
The constant reaffirming of beauty standards can contradict what a useful body looks like, and when sportspeople are chasing athletic metrics over aesthetic metrics they can be forced to defy social norms.
LISTEN: The Adventure Trails, episode three: Body image in sport
In this week’s The Adventure Trail podcast, we talk to ultra runner Samantha Chan, who was once asked to stop running by a boyfriend, and crossfitter Bobbie Poulton who had brief social media hiatus and felt more confident in her body.
Suns out Guns out ! This weekend please bring me some sunshine .... My leg is as big as @steph2085 waist but both looking beautiful with different body shapes!! This hawt babe was in the top 50 most influential health IGs to follow so go check her out! We both do Crossfit style training and she does silks and dancing. It doesn’t mean if you do either you will look the same. We come in all shapes and sizes #hkbeauty #posativebodyvibes #healthyish #worksoutandeatstacos #bikinibabes #hkgym #training #glutes #sunsoutbunsout
A post shared by Bobbie (@eat_sleep_train_repeathk) on Jul 5, 2018 at 3:26am PDT
Women in particular are under pressure to conform to beauty standards and both guests share stories of passing comments, even from those closest to them, about the way elite sport is changing the way they look.
But both are inspiring in their commitment to their sporting goals and show that sport can be a prelude to changing perceptions about what women should do and how they should look.
Ep Three of The Adventure Trail podcast focuses on body image and performance. Samantha Chan was once asked by a BF to stop running because it was changing her body and @eat_sleep_train_repeathk talks about how even a brief social media purge made her feel better about her athletic, rather than aesthetic, goals. With my co-host @maryhui - pod to be published this afternoon. #running #trailrunning #crossfit #womeninsport #girlswholift #ultrarunning #bodyimage #TAT #feminism #girlpower #trail #podcast
A post shared by Mark Agnew (@adventureragnew) on Jul 9, 2018 at 8:45pm PDT
But men too face pressure, and chase the ideal bulging body builder’s look, even if the hulking mass of muscle does not translate to being useful in a sporting context.
What a great day running at mt Gaoligong! #gaoligongbyutmb #utmb #hokaoneone #hokaoneone #newlinesport @overstims @overstimsasia #activebrandsasia #ultraspirehk #ultraspire @ActiveBrandsAsia #cephongkong Photo credit: @jamesdpoole
A post shared by SamanthaChan (@samantha_chanmanha) on Mar 8, 2018 at 4:43am PST
The Adventure Trail podcast is hosted by Mark Agnew and Mary Hui. They interview a range of outdoor and extreme sports athletes, focusing on topics from pain to gender and all things adventure-related in trail running and beyond.