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Body Image & Strength: Running Like A Girl

In the past few weeks, there’s been a running theme in my posts here on Weightless: appreciating what our bodies can do for us. (I couldn’t help the pun!)

When we push through personas that tell us we’re not athletic, we’re weak, uncoordinated and talentless, when we do something that reminds us of our strength, our body image inevitably improves, and we feel empowered.

We blaze through these limiting beliefs, and we stand taller and feel prouder.

Suddenly, we realize, with awe, “Wow, I can do that. I’m so glad I tried.”

Because you just gave yourself a chance. A shot to prove yourself and any naysayers wrong. Whatever the outcome, you pushed through the persona.

I just started reading the book Run Like a Girl: How Strong Women Make Happy Lives by Mina Samuels. (I received a free copy.) In it, Mina shares a powerful story about strength (one of many).

She recalls a time she felt an incredible “strength and sureness” as a teen. She writes: “I was fourteen, at an all-girls camp in northern Ontario called Camp Glen Bernard. I can still feel the moment as if it is written on my body…”

She continues painting a picture of her solo canoe trip:

“…Then I’m off, alone, pulling the canoe forward in smooth surges. I feel the muscles in my shoulders and back flex and release. Two forward pulls and a J-stroke to keep the boat straight. The boat moves fast toward the middle of the lake, where there is no one.

I don’t think about anything except the boat and the water, the bubbles fluttering loose with each stroke, as if a pixie stood on the tip of my paddle, blowing soap through a ring.

I feel strong and sure and capable. The canoe moves effortlessly, as if my legs have been replaced by the boat. I am a mermaid. I am magic. I am a girl on the brink of womanhood.”

This jogged my own memory of when I truly started feeling strong and sure of myself. I think my workouts with my trainer are definitely many of those times.

Another time is from my high school gym class (which might seem minor and silly) when our teacher – a running coach – complemented me on my running and asked me attend a practice after school. (I never did but I wish I had.) This was big, because I never felt good in gym class. Believe me.

I don’t really remember many moments of when I felt strong as a little girl or a teen. But that’s OK, because I feel those moments now.

And I know that I want to feel them more often. That amazing inner peace and strength that Mina felt while canoeing.

I want to feel that more often. As though the stories are written on my body…

I also want to share with you Mina’s words about what it means to run like a girl, because I think they’re inspiring and make the phrase “running like a girl” empowering, and not a weakness as it’s usually used.

On the first page, she writes:

“What is running like a girl, anyway? It’s getting out there. Challenging ourselves. Finding new possibility within. Finding strength in our own accomplishments. It’s accessing our ageless girl spirit, where the enthusiastic ‘let’s go’ of youth meets that ‘I can’ of experience.”

At the end of the chapter, she writes:

“We run like girls when we run for ourselves and inside ourselves. We run like girls when we tune out the negativity that might come our way – from men, from women, from any of myriad sources, including ourselves. We run like girls when we own our power, when we celebrate what we are capable of, when we take the joy from our vulgar strength.”

When was the first time you felt genuinely strong? When did you run like a girl?

Body Image & Strength: Running Like A Girl

Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

Margarita is an associate editor at She writes about everything from taking compassionate care of yourself at any weight, shape, and size, to coping healthfully with difficult emotions. Her goal is to give readers practical, empowering tips to better their lives, and to remind you that whatever you're struggling with, you're never, ever alone.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2011). Body Image & Strength: Running Like A Girl. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 23, 2020, from


Last updated: 24 May 2011
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