We love what they had to say about loving every inch of their powerful bodies.
In its eighth annual Body Issue, ESPN The Magazine is once again celebrating unique and amazing physiques with portraits of 19 athletes in the nude. While the photos are all kinds of beautiful, we were especially taken with the wisdom shared by the women heading to Rio next month to compete in the Olympic games. Here, our favorite fitspirational quotes from some of the Body Issue’s leading ladies.
On viewing your body as a "vessel"
“I've never been self-conscious about my body. I never really thought much about it. It's just kind of the vessel that lets me do the things I like to do. It never dawned on me to think about it beyond that.” —Emma Coburn, four-time U.S. national steeplechase champion
On how your perspective changes everything
"My favorite body part is my quads. Before I even really lifted [heavy weights], everyone was always like, 'Oh my gosh! Your quad muscles are so big!' As a female, you can go either way with that—'Oh, you're calling my legs big?' But I always took it as a huge compliment, like, 'I'm strong, I can jump—thank you!'" —April Ross, beach volleyball player
On appreciating what your body can do
“Back when I was in that awkward adolescent phase, my list of what I would have changed about my body was a lot longer than what it is now. After all of the struggles I had been through, I realized how precious my body really was. I realized my body was doing things a lot of people didn't think were possible. It was coming through for me when nobody else was, and I think that's really when I learned to appreciate it and appreciate all the quirks and flaws.” —Allysa Seely, paratriathlete
On loving what you've got
"Fencing gives you really athletic legs. That's probably my best feature. When you fence, you are primarily using the front of your legs, so any time I'm working out, I try to hit the back to even it out. That's why I do a lot of dead lifts, because it's for your glutes and your hamstrings." —Nzingha Prescod, fencer
On being fierce and beautiful
“I absolutely hate the statement 'You're too pretty to wrestle.' I think people used to view female athletes as very butch, masculine—you kind of had to disregard your femininity to excel at an elite sport. Now it's just a different world…When I talk to young girls, I tell them you can have the best of both worlds. You are allowed to be a female and be considered beautiful and still be an athlete and still be badass in that realm.” —Adeline Gray, wrestler and three-time World Champion
On feeling unstoppable
“I've spent a lot of time being insecure about my body, but it's done so much for me. It's my tool, my vessel for my job. I'm very grateful for the way that I feel when I play—I feel very powerful, I feel fast, I feel unstoppable, and that's because of my body.” —Christen Press, soccer forward
On what it means to play like a girl
“We play an amazing caliber and brand of basketball, and people try to cut that down because they are just comparing it to the men's game. 'Oh well, she didn't dunk in that game!' 'Whatever, they're just girls, nobody wants to watch that.' That's pretty frustrating. We are the most elite players in the world. This is my life, and it's what I've put in 22 years of my life doing.” —Elena Delle Donne, basketball player
On embodying your sport
"I'm 100% a byproduct of my sport. I always tell my teammates that I only have muscles where they get to play. I have butt muscles, thigh muscles, and then my upper body is super skinny—except for in my shoulders, which you need for a little bit of strength to hold other players off the ball. So I think I've developed muscles 100% from just shooting the ball and running. Every single thing about my body looks like soccer." —Christen Press, soccer forward
On overcoming insecurities
“I straight up felt fat a lot of the time. Especially in high school and in college. The feeling dissipated little by little, but I was still definitely self-conscious about my body for the first couple of seasons out on the beach. I always focused on positive self-talk for myself—I would combat the negative self-talk with, 'But look at what your body is doing for you!' I swear it seems futile most of the time—you're like, 'This isn't doing anything'—but if you stick with it, it really does sink in and infiltrates your subconscious and stays there.” —April Ross, beach volleyball player
On gaining confidence
“Boxing gave me self-confidence that I didn't have growing up. When I was young, I was super quiet and I didn't trust anybody. I didn't like having friends. I started boxing when I was 11, but I don't think I started talking much until I was 13. I started coming out of my shell, and I started transforming and I liked the way that I looked and the way that I boxed. Even though I was pretty boyish when I was younger, as each year came on I got more and more feminine. Boxing opened me up and helped me find the person that I am.” —Claressa Shields, boxer