This is Sarah Robles, Olympic champion and one of the strongest women in the world.

As a culture, we have got to let go of the idea that abs are the pinnacle of health and fitness.

They are NOT.

Abs do not make the athlete!

Showing up to do the work of learning new skills and practicing them consistently is what makes someone an athlete. Not leanness. Not competition. Not how “good” or “hardcore” you are at it.

You might like the way they look and having preferences is fine, but having abs that other people can see doesn’t mean you’re any stronger or fitter than people whose abdominal muscles are hidden under belly fat.

Fat does not invalidate muscle.

The reality is that many very strong athletes do not have abs. Not all athletes have “toned” or visible musculature in general. And many athletes are not skinny/lean at all— abs (and everything they represent) are unimportant and even counterproductive for some athletic pursuits. That might be hard to believe, but it’s absolutely true.

We don’t need any more gatekeepers in fitness. We need inclusiveness for all bodies: big, small, jacked, squishy, whatever. We are all athletes because we show up!

Now I want to know: what does being an athlete mean to you?

Leave a comment below and tell us how you feel!

Coach Emily is a former professional cagefighter turned fitness coach. She is passionate about social justice, powerlifting, and her chirpy little cat, Koshka.

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