I Was a Competitive Gymnast at 10, and Now I'm Dealing With the Consequences

Hallie Gould

Here at Byrdie HQ, we think the idea of a “perfect body” is as outdated as snake-oil diet pills and spandex-clad workout icons. But that doesn’t mean we don’t talk about our bodies—the opposite, in fact. We’re all about body acceptance 24/7/365, but this week, we’re serving up some extra love: Meet Byrdie Body Week. Consider it a love letter to the weird and wonderful vehicles we inhabit, as well as a deep dive into all the body questions that plague us (such as Will my laptop really fry my ovaries?). We’ll also be spotlighting all that’s new in the product world (fake nipples—yeah, we’re going there). Let’s all agree to be a little kinder to our bodies this week (and month and year), no? 

I remember it like it was yesterday—I was 16, wearing a sparkly crushed-velvet leotard and barreling down a small carpeted runway. I was participating in an all-around competition for my gymnastics team (which means I had to perform on all four events: floor, beam, bars, and vault). At that particular moment, I was heading toward the vault and looked up at my teenage boyfriend in the crowd. For the first time since I began competing, I was self-conscious. I hadn’t ever thought about my body in the context of competitive sports, but there it was—on display for all to see. 

Muscle memory from my days as a gymnast has allowed me to excel in strength- and flexibility-based workouts as an adult. So many poses are shared between yoga and gymnastics that taking up yoga felt easy and fun. I write a lot about loathing workouts and loving food. But it’s important to me that it’s clear that neither one comes easily for me. It’s not uncool to work hard for your body or to take care of your health. Ultimately, it’s imperative to do what makes you feel good. It’s been a long journey, but I think my time spent as a competitive athlete set me up to come to that realization. I may even break out that crushed-velvet leotard sometime soon and give some of my favorite moves another go.

Looking for more on body image? Check out our (very) honest discussion about dieting.

This post was originally published at an earlier date and since been updated.

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