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Here's What It's Like To Be A Plus-Size Athlete

Strength comes in all different packages.

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For many people, the idea of “athlete” evokes images of slender runners, flexing bodybuilders, and six-pack abs — but the truth is, athletes come in all shapes and sizes. Below, seven plus-size women tell BuzzFeed about the sports that have changed their lives:

Roz "The Diva" Mays, Personal Trainer and Pole Dancer

Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

“I started pole dancing since October 2007. It’s one of the toughest things I’ve ever put my body through, which is why pole dancers are so damn strong. That first class really kicked my ass, but it was also some of the most fun I’ve had in my life.

Now I’m the one doing the ass-kicking. I remember teaching my first class, and hearing my name screamed from the ceiling because a student had made it all the way up their 13-foot pole. I was holding back tears because I couldn’t believe I’d helped someone do that. I want people to know that pole dancing is for everybody; I have taught people of every age, every gender, and sexual orientation, and I’m incredibly proud of that.

Being a plus-size athlete, for some people, is a complete oxymoron. They believe because I don’t have a traditionally ‘athletic’ body type, that it should diminish all of my achievements in the athletic community. I’ve been told to my face that I don’t deserve to be leading other people in fitness classes because I’m ugly, I’m fat, I’m stupid, I’m dark — all things that have no actual bearing on my skill as a teacher, so it turns out the joke’s on them. As for what I’m still working towards? Well, Beyoncé: My pole is ready, I can dance on beat, and I’ve got really sparkly booty shorts. Call me!”

On Roz: Bra by Artista Activewear on top (discount code ABARM10), bottoms by Rainbeau Curves, shoes by Nike

Mirna Valerio aka The Mirnavator, Blogger and Ultramarathoner

Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

"I started running in high school, and ran on and off during and after college. In 2008, a health scare prompted me to start running again regularly. First I trained for a marathon, and then for a 50k, and I loved it. That's when I decided that I would be an ultramarathoner.

Ultras make me feel so powerful. My biggest accomplishments are having completed the Javelina 100k, which took me over a day to complete; and running the Marine Corps Marathon and the New York City Marathon back-to-back. When I'm training, I run 25 to 40 miles per week. I also do strength training and yoga when I can.

My body shape and size is not an asset for fast running, but the fat that I have on my body is definitely helpful in terms of endurance — I can run, bike, and walk forever. I've faced some criticism, but it's usually from people who are negative about everything; the sport is largely very inclusive. If you look at any race, you'll see a range of bodies: tall, short, big, small, fat, whatever. Those bodies are out there doing their thing, and even if you don't have what's considered a typical 'runner's body,' you can do it too."

On Mirna: Top by Merrell, bottoms by Skirt Sports, socks by Swiftwick, shoes by Merrell

Kristina Rodriguez, Cyclist-Yogi-Baby Powerlifter

Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

"Cycling has been my life for the past five years or so, and I even had ridden my bike throughout my pregnancy. But after giving birth, I struggled with anxiety, back pain, and postpartum depression. I thought, 'I gotta get myself happy, for both me and my son.' Which, for me, meant returning to biking. My first day back was so hard, but it reminded me of who I was before I became a mother.

I have always been big. I'm never going to be thin; I have accepted this. I've had eating disorders and an unhealthy relationship with activity in the past — but now, I've found a balance. Women have to face so much bullshit about body image; men do too, don't get me wrong, but you get extra as a woman in sports. People have doubted my athleticism, but I live for the look on their faces when they see how fast or good I am at whatever sport. I'm not worried about being doubted anymore because I know what I'm capable of — just sit back and watch this shit."

On Kristina: Top by Torrid, bra by Fashion to Figure, bottoms by Artista Activewear, shoes by Nike

Olivia Frempong, Ghanaian Runner

Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

"After the birth of my twins, my doctor told me that I had high blood pressure and that I should start medication. Instead of picking up that prescription, I started running. Since then, I've started an Albany chapter of Black Girls Run, which now has close to 300 members; I've completed three marathons within about the past year; and I've kept my blood pressure at a healthy level.

I love running because it gives me the opportunity to overcome my doubts. I'm also proud of shedding light on fitness within the Ghanaian community, where high blood pressure and hypertension are prevalent. I'm always repping my country at my races, and my story has helped inspire other people within the community to get active.

I think the fitness community is finally realizing that you don't have to be a certain shape or size to accomplish things. When I first started to run, I was told that I wouldn't be able to do it, or that I would get injured — but now, those same people are asking me for tips on how to get started. It's an awesome feeling, going against the norm and breaking barriers."

On Olivia: Top by Lola Getts (discount code BUZZ), bottoms by Old Navy, shoes by Nike

Rachel Denis, Powerlifter

Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

"I started powerlifting less than two years ago. You don't have to compete, but I do because I've always been a competitive person, and because I love the process. Powerlifters use their size as a tool, whatever their size may be. My shape gives me an advantage because I'm relatively short and compact; but I'm also relatively close to the bottom of my current weight class, which is a disadvantage. So, I'll be moving to the next class to be even more competitive.

My biggest accomplishment is probably winning the gold medal at the Northeast Regional Championships, but I'm really proud of how hard I work on a consistent basis. I love the physical and mental strength required as a powerlifter, and the success I've had is a direct result of the work I've put in."

On Rachel: Top by Fashion to Figure, bottoms by Katie K Activewear (discount code SAVE15NOW), shoes by Asics

Latoya Shauntay Snell, Marathon and Ultramarathon Runner, Yogi, and Blogger

Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

"I started running in 2013. What I love about it is the freedom: Whether it's a 5k or an ultramarathon, you never really know what to expect. You're going out there with your emotions; you're proving it to yourself that you can do it.

My workout routine varies. In addition to running, I love calisthenics and strength training — I love lifting heavy. If I'm training for a marathon, I might start at 25 to 30 miles per week, and by the end, it will be more like 50. I'm not the smallest I've ever been, but I feel great; running has helped with my sciatica and some other ailments, and mentally, it's given me so much clarity.

My body has been an object of ridicule at times, but I'm also amazed at how many cheerleaders I have. My weight never makes me say 'I can't' — I always find a way to say 'I will.' As for my own haters, you have no idea how much you've inspired me — I hope you enjoy watching my big ass continue to run."

On Latoya: Top by Superfit Hero, shorts by Old Navy, socks by Swiftwick, shoes by Adidas via Zappos

CeCe Olisa, Plus-Size Workout Video Creator

Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed

"I was so scared walking into my first boxing class, but then I fell in love with it. It's draining in a really great way; when I'm done, I always feel like I've left the stress of the day behind.

Boxing has taught me I'm only competing with myself. It's easy to constantly compare yourself to others — but when I'm sparring with a bag, all I have to do is try to be a little bit better than last time.

I've always played sports, I've always been a dancer, I've always expressed myself through movement. But as a plus-size person, I've downplayed my own athleticism at times because I don't really fit the standard profile of an athlete. So for me, embracing fitness no matter what my size is about breaking down that stereotype for myself. Now, I make plus-size workout videos, and have a whole part of my Instagram account dedicated to plus-size fitness. I always say that I work out because I love my body, not because I hate it."

On CeCe: Top by Rainbeau Curves, bra by Old Navy, pants by Manifesta, shoes by Adidas via Zappos

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