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American Dream

American Dream

- Amy Shaw

Amy is an old friend of mine, we went to kindergarten together and even some of our years in primary school. Amy has a very interesting story about her experience with being a top-level athlete in The States and her nutrition, which will hit home with a lot of you too. Even if you are not at an athlete level, there may have been times in your life where you felt a copious amount of pressure to do well, be a certain type of person, over achieve at things in your life, live up to the expectations of others, your family, your schools and coaches. This pressure can lead to all sorts of stress, anxiety, and even self-destruction to your mental health and your body. It doesn't just affect us when we are young, but these experiences can go with us all through adulthood, and it's now that no matter what age you are, that you acknowledge it and seek the right help, to lead you in the right direction, to be a healthier all-round human.

Here is Amy's story:

"Amy Running and enjoying a healthy lifestyle in Melbourne, Australia"

I really became a competitive runner in my last year of high school. I placed 2nd at the

New Zealand high school track & amp; field champs in the 1500m. Prior to that, I had been okay.

But for good reason.

I had a wonderful coach in high school who really cared about my longevity in running.

She held my training back in those crucial years of physical development. I often got

frustrated because I wanted to train harder. But she constantly told me: “People don’t

remember a good runner in high school. You want to run well in your 20’s and not burn out

before then like so many runners do”.

She was right.

All the running prodigies in school were nowhere to be seen at university. I started my

degree at AUT University in Auckland, New Zealand. I enjoyed it but as I got through my

first year I started to see my kiwi running peers make the jump to States, to take up an

athletic scholarship.

I was hesitant and scared at first. Big move for a kiwi teenager. But after talking to a lot of

people, I knew it was the best way to take my running to the next level of performance.

I can’t begin to explain how excited I was when I got offered a scholarship and arrived in

Buffalo, New York. The universities over there are truly like the movies. The stadium was

the most impressive part for me, holding 30,000 people. Every university over there (and

there are hundreds of universities in the States) had a New Zealand national quality

stadium. Insane.

It took me a while to get used to the step-up in the intensity of training. But as I did, I started to

get good. In my second year, I was breaking the university records and placing at

conference champs.

This seems all glitz and glam. Sure, it was. But it came with a price. Within the team and a

lot of distance-running female teams, the prevalence of eating disorders was high. We

wanted to be lean and run fast. It’s physics - the lighter you are the faster you go. I fell into

the trap.

"Amy running and competing in America"

I didn’t admit it but I had a problem. Not to anyone, or myself. I was running fast so why did

it matter? Cutting out carbs and starving myself, I dropped to an unhealthy weight for me as an individual.

My team started to notice. My coach started to notice. By the end of my second year, my

body was exhausted.

I came home for the American summer and wasn’t sure I wanted to go back. But I did, to

finish my degree. That last year was turbulent. I was on the team but not fully “there”. I

ended up putting on more weight than I had before starting college because my body was

in fight or flight mode, holding on to every calorie I would give it. Although I was not

running well, I enjoyed college life for what it was.

This is not to scare young athletes from going to the States to run at a university. It was an

amazing opportunity that I do not regret. But more for them to be aware of the

consequences of being in a high-performing environment.

This mindset doesn’t need to apply purely to elite runners. Everyone has a “set point”

weight. A weight that they naturally fall around, which is healthy for them. Being way off

your set point weight will cause stress to your body and ultimately you won’t be able to

stay at it for very long. Fuelling properly means you can be a sustainable athlete, which is

much more important than “looking like” an athlete. Reach out if you need advice or find a

role model with who you resonate with.

Amy xx

If you have a story that you want to share with our PWR community then get in touch with us so we can share it on our blog, you never know you may just help one or more people who are moved by your story and bravery.



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