Because We Can

Because We Can A Beautiful Work In Progress, Chapters 21-26 and Appendix

Posted on Dec. 2nd

In the final chapters of A Beautiful Work in Progress, Valerio takes time to drive home her point that everyone can be an athlete by talking about some of the stereotypes she has faced as a plus-sized person and encouraging us to rethink what it truly means to be an athlete.

Throughout the book, Valerio has written candidly about the emotional exhaustion she feels living in a body whose shape is often assumed to be the product of indolence, letting herself go, or lack of self-control (paraphrased from pg# 301). She has been offered a wheelchair at airports, people have looked at the marathon stickers on her car and assumed that those stickers belonged to a previous owner, and her own friends have questioned whether or not it is safe for her to run (Don't people drop dead doing that? Won't it hurt your knees? They would ask.). It is tiring to regularly have to deal with such microaggressions. However, for the most part, she lets those things roll off of her back with a simple response to those who wonder how she could possibly be athletic and why.

In chapter 22 as she discusses her Georgia Jewel 35M race experience, one of the things she highlights is the early race sanity check. Shortly after the race starts, someone always asks, "why are we doing this again?" and another person responds, "Because we can." Because we can. Because her body is strong, agile, and capable. Because in her view, bodies are not made to be stagnate, but to move. This experience stuck with her and has been a defining part of her identity as an athlete as well as one of the many reasons why she chooses to run to begin with.

Valerio's advice, written as a list with 10 tips, begins and ends with acknowledging what your body can do. Beginning with embracing the title of athlete, she pushes us to reflect on how far our bodies have brought us to this point and use that as a springboard for what they are capable of with some practice. In the middle are practical steps for getting us to exercise—having a mantra to repeat in hard moments, physically putting on the workout clothes, documenting the journey to share with friends for accountability. By the end of the list, she urges us to get out there in whatever form of sport or exercise suits us best, but this time as athletes, because we can.

Discussion Questions:

1) Which of Valerio's "10 steps to become a Fatass Badass Athlete" resonate most with you?

2) In what ways can we create an environment in the world of sports in general, but also specifically in the running world that prioritizes body positivity and is inclusive of people of all shapes and sizes?

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