Removing the fine print to mental, physical and emotional health has a long way to go.
If you ever stumbled across your favorite athlete's social media page and suggested them to "rise above the haters," "get over it," told them to stick to sports or inserted your Kanye style ad lib over their vulnerable moments, you probably did a stellar job at gaslighting them. Before you jump into defense mode, I hope we can all look in the mirror and admit that all of us have done this to someone in our everyday lives. A lot of people were unknowingly groomed and conditioned to believe in this form of support thanks to passing down generational trauma via survival mode or being influenced from mainstream media controlling the narrative of what's deemed professional and appropriate.
In a world where people urge others to be transparent and vulnerable, we don't do a great job making space for anyone to do it - this is heavily witnessed in the fitness and wellness space, particularly with Black athletes. And to Addison, Archibald and the rest of the crew, let's knock this out before we go any further: Keep your "all lives matter" dialogue to yourself about mental health in sports. I'm intentionally focusing on the obtuse levels of disrespect and lack of empathy projected towards Black athletes in sports. Whenever we speak up about our mental health, set boundaries or merely exist in our own bodies, we are ridiculed and demanded to be quiet. I don't need a lot of words or examples to prove that a lot of policing on Black athletes in sports is rooted in White supremacy, male fragility and all of the trigger words that makes Twitter feeds run on Dunkin Donuts coffee.
A deep dive into my love and hate for the running community.
Sometimes I feel as if I’m a runner with Stockholm’s Syndrome. I’m deeply infatuated and in love with a sport and community that leaves me feeling invigorated, inspired and broken. My limbs gleefully seize up from each extension; my thick legs reverberate the sounds of an internal protest – this is oftentimes welcomed and expected. I didn’t account for the sounds of my peers telling me that I am not wanted here or how my body is a force of repulsion. My thoughts are not always welcomed in spaces that I once considered safe. I don’t know exactly when I shifted from being a person once invited to join a collective of asphalt clapping runners to being a nuisance in the community but I know how it made me feel once I acknowledged the shift. Despite my treks through unfamiliar terrains, this void feels foreign. These days, I don’t find solace being in a group with like-minded strangers. I learned how to run alone and at times, I find it hard to muster the courage to not feel broken in my solitude.
How I’m seeking refuge in self-care while maintaining my fitness regimen, activist work and personal work without guilt.
On Friday, my therapist loaded me with homework: Choose a day to be versus do. This was inspired by my obsession with writing out lists and decorating my workspace and entire home with post it notes filled with tasks in every room. Admittedly I’ve grown mildly addicted to writing out my workout routines on neon 5X7 Post It Notes, meticulously scribing out a well-blended strength, calisthenics and cardiovascular routine. This act serves as one of many ways of how I’ve been keeping my mind occupied while coping with the harsh realities of several burning fires throughout 2020. Obviously, Rona trickled her ass onto Luther Vandross’ remixed 2020 but so many other negative things followed suit. After feeling invigorated about Stacey Abrams’ nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize, I felt numb after reading about a Black 9-year-old Black girl that was assaulted with mace by the Rochester Police Department because they found her to be uncooperative. Without going into graphic detail, I am sick and tired of reading comments from people that justify heinous crimes, particularly ones done on Black, Brown and Indigenous folks. This level of hurt and rage frequently crosses into my fitness routines and at times, heightens me to such a degree that I don’t feel safe going for a run or leisurely riding my bike outside. Conversely, I’ve thrown myself into mini strength work and cross training exercise regimens and feel guilt when I cannot knock them out. If there’s ever a day that my workload is on overkill, I criticize my lack of time management to essentially do it all. Acknowledging this harsh self-assessment with the help of a therapist, I am using this month to find my balance to be passionate about everything with room to recover and welcome spontaneity.
Addressing the pink elephant in the room requires for me to admit that I've abandoned new entries on Running Fat Chef since May 2020 and it was not about a lighthearted adventure in the outdoors. I spoke about racial inequality, being profiled while on the run, allyship and a deep dive exploration on what happens when everyone forgets Black struggle until it's convenient. Alas, we've approached the cusp of Black History Month -- a mere 28 or sometimes 29 days where people botch up Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes to make themselves appear woke AF while not paying homage to Black people's stolen AAVE - African American Vernacular English - that White people once weaponized as Ebonics. But here's one for you: If you don't know me nor earned me in my everyday life, let's start with not calling me "sis." And before you start celebrating living Black athletes on your next "list of inspiring Black athletes to follow" or reminding me that today is Ted Corbitt's birthday then demanding me to make a performative post on social media like your imagination expect me to do, I'd rather stay true to myself by flexing some viewpoints that I've vocalized but refrained from writing on here for damn near eight months.
In a perfect world, we would all be viewed as one race -- but we're far from perfect. Discussing race politics and safety, especially in fitness, is long overdue.
Becoming a traveling athlete changed my entire perspective of the world. I am still learning new things on this journey. I transformed from a person exploring ways to get my health back in order to becoming an accidental activist by sharing some of my experiences as an endurance runner. In a matter of a year, I learned the fundamentals on how to run, breathe, open up my stride and all of the technical bells and whistles. Thoroughly engulfed myself into the sport so much that I pushed past my fear of flying and traveled to other states; sometimes I left the country for the love of new adventures and food. Most times I navigate the world solo. This act is looked at as admirable, brave and inspiring; truthfully I am always excited, nervous and cautious. Close friends and family express their fears to me on a regular basis; I tend to brush it off but it's not because I don't hear them. I'm a strong believer that nervous and scary energy will attract scarier situations faster. Most people reduced down their rambles to "have fun", "bring back a key chain", "take pictures for me" and "be safe." People like my husband and my mother almost always let me know their fears, even when it's not verbally expressed. Perhaps you think I'm nervous about traveling solo as a woman -- sometimes but not that much these days. At times, our conversations delve into race, perceptions and other people's reactions to "fears." And like clockwork, I tend to pause, breathe and press forward but I never take these conversations lightly.
For International Women's Day, I want to honor my strengths by giving myself a bit more credit and permission to relax. As women, we're always expected to wear our capes for everyone except ourselves.
When is the first time you ever heard about International Women's Day or actually gave a damn? Be honest -- it's only been a handful of years for me. You can add this onto the list of things that I didn't know or acknowledge more than three seconds like the term "intersectionality," "microaggressions" and even a movement that people tend to associate me with: Body Positive. Perhaps I wasn't aware because I gave up my super woke stage after having my son. Or maybe I started giving more of a damn about worldly issues once I gave my life a second chance in 2013. Whatever and whenever it happened, I'm glad to know what it is now.
And for those who are too scared to ask or Google what International Women's Day may be, I did the search on Wikipedia for you -- you're welcome.
By the time you read this, you might be bogged down with a crap ton of messages about the gender wage gap or how women are reduced down to their looks; I want to focus my conversation on what it means to me and how sports forced me to think twice about this day.
Latoya Shauntay Snell
For my pretentious ass bio, check out the about me page but for anyone interested in who I really am, make me a good meal at your house and I'll tell you a dope ass story.
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