In the annual ESPN Body Issue, Brittney Griner, Aly Raisman, and more of the hottest women in sports flaunt their fit physiques to redefine body standards
Female athletes are having a major moment. First, the U.S. women's national soccer team took home the World Cup. Now: the annual ESPN The Magazine Body Issue. Not only are the photos absolutely jaw-dropping, but the athletes' quotes about loving their powerful and muscular bodies—and learning to live with their insecuries (because yes, they have them too!)—are words we can all learn from. Check out the gorgeous photos of the women below, and get ready to feel majorly inspired.
"Everyone makes fun of my calves. They are so big. I don't really even like them, I don't really want them as big as they are, but I have no choice. In college, girls would come up to me: 'I want your calves.' It just makes me laugh. I guess people pay a lot of money to have the types of bodies athletes have," the 30-year-old USWNT defender joked. (Check out our interview with Krieger to find out what she eats to fuel her body.)
"It's not like I woke up one day and I had a really athletic body and ripped-up abs. I was lucky that I was naturally gifted with an athletic body, but I also put a lot of work into it. I don't stay home and do abs all day long; it just comes with running and all the things I do to stay in shape," the 25-year-old field hockey player said. "I use my body every day for my job. We constantly put our bodies through pain. I'm not afraid to show that off."
"I have a butt that is larger than I want it to be. I know it gives me power in my swing, but everybody is like 'You've got a nice butt!' I'm like 'Well, thank you, but you can have it if you want it. I'll give it to you, it's all yours,'" the 25-year-old LPGA-golfer shared.
"I think imperfection is beauty. Instead of being insecure about my muscles, I've learned to love them. I don't even think of it as a flaw anymore because it's made me into the athlete that I am," said the 21-year-old Olympic gymnast.
"I'm self-conscious about my arms. It's really hard to find a dress that's a size 10 in the lats but a size 4 in the waist. But I want to be as successful as I can; if that means having big arms, I'll take big arms," the 32-year-old Olympic swimmer said.
"I'd describe myself as athletically lanky. I want to show people that. I'm comfortable in my body and I don't mind putting it on display. Honestly, I like how unique it is. My big arms, my bigger hands, these long legs—I love being different. If everybody was the same, it'd be a boring-ass world," said the 24-year-old two-time WNBA All-Star.
"Dense would be the right word for me. Generally when you look at athletes, you see their muscles and all that stuff; I don't have any of that. My arm is just my arm—it's not cut, it's not sculpted. I don't have traps bulging out to my ears; I have a neck. I don't have a six-pack. My legs are a little toned, but they aren't bulging out. I'm just dense," the 25-year-old USA Track & Field hammer thrower said. "I think it's important to show that athletes come in all shapes and sizes."
"I never lift weights. I don't want to get big. If you want to skate well and be fast you can't be big, you know? I use more of my body weight [when I train]," the 22-year-old skateboarder said.
Gabrielle Reece: "In college, I was modeling in New York, and I worked with the most beautiful women in the world. They were so beautiful you could barely look at them," the 45-year-old professional beach volleyball player (who posed with husband and big wave surfer, Laird Hamilton) shared. "And then I would go back to my team at Florida State, and we were all trying to get as big as we could because we wanted to be as strong as possible. And they seemed more confident and happier. I thought, being perfectly beautiful—or what's defined by the standards of the world as beautiful—doesn't actually make you happier." (For more from the athlete, see Gabrielle Reece's Go-To Fitness Tips!)
"My back muscles are beautiful! Archery has helped sculpt my upper body. I'm in great shape and really happy about that, very satisfied. I put up slow-motion videos that focus on my back and on my shoulders, and when I watch them I think, 'Damn, I look good!'" said the 41-year-old archer.
"I was built like a little powerhouse. When I was transferring from gymnastics to wakeboarding, I was a little self-conscious. There's not a huge difference going from a leotard to a bathing suit, but you'd see these beautiful girls in bikinis, and I'm only 13 or 14 years old with this buff little body," the 28-year-old wakeboarder shared. "I grew into being really proud of it, knowing that that's what has enabled me to do what I do."
"I don't look in the mirror and think 'slim'; I look in the mirror and I'm like, 'Whoa, beast!' It's just crazy how much the body changes. Looking in the mirror, I get surprised like every other week. It's like I'm Wonder Woman," said the 27-year-old Olympic heptathlete.