America Ferrera Shares How Triathlon Training Boosted Her Self-Confidence

The actress and activist shares why getting outside and exploring what your body is capable of can be so damn empowering.

America Ferrera Shares How Triathlon Training Boosted Her Self-Confidence

America Ferrera wants more girls to see themselves as outdoor adventurers-and to gain the confidence that comes from pushing past their perceived physical limits. That's why the actress and activist just teamed up with The North Face to help launch Move Mountains-a global initiative in partnership with the Girl Scouts that's focused on empowering the next generation of female explorers.

At a panel for the launch, America (a former Girl Scout herself) shared why it's so important for girls of all socioeconomic backgrounds to have access to the outdoors. "I grew up in a lower-income community and we didn't have access to parks and to mountains and the ocean. It wasn't easy for everyone to get out into the world and to explore what's out there for us and also what we're capable of," she said. "I didn't even know rock climbing was a thing. I knew how to climb fences."

Despite growing up in a concrete jungle, falling in love with her outdoorsy husband led her to fall in love with hiking, biking, and camping-activities she never thought she'd enjoy, she tells Shape. "I found the empowerment that comes with using your body for adventure."

Her newfound love of the outdoors led her to start training with her husband for her first triathlon two years ago. "While I was pretty comfortable biking, I was never really a runner and I'd never ever attempted to swim in the ocean. Those were all very, very new adventurous, physically challenging things that had to happen to outdoors and in nature and it was a really incredible journey. It changed my relationship to outdoor activity and it changed my relationship to myself and my body," she tells Shape exclusively.

"I didn't do the training to change my body or to lose weight, but afterward, I felt different about my body," she says. "I gained a huge amount of gratitude for my health and what my body does for me. I put it through a lot, but the more I took care of it and appreciated it and kept showing up for my body, it kept showing up for me for every single challenge."

It's that emotional payoff that inspired her to train for her second triathlon. (And, post-pregnancy, she plans to keep training for even more, she says.) "While it was absolutely a physical challenge, I really feel it was equally a mental and spiritual challenge. Working at my physical threshold very quickly brought up all the stories about myself and who I thought I was and what I thought I was capable of," she continues.

That's why she's trying to help young girls harness the "power that already exists in their own bodies." Part of that is about changing the stories that are put out there about women's bodies. "To know that our bodies are for doing and for adventuring and for making babies and for doing whatever we choose to do with them is such an important narrative that we put out there," she said during a panel discussion about the partnership.

Exposure is another crucial piece of the puzzle. "I never thought of myself as an adventurous person, I never thought of myself as a hiker, I never in a million years imagined I'd be a triathlete ... And that's because I didn't see it and I didn't see people like me doing those things, so I couldn't see myself doing those things," she continued.

She's hoping that will change thanks to campaigns like this one. "For the next generation and for my next generation, personally, I want [getting outside] to feel like first nature," she said to the crowd. "Because it is. It's our nature to get out and test and explore the limits of what's possible for us in the world."

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