She entered the contest to look better in a bikini, but what Kristy Arnett got in the end proved much more meaningful than a hot Instagram shot.
Fitnesswear brand Under Armour’s third annual What’s Beautiful competition aimed to redefine the female athlete. Through online videos, photos and written posts, contestants documented their progress toward individual goals over the course of three different rounds.
Arnett, who works locally as a producer and video host for PokerNews, first set out to enter a fitness competition. She had ovarian cancer at age 20 and, now 27, found just entering a competition of that nature challenging as it would expose the surgical scar she took great efforts to hide.
Keeping in mind the theme of the What’s Beautiful competition, not to be ashamed of wanting to be strong and healthy, she grinned and bared it. She won the fitness competition, while wearing a bikini and revealing her scar. Of course, there was only one other contestant because it was the amateur division, but she still won.
It wasn’t enough, however, to get her the real win she sought in the What’s Beautiful first round of competition. Feeling a little discouraged, she didn’t set a goal for the second round.
“I just kind of posted and followed other people’s goals,” she says.
Not setting out to win, and watching her fellow competitors achieve very difficult, very challenging goals gave her a new perspective for round three. This time, she would set a goal she wasn’t sure she could accomplish: to do a press-up handstand.
“I learned that it’s easy to set goals we know we can achieve rather than set goals we really want,” she says.
Also a soccer player, she had seen a teammate do a press-up handstand, a move that requires great core strength and precision. The move awed her and she decided on the spot she could never do it.
Her own self-doubt, and the work she’d witnessed through What’s Beautiful, inspired her to make it her third round goal.
Arnett, who describes her pre-Under Armour self as “skinny fat,” started her days with strength yoga, ran three times a week and kept up with two soccer leagues. But, if people want to see a real difference in their bodies, the difference-maker they seek, she says, is weightlifting.
“And lifting as heavy as you can,” she says. “It’s what tones the body. And, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. Women shouldn’t be afraid to be strong.”
Her philosophy is in direct opposition of Tracy Anderson’s, the celebrity fitness guru who adamantly advises women against using weights any heavier than 3 pounds. It creates a bulky, nonfeminine look, she says.
Arnett is the physical rebuttal to that argument. Her body is lean and her muscles are well-defined, yet feminine all the same. That’s the very point of the competition, not to shame women out of being their best athletic selves, but encourage them to do it.
The closer she got to her goal, the better she felt all-around.
“When you’re stronger, it transfers to work, to interactions with people,” she says. “I was more confident.”
Arnett’s strength training paid off. She conditioned her body to do a press-up handstand, even documenting her first successful effort at it through video on her What’s Beautiful online profile page. She was also one of four women selected as overall winners of the competition.
In December Under Armour will send the winners to Costa Rica for a four-day yoga and surf retreat.
But that’s not the most rewarding part of her experience. Just as her fellow competitors motivated her to challenge herself, she did the same for others during round three.
“My goal now, as far as fitness, is to inspire people. I think maybe bodybuilding inspires people to do things out of their comfort zone,” she says, “but to inspire people to make changes in their life is what keeps me going.”
Contact Xazmin Garza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0477. Follow her on Twitter @startswithanx.