Book review: ‘Strong is the New Beautiful,’ by Lindsey Vonn
November 5, 2016
Colorado has many reasons to be proud of its ski industry legends, for the state has produced numerous icons of the sport, and the powder glades of the many world-famous ski areas within its borders draw skiers of all levels.
Most famous, though, might well be Lindsey Vonn, who has called Vail her home since the earliest days of her professional ski-racing career. Having been in the public eye for a great deal of her life, Vonn has had to learn how to navigate the modern challenges of maintaining a sense of self-worth and confidence in a world bent on critiquing women against an unrealistic and uncompromising standard of beauty.
Empowered by her own hard work and bolstered by her immense success as a ski racer, Vonn has assembled a collection of her most trusted life tools in a recently released book, "Strong is the New Beautiful: Embrace Your Natural Beauty, Eat Clean and Harness Your Power." Of coffee table quality, with full-color photographs and inspiring lessons from her own efforts to learn to love her body, Vonn's book is a powerful cheerleader for the women and girls of today.
Vonn wants women to focus on being strong, not on being thin, and aiming for a strong body is as much a mental endeavor as it is a physical one. "We all have different bodies, genetics, preferences and lifestyles, and I believe that if you want to look and feel your best, you need options that will empower you, not rules that will make exercising and healthy eating that much more difficult."
Part autobiography, part manual for healthy living, "Strong is the New Beautiful" moves through the ups and downs of Vonn's remarkable career, from her earliest days as a young racer with an exceedingly supportive and committed family, who, having the means, was willing to be uprooted to move to Vail to help support Vonn's training as she was showing great promise on the race course.
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This, Vonn says, put immense pressure on her shoulders, for not only had her parents made the sacrifice to support their daughter's skiing, her four siblings had left behind their friends and schools in Minnesota to relocate. But with the added pressure came a greater commitment on her part.
She focused on ramping up her training, and the intense work paid off, earning her a place on the U.S. Ski Team and her first medal at the World Cup. She showed up with intention, making herself someone who people could no longer ignore, and the wins and the high finishes mounted.
She was getting into a groove of training and nutrition, when a nearly disastrous fall during the 2006 Olympics almost had her convinced that her career was over. But she fought through the pain and continued to compete, convinced that her strength training had helped her recover from the crash. She knew that half the challenge was mental — as learning to balance and use both the power of calm and the power of tension as key elements, which, when mastered, had her "surpassing Bode Miller to become the American skier with the most World Cup wins ever."
But life has a way of humbling people and forcing self-reflection. The Vancouver Olympics transported her into the realm of mainstream celebrity, which put her up against the unrealistic world of Hollywood beauty and its heightened awareness of body image. Skinny was everywhere, but it was not always a healthy skinny. Nonetheless, doubts began to creep in and Vonn began to dread what she saw in the mirror. She became unbalanced and unsettled, saying, "I knew that I was hurting my career, and for what? My perception of someone else's perception of what was beautiful."
The real meat of Vonn's motivating book is the included practical advice, with more than half of the pages dedicated to menus and nutritional details, as well as an in-depth series of exercise routines for circuit strength training. Vonn emphasizes that there is a unique path to healthy living for each person, with the only commonality being the positive impact on self-esteem.
She says there is beauty in everyone, no matter the dress size. "Every one of us has something stunning to share with the world, whether it's a special gift, an ability, an idea or a sparkle unique in your eyes only." From strength comes beauty, and Lindsey Vonn has both in spades.