"I'll be honest, I like everything about my body"— that's not an admission you hear every day. But why shouldn't it be? USA track & field hammer thrower Amanda Bingson embodies the message that being healthy, strong, and feminine isn't a 'look' - it's a way of being. The Las Vegas native broke the female American record for hammer throwing in 2013, made the U.S. Olympic team, and garnered a great deal of attention after posing nude on the cover of ESPN the Magazine's Body Issue. Rather than worrying about how her body looks, Amanda focuses on what her body can do. PumpUp talked to Amanda about her views on strength, femininity, and how a positive support system got her to where she is today.
You mentioned that you feel more feminine because you’re strong. What’s your message to women who don’t have the kind of body type we see in magazines?
Femininity does not define your body type. It's a feeling: an emotion and an air about yourself. If somebody asks me if I feel less feminine because I’m strong, another person will ask somebody else: “Do you feel less feminine because you wear a dress? Do you feel less feminine because you’re the head of a corporation?" Femininity does not describe you physically. It’s an attitude and a persona. It’s how you perceive yourself. You can be feminine and still kick ass.
Tell me about your biggest setback. How did you overcome it?
I was limiting myself to what thought I could and could not do because I didn’t think others would approve of it or because something was outside of my comfort zone. I definitely [thought], "Oh, you're from Las Vegas - you grew up here, you have to work for the strip and you have to stay in Las Vegas." You set yourself up to think that, "Hey, this is my life and this is all it's going to be."
I never looked outside the box and said, "No, I can go be something else. I can go do something else". I'm so lucky that I had my coach and my family and my friends to push me and tell me the opposite: "Amanda, you can get out. You can break the mold." I think I was my own biggest setback because I just moved along with the crowd.
So it seems like a support system played a huge role in your life. Who are your biggest role models?
Honestly, it’s a collection of everybody. They pushed me to do what I did and supported me: my parents, my family and my coach, who never let me quit or half-ass anything. My dad was always like, "If you want to be great, you have to surround yourself with greatness." Even people I don't talk to any more had a giant role in my life and got me to where I am today.
You essentially train for one moment; one throw at each competition. How do you stay motivated? What kind of courage and mindset is required when your sport becomes your livelihood?
I hate losing. That motivates me. I’m such a competitor. At U.S. Nationals this year, I got 3rd. I didn't win, but I still made the team. I was SO upset when I didn't get first because I know I'm better than that. I'm not the best yet. There's always somebody out there. I'm not competing to be the best that I can be, I'm competing to be the best, period. That motivates me because man, I hate losing.
You compete with a flower in your hair. Could you tell me more about that?
I do! Honestly, I just want to be fun and girly. With hammer throwing, there is this huge stereotype that you have to have a moustache and you have to be masculine. I'm from Vegas, and everything is a production and a show. I thought to myself, "Let's go the complete opposite." I wanted to go out over and beyond everything.
I do my hair to the nines. I wear more makeup at competitions than I will when I'll be going to the ESPYs tonight. I compete with a flower in my hair because nobody's really done it. As I said, you can kick ass and still look great doing it.
You mentioned that you excel at hammer throwing because you have a strong core. What are your favorite core exercises?
Oh my god, I hate core exercises, I do. I'm not a big 'workout' fan. I just like throwing. A lot of our core exercise actually comes right from throwing. It scares me, because that's where all the injuries happen. Everybody happens to do that one max rep and they end up hurting themselves, I get so nervous!
What’s your proudest personal achievement?
Taking all of this attention in stride. This, for me, is already huge. I didn't get into track and field because I wanted to be a celebrity. That's not why you get into track and field. It's being able to help out young girls, young men, and even older women and men.
One woman Facebook messaged me, and she's adorable. She's 42 years old and she's a bit of a bigger girl. She [sent a picture] posing just like I did on the cover of ESPN. She told me that she looked at herself and said, "That was the first time I felt sexy." I teared up a bit. I said to her, "I'm just happy that I can get you to realize that you're sexy." I'm glad I can actually be a part of something that lets me tell somebody that you can feel amazing the way you are.
It's not always easy to be a role model. How do you maintain a healthy self-esteem when you are experiencing a bad day?
I take a shower. My mom always told me that if I’m in a bad mood, I should just wash it off and start over. So any time something happens, I take a shower. It’s a nice quiet time for myself.
If you were to have a superpower, what would it be?
To…sparkle. I’m such a girly girl! Or else, I’d fly! Or what Dane Cook says, shoot spaghetti out of my hands. That’d be awesome.
What’s in your gym bag?
Protein, peanut butter, weightlifting shoes, extra deodorant, tape for my gloves, and lots of water. Lots and lots of water.
Could you walk me through a typical day in your training schedule?
I wake up at 7:30am, have breakfast and have my third cup of coffee by about 8:30 am. I practice from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm depending on whether it’s a bad or good practice. I do rehab at 4:00 pm: going to the chiropractor or the doctor, getting massages, and maintaining my body. It’s pretty much a 7-8 hour actual physical work day. There’s a whole bunch of other stuff on top of that, like homework. I have about 5 hours worth of homework lined up. I don’t train with my coach, so I send him lots of videos. We try to manipulate my throws. There’s a lot of research to make sure that I can pick out exactly what I’m doing wrong. You have to study your sport and know exactly what you’re doing.
This interview has been edited and condensed.