“The whole sport is about going further than you think you can go,” says America Ferrera
By Ea Francisco
You’d probably remember America Ferrera for her role as Betty Suarez from Ugly Betty, but soon you’ll come to see a new side of her as she graces the July cover of Triathlete magazine.
From her roles in Ugly Betty and Real Women Have Curves, you’d think she was all about confidence but for the longest time, Ferrera struggled with her own self-esteem. Looking at her journey in triathlon, you’ll see how she overcame her greatest challenge: herself.
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"Our little bodies—the small little space that we inhabit for the entirety of our lives— everything we feel, everything we experience, everything we do is contained inside of our bodies. And to be challenged physically is to have to meet all of your experiences. If you want to meet your limitations, do a plank for two minutes and see if how you feel about yourself and how you’re operating in the world doesn’t come up in 35 seconds! That’s why, personally, working out has always been an emotional experience for me." Holy shit! I'm a two time Triathlete! I did that! Which means you can too! Isn't that exciting and terrifying?? Read more about my Triathlon journey in @triathletemag via link in bio! 🏊🏽♀️🚴🏽♀️🏃🏽♀️
She revealed to Triathlete the constant battle she had with her inner voice, and how triathlon has helped her.
“This relationship of being disappointed in our bodies is a relationship that I started at a very young age, whether that’s because of the culture around me or the points of views that I was exposed to,” she says. “I didn’t see a lot of examples—or nobody taught me to appreciate and love my body for what it’s capable of. It was always about what it wasn’t and couldn’t do, and what it could be.”
Her triathlon journey started when a friend competed to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The Ugly Betty star watched their training with interest and fear at the sport’s intensity.
When we started, I was not a swimmer at all and I remember one night at swim practice where I was just literally weeping in the pool
When her husband Ryan Williams decided to join the team, her inner thoughts were: “Don’t even think about it, America! You’re the fat kid. The procrastinator. The quitter. You have cellulite. YOU ARE NOT A TRIATHLETE!” but she joined the team anyway.
Around May 2016, Ferrera announced that she had started training. She went on to document her training through social media, but admitted that she struggled a lot and doubted herself.
“It was definitely a mix of intrigue and fear, and I think recently in the past few years of my life I’ve started noticing a pattern of when something scares me, that’s an indication that I should do it.”
“There were absolutely times where I doubted whether I could do it. When we started, I was not a swimmer at all and I remember one night at swim practice where I was just literally weeping in the pool.”
“And there I was on race day, swimming in the ocean for a whole mile. That is a transformative experience to go from being the person who can’t to the person who does. It changes you.“
Ferrera’s first triathlon was the Olympic-distance Nautica Malibu Triathlon on Sept. 18, 2016. She posted shots of the race and a split picture of Williams and her holding their finisher medals with her showcasing her tri number in the pre-Emmy’s party.
Major news outlets caught wind of this, which resulted in The New York Times story that talked about her self-doubt.
“I think when it comes to new challenges, it’s my own ego that I’m fighting most of the time.”
She competed in her second triathlon, Lavaman, and has since been a vocal spokesperson for the sport. It’s no surprise that Triathlete chose her for their cover as her story really reflects what a lot of people seem to struggle with.
“Why I think triathlons have changed my relationship to myself is because the whole sport is about going further than you think you can go, living at the threshold, and pushing yourself to the place where you feel like, ‘I never thought I could be here and I certainly thought I couldn’t go further,’” she says.
“It’s at that threshold that you have the opportunity to choose something new which could just be to be nice to yourself in that moment, to acknowledge yourself in that moment.”
When asked about who she is, America Ferrera would always answer: “I am a triathlete!”