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From the March 2005 issue of The Christian Science Journal

She has long limbs, toned legs, and a flat stomach. Her muscles are lean, her collarbone and ribs stick out. She is, in other words, the "perfect athlete." Thin and fit. Fast and fleet.

As a cross-country runner and skier competing at the college level, I understand the draw of the "ideal athlete" image. It's easy to believe that this physique is the ticket to racing faster and improving your status as an athlete. But recently, I was forced to reevaluate this perception and to ask myself: Is being lean and thin really the secret to athletic success?

Last summer I was very dedicated to training. I mostly focused on improving my speed as a runner and preparing for the upcoming cross-country season. Peppering these sessions were a series of e-mails from my coach, reminding the entire team to keep training well. "It's good to have mental toughness," Coach told us, "but you can't rely on it. It's a lot easier to improve your times when you are fitter." I took this to mean that improving my times was directly related to losing weight.

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