back to square one
MEGA|July 2021
When the crowds go silent and the adrenaline stops, an athlete’s mind can push the body beyond its limits
MIA CASTRO

Even if I was a meek and shy kid who was too insecure to talk to anyone and could barely smile without being ashamed of my teeth, I found myself growing up as a competitive cheerleader. My routine was set: weekends were spent at the gym; after school, I went straight to training; each day, I had to keep raising the bar. Perfection was the goal, and you trained hard, not to get it right, but until you couldn’t get it wrong. There I gained the confidence to perform in huge arenas, hitting each stunt with a full smile, and with the family I call my teammates. There wasn’t any insecurity that couldn’t be solved through a good “mat talk.” My identity was formed through the sport, and it continues to shape who I am today. Nonetheless, the time to move on eventually arrived.

After months of an inner battle, I hung up the uniform and walked off the mat for the final time. When one lives with a strenuous and structured schedule for years to suddenly having no obligations to do anything physical overnight, the feeling was absolutely freeing. But as time went by and the thrill wore off, I headed back to the gym, but the experience was now a game that I couldn’t possibly win.

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