Lauren Fleshman

Sports has helped lots of young women gain the confidence to be comfortable about their bodies. But issues related to body image persist, and distance runners in particular have had to deal with the stereotype of needing to be super thin. Rachele Schulist, an All-American cross-country runner at Michigan State, detailed her struggles in an Instagram post that went viral in December.

"The idea that you have to look a certain way and be thin to be a fast runner is bulls***," Schulist wrote.

Now former Stanford track star Lauren Fleshman has tackled the issue in a letter to her high school self, published on

"You can be fast and a developed woman," Fleshman wrote.

Lauren Fleshman

Here is advice that Fleshman gave about selecting the right college program:

"You will go on to race at a NCAA Division I university and watch several girls do whatever it takes to fight their changing bodies. But before you choose a school, you will go on visits. You will have meals with the teams and notice they do things differently. There is the school that has "salad with dressing on the side," the school where everyone orders "no gluten and no dairy," the school where the girls bring their own food from home to the restaurant... Go to the school where people order a variety of things: the burger, the chicken sandwich, the salad. Go to the school where you can order french fries and do it without shame.

"Go to the school where the majority of girls look athletic and healthy, with hydrated muscles, and get their periods. Listen to how they talk about themselves -- and one another. Listen to what they value."

Fleshman, 35, competed professionally in distances from the 1,500 meters to the marathon. Go to to read the entire letter.


Missy Franklin, Breanna Stewart and Jenna Prandini speak about body image: