Olympic Athlete Amanda Bingson Tells Us Why She Refuses To Weigh Less Than 200 Pounds

Photo Courtesy Of ESPN Magazine.
Amanda Bingson, U.S. track and field athlete, has been throwing things for a long time. The 25-year-old was named Most Valuable Thrower each of her four years at Silverado High School in Paradise, Nevada, where she competed in shot put and discus. In 2009, as a freshman at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Bingson gave the hammer throw a shot. It was a solid choice: Bingson competed in the event at the 2012 Olympics, and broke the American female hammer throw record in 2013. Most recently, she captured the attention of millions when she posed nude on one of the covers of ESPN's 2015 Body Issue, in which Bingson also shared her deep self-assurance ("I'll be honest, I like everything about my body," the athlete proclaimed). The newly minted body-positivity icon, and certified badass, took a break from preparing for the 15th World Championships in Athletics in Beijing next month to speak with us about her training, diet, and why she works hard not to drop below 200 pounds.
Have you always been into sports?
"I've always been physically active, I was always been picked first on sports teams because I was bigger. People were scared of me, when I kicked the soccer ball and started charging at them, boys would move away! I thought it was a good thing. "Volleyball was kind of my thing — I did volleyball and marching band. I did drums, if that counts as physical activity, I don't know! I did track and field in high school as well... I did both of them up until my senior year, when me and the coach had a little bit of a disagreement in my weight, and I quit volleyball because I wasn't going to make the varsity team. And as a senior, if I'm not on varsity I didn't want to play. So, I really focused in on track at that point, and then I got into hammer-throwing in college." Was it love at first try or did you learn to love it?
"Oh no, I love to hate it! It's a very love-hate relationship because it was a hard thing to pick up; it's such a different movement and it's not natural... You want to be a strong person in order to manipulate the ball, but in reality, it's the ball that kind of manipulates you. We need a very strong, strong base in our legs, but the majority of our workout for throwing is core, so [the event is] very complex, but it's so simple [at the same time]." Do you have a "traditional" body for this event?
"Well, what's great about the hammer throw, as opposed to all the other sports in general — we don't have one specific body type. In basketball they're all kind of tall, they're lanky...quarterbacks are a very specific body type...but if you look at all the different hammer throwers in the world, we're all so different. Some of us are 5'5", 200 pounds, some of us are 5'9" at 325. It's a big range. It's not about your body, but about what technique and power you can get from it. And I think that's what's kind of cool about the hammer."

It's not about your body but about what technique and power you can get from it

What's your favorite strength-training move?
"Power cleans, because I'm the best at them." Do you do cardio too?
"We don't do any cardio. Our event is so power-based you don't do any form of cardio: no warm-up lap, no cool down, nothing like that, because there's no need for it. For our training, we're very specific, because it's a very specific movement. We focus on being specifically strong rather than overall strength." Tell me about what you eat while you're doing all this training.
"We throw heavy, we lift heavy. And without that protein, muscles just break down, and you don't build them back up. That's all working out is — breaking down your muscles and building them back up stronger. "I try to mix it up. I love cooking, so I try to get really fancy with dinner. Breakfast you can only do so much, and then lunch, a salad or sandwich. I'll try a little bit of everything just because I don't want to get bored. There's nothing better than steak and potatoes. That is my go-to everything, red meat and starch. I love it. My breakfast is pretty stable: I have two full eggs and four egg whites in an omelette with spinach, bell peppers, mushrooms, onions, and tomatoes, and then I'll have a cup of fruit, a piece of toast, and a lot of coffee."
Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images.
What music pumps you up?
"If I'm trying to get, like, amped up, I'll play some '70s rock music... I love it!"

Do you get nervous when you compete?

"If you don't nervous, you kind of have a problem. But it's all about listening to the right things... I'll just take a breath, look at my coach, and go 'Okay, I can do this.' It's nice because the thrower community is so supportive that we really are just like a group of friends hanging out and throwing stuff — that's what it is and it's awesome."
Do you keep track of your weight?
"I keep track of my weight like crazy. I probably weigh myself at least twice a day, because with me and my event, it's so specific, and I have to maintain the 205-210 pounds in order for me to be set. If I'm having a good day at practice, I'll weigh myself and see where I'm at... If I feel disgusting or if I feel a little weaker and practice hasn't been going as well, I'll weigh myself and I'll see,Well, obviously with the training I'm doing, being this low in my body weight isn't helping, and it's not healthy for me in my event. "When I was a junior in college, I lost a lot of weight. I got down to about 180 pounds, which for me is, like, insane. Everyone was saying 'You look so skinny, you look so good, blah, blah, blah,' and I was like, No, I feel so disgusting and so weak. I wasn't strong, I wasn't throwing far. All the stuff that I was putting my body through, me personally at 180 pounds just wasn't functional, so I got back up to 200 pounds, and I was like, Oh, okay yay, now I can actually handle my workout."

We really are just like a group of friends hanging out and throwing stuff

What would you say to someone struggling with their body image?
"What saved me the most as far as body image is athletics and getting into that world. I think everybody nowadays, for the most part, is really focused on trying to fit into this social world that we have come up with on our social media, and that's not the only world out there... There's all these different worlds and categories that you can fit into, and you just have to go out and find it. I found one and found confidence in it; I feel good about myself, and the people that I surround myself with feel it as well." And what's one thing you're hanging on to that you wish you could throw away?
"My favorite pair of jeans from high school. I need to get over the fact that I won't be fitting into them while I'm still competing."