The athletic apparel brand has tapped ultramarathoner, author, speaker and former Fat Girl Running blogger Mirna Valerio to front its new global "Feel Closer to Your Run" campaign and offer better representation of runners whose body types are typically overlooked within the fitness space. The Vermont-based Valerio tells Yahoo Life that she hopes to inspire and empower both people who have felt excluded by activities like running, and the brands that have the power to provide better quality gear for bigger bodies.
"Make no mistake: All kinds of people in all sorts of bodies want to be able to engage in movement that is meaningful to them, and they need apparel that fits, is functional and well-made," Valerio says. "There was this prevailing idea that plus-size folks didn’t do or want to do things like running, cycling, swimming, etc. But guess what? We’ve always done those things and have had to contend with ill-fitting apparel — because we’ve been forgotten and ignored — poorly constructed clothing that is not fit for any athletic activity, or if they do fit, pieces in limited colors and styles.
"When people see a person like me in a magazine or in a company’s marketing and advertising media [while] running or hiking or riding a bike, it’s easier for them to envision themselves doing the same thing," she adds. "It signals to them that they belong in that space too. And hopefully, it gives them a little push to perhaps try something they’ve always been curious about but could never really see themselves doing."
It was a health scare that gave Valerio herself that "little push" more than a decade ago. Though she's been a runner and athlete since high school, she fell into a three-year slump as she juggled the demands of grad school, a teaching career and family life.
"I wasn’t sleeping or taking care of myself, and it was a health scare connected to all of these things that prompted me to start running again," she says. "I’m never looking back!"
Assuming things are "rolling nicely" and she's injury-free, she runs about four or five times a week, leaving time for recovery days. When she's training for a race or marathon, she'll typically clock 30 to 45 miles a week — and sometimes 50 if her coach calls for it. Her next big challenge is the Trans Rockies 6-Day Stage Race in August.
"It’s six days of running the Colorado Rockies for about 120 miles, with 20,000 feet of vertical gain," she says. "It’s one of my favorite events ever, and I’ve managed to finish only once, so I’m going to go for it again this year."
And then there's the challenge of her new role in supporting Lululemon's diversity and inclusion efforts, and continuing to speak out about being active as a larger woman. Valerio is confident that the images of her hitting the trail in the campaign will serve as an inspiration, and invitation.
"You absolutely belong and are entitled to the fitness space," she says. "Running is for everyone who has a body and wants to run. Guess what? We all have bodies, so that means… "
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