LIVING THE LIFESTYLE: Kiara Allen explains the struggles of the ordinary student athlete

Alex Geli
Managing Editor

Here’s a little game of guess that gender: a quality steak with some potatoes is their favorite meal; an ideal Sunday afternoon is sitting down to watch professional football; and, in the weight room, this person can max out in squats at 225 pounds.
To those whom may have guessed this person was a male, think again.
Meet Kiara Allen, a 5-foot-8 African-American female athlete for the women’s indoor track and field team at Millersville. She prides herself in her sprinting ability, physical fitness and overall physical and mental health.
She also loves shopping, makeup and chocolate—not to mention proving herself simply as an athlete and a student, not just a female.
“I think the most difficult aspect is trying to be able to prove to people that just because I am a female, it doesn’t mean I can’t do what a male can do,” Allen said. “Just being a student athlete, in general, is very difficult,” she added; “I want to be able to excel in both.”
During the track and field season, Allen and her squad go into the weight room several times a week. In there, you’d find her squatting, bench pressing and doing ab workouts.
“They’re more surprised than anything that we can lift as much as we can do,” she said, alluding to when the track and field team would have to share the weight room with the men’s football or basketball team.
But, when it really comes down to it, Allen says it truly hasn’t been a big deal: “I don’t really think gender plays a part in it,” she said; “Me, personally, I’ve never had to deal with gender issues within athletics, especially at Millersville.”
Heck, women judge too.
AllensprintAllen revealed that when the track and field team is working out with another women’s sport, she gets much of the same treatment. They would say, “’Oh wow, that’s awesome. I wish had abs.’ Things like that,” Allen explained.
However, “they’re kind of standoffish,” she said about some of her fellow female athletes. “A lot of girls don’t want to lift that much because they don’t want to get ‘jacked.’”
But, according to Allen, women have no need to fear.
“You’d have to be taking some time of steroid or something to look like a man. If anything, [you] would just be toned,” she insisted.
Albeit her strong “musculature,” as she put it, Allen says it is the actual performance on the track that she looks to benefit, not necessarily her appearance.
“For a lot of women, that is of importance to them—to have a nice physique,” she said. “That’s still not my focus … it’s just something that has come along with the sport.”
Allen, a major advocate for health, nutrition and fitness among athletes, says her passion emerged from a motto which her coach, Andy Young, once hammered into her head: “Live the lifestyle.”
“To me, the lifestyle is being able to be as healthy as possible as an athlete.” In order to walk the walk as well as talk the talk, Allen and her teammates have given up guilty pleasures like, say, drinking alcohol.
“A lot of girls don’t drink during the season,” Allen said. “It’s pretty much poison.”
Allen is also a peer health educator for Millersville, and alcohol is a topic she deals with constantly: “Two days of back-to-back drinking can affect your athletic performance for up to five days,” she said; for this reason, “we have all vowed to not indulge like the average college student, but a lot of people like myself have chosen not to drink.”
“Big Macs” are another guilty pleasure that Allen and her team have chosen to give up: “They love to indulge,” she admitted; however, “that’s something that we’ve had to sacrifice because we know that that’s not going to make us better if we continuously eat that.”
AllenheadshotThe nutrition guru also said that getting an appropriate amount of sleep, around 8-10 hours per day, can enhance an athlete’s performance, as well as—drumroll, please—actually eating.
“Not eating isn’t healthy either,” Allen said. In fact, when asked about her favorite meal, she questioned, “Does chocolate count as a meal?”
Although she hasn’t experienced any eating disorders in her lifetime, Allen had this tip for those of whom suffering from one: “Go seek help.”
“A lot of times when they have those issues, they don’t externalize them. Talking to family and friends helps a lot,” she stated, but culminating with an all-encompassing lesson: “You shouldn’t be worried about your body, nor should other people be worried about the physical aspects of it.”
Allen surely loves to dabble in what today’s society has deemed womanly behaviors, such as going from mall-to-mall just for the sheer thrill, testing out different makeup combinations and even dolling up before track meets.
“I always have my nails painted for a track meet,” Allen said with a chuckle. “We always make sure our hair is done … we’ll put braids in it.”
But the main thing that Allen wants to portray to female athletes everywhere is simply to embrace who and what you are.
“You should focus on the positive things in your life, and the things you’re good at,” she said. “You should feel great about your body.”
And, whatever you do, do not base any self-evaluations off of images permeating through pop culture, such as advertisements, commercials and magazines like Cosmopolitan and Vogue, Allen stated.
“These aren’t what [women] really look like.”

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