Liz, 27 – Marathon Runner

Liz and I went into the woods in Sturbridge, MA on a rainy day in October for our shoot, and I left soaked down to my underpants, but with so much happy in my heart!

Liz is a lifelong athlete, collegiate track and field competitor – and soon to be Boston Marathon runner! She marks the sixth in the series, the first runner, and the first to also make incredible ceramic creations when she’s not busy training in preparation for April. 

She is beautiful inside and out, seriously one of the most kind and warm people you’ll ever meet, it’s no wonder that Boston Children’s Hospital chose her to run Boston on their behalf this year. While she is only required to raise $10K, she hopes to reach at least $15K for the hospital. Click HERE to donate!

Liz runs 3-4 days a week with Western Mass Distance Project (a competitive running team), in addition to her workouts at Amped Fitness 3-4 days a week. A self-proclaimed extrovert, she relies on her teammates to keep her motivated

“The age range of the women on WMDP goes from early 20’s to early 60’s and each of these women is STRONG and lighting fast! They are also always incredibly supportive of each other’s athletic pursuits and help each other through major life challenges. The Amped Fitness “Amped Nation” family is a newer part of my life and has already become so vital. Having amazing coaches and teammates to challenge me in the gym has really pushed me further than I would have on my own.”

For Liz, being active is a source of empowerment and confidence, a mood booster and anxiety killer.

“Oh man! If I didn’t work out I think I’d lose my mind. Any time I’ve been injured and can’t work out as much, I tend to get anxious and feel WAY less confident. Being active is so important for physical AND mental health.”

“Being a female athlete is so empowering!

We all have those moments where you’re picking yourself apart, but after working out or running, I feel my most beautiful (even when I’m all sweaty). I truly hope that all women take the opportunity prove to yourself that you’re a force to be reckoned with!” 

Running Boston is a dream come true for Liz.

“It’s such an iconic marathon. As a child I watched the marathon in Ashland every year with my family. I remember thinking “How can anyone run that far?!” As I got older and started running in middle school and high school, I think I gained even more respect for these runners.”

Even better that she’s running for Boston Children’s Hospital.

“I am a former BCH patient, and on my visits to the hospital, I saw so many children from all walks of life getting the care they needed. It’s incredible be a part of their team. A huge part of running for BCH is raising money for their continued support of children and their families.”

Here’s this pretty girl that donation link one more time! 

Liz is featured on my website and Facebook page under “We’re Not Here Just to Have Fun” and you can see more of her comments there!

Interested in being a part of the series? Contact me today.

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Emily, 27 – Mindful Fighter

Emily is the fifth in the series, and what an incredible and dynamic addition she makes! Here’s the back of her baseball card:

Yogi
Boxer
Dancer
Health & Fitness Blogger
Soon-to-be Mt. Kilimanjaro Climber

It’s hard to pick a title that fully encompasses Emily, but Mindful Fighter feels perfect. She’s kickass while also bringing the most calming nature along with her wherever she goes. She’s happy in the most mindful and realistic way, and courageous – seemingly unafraid to jump in to take on challenges. I mean, Mt. Kilimanjaro?! There’s nothing this girl can’t do.

Emily is an instructor – Zumba, Yoga & Boxing – and she leads her classes in hopes that each person is leaving having gotten what they came to get.

“First and foremost, I want people to have fun in class. Then, I want them to feel strong when they leave class. I want them to feel powerful when they leave class. And, I want people to feel happier — or lighter — when they leave class. To accomplish that, I try to help my dancers, yogis, and boxers identify why they come to class. I prompt them to ask themselves why they fight, why they flow, why they come to class, what they hope to get out of class — and then we work to accomplish that together.”

Interestingly enough, Emily didn’t always consider herself an athlete…

“When I was younger, I never considered myself an athlete. I played soccer (a little) and danced (a lot), but I didn’t associate that with “athleticism.” When I entered adulthood, I started to become really grateful for exercise, dance, and the athletic activities by body was capable of.

Sweat, sore muscles, and the mood-boost that comes with being active makes me feel like a bad*ss, powerful, strong woman. The strength and power combined with my calm, compassionate nature, translates into other areas of my life, allowing me to show up for my friends, family, co-workers, and clients.”

She discovered her passion for fitness in college, and now as a woman in her 20’s she finds herself in a unique position to help and inspire those around her.

“When I started to become really active in college and began teaching fitness classes at the University of Massachusetts Campus Recreation Center, I realized that a lot of my peers were drawn to — and even craved — some level of physical activity to balance the academic and social stresses of college. When I entered the Boston fitness scene, I noticed this was true for this community as well. People move to feel better mentally, physically, and emotionally. I teach fitness and movement so that others can get what they need. Being an athlete at my age allows me to motivate those older than me (like my parents), and those younger than me (like my siblings and their friends). I love that.”

At first it seems like yoga, dancing and boxing might not be complimentary disciplines or movements, but then you consider that each one requires a grace and poise – and that each can bring that grace and clarity in a different form:

“I’m often asked what style of fitness I like best — yoga, dance, boxing, running, etc. It’s a hard question to answer because I can get what I need out of each of those. During each activity, I’m able to enter this meditative state where the rest of the world melts away and I’m completely focused on the task at hand. This is so therapeutic for me. I need it to be my best self. During yoga, we link the breath to the movement and get lost in the flow. In boxing, the music is loud and we are focused on punch combos, exhaling with each punch, and getting in the zone to win the fight. In dance, we groove to the music and get lost in the movement. Each of these activities brings me joy, mental clarity, and strength in their own way.”

“Fitness makes me feel more confident in many different aspects of my life.  It makes me feel confident in my body. It makes my skin glow. And, under the surface, I reach an amazing level of mental clarity that makes me feel confident in other areas of my life — work, relationships, decision-making.”

This shoot was a photographer’s dream. At one point a passerby asked if we were shooting for a fashion magazine – that’s how well Emily owned it.

Oh, and we had ice cream for dinner afterwards.

Keep killing it, Em. I know you’ll surmount any and all challenges that come your way, next up Mt. Kili. 

Emily is featured on my website and Facebook page under “We’re Not Here Just to Have Fun” and you can see more of her comments there!

Interested in being a part of the series? Contact me today.

Becca, Age 15 – Pitcher

  “Playing sports shows my personality and what I do best. I’m a whole different person when I’m playing.

“Playing sports shows my personality and what I do best. I’m a whole different person when I’m playing.”

Becca makes 4 in the series, and what a great session we had together. I love that these girls come with their ideas, but also with Becca, my most lovably skeptical subject so far… humoring me with some of mine. It feels like a collaboration more than a photographer and subject, and we had fun and made each other laugh. 

At 15, Becca is right in the middle: she has younger girls looking up to her, but she also plays with a lot of older girls, so she feels like she has to impress on both sides. She may think it’s hard, but she makes it look easy.
She’s definitely got a natural leadership and an intensity that’s infectious.

Becca knocked the portraits out of the park (pun intended), and when we started on the game face shots, I had no doubt it’d be the same. It was funny, though. As we started in on the second half she said, “I’m not tough, though.” Wrong, lady. You ARE tough. And strong. And a total badass. I knew it from the get-go and then she said this during our interview:

“A lot of guys think I can’t do things, or that they can do them better, just because I’m a girl
… until I prove them wrong.”

Amen, sister. Always know how tough you are. I hope these photos remind you.

And some more of this incredible young woman…

Get after it, girl.

Becca is featured on my website and Facebook page under “We’re Not Here Just to Have Fun” and you can see more of her comments there!

Interested in being a part of the series? Contact me today.

Sarah, Age 15 – First Singles

“ I feel like in a match, I can just put myself out there, play the sport, and focus on what I’m doing. I’m confident when I’m playing.” 

Guys, these sessions are THE BEST. I got to meet this incredible young woman, listen to that satisfying thunk of a tennis ball well-struck, and shoot a whopping 600+ shots in under an hour. Does it get any better?

Without further adieu – meet the third in my series: Sarah. A beautiful and intelligent girl who is incredibly talented and driven, and also just has a love for the game that is so obvious. Keep scrolling and you’ll see it, too. 

Sarah is as much of a natural in front of the camera as she is on the tennis court and she says she used to be really shy, but I’m not sure I believe it. This court was her stage and she absolutely rocked our session. It’s no wonder, really. This girl joined varsity as a freshman and was playing first singles in no time.

Sarah said one of the best parts of playing tennis was that it empowers her to connect with people. From coaches, to teammates, classmates and little kids who want to learn how to play tennis, she’s had so many more opportunities to meet and become friends with people she wouldn’t have met otherwise and come out of her shell. 

When she told me about how she feels when she’s playing a match – focused, confident, and like she can put herself out there – I completely understood. At her age, I felt the same exact way whenever I was playing basketball. Whatever else happened that day, it fell away with my first layup, and if nothing else, I knew I was good at it.

When we got into the action shots & game face portraits – I really wanted to capture that focus and intensity. This girl is happy, smiling & sweet, but don’t let that side of her fool you. She’s a force to be reckoned with. Just look for yourself:

Sarah is featured on my website and Facebook page under “We’re Not Here Just to Have Fun” and you can see more of her comments there!

Next up, look for my session with a softball pitcher named Becca! Interested in being a part of the series? Contact me today.

Emilia, Age 8 – Short Stop

“Anything a boy can do, a girl can do better.” 

I am SO excited to introduce the second participant of my series: Emilia! She was an incredible subject and so much fun to shoot with. So here’s a little bit about my time with little miss Emilia – petite but formidable, she doesn’t let anything stop her.

Right off the bat (#pun #cantstopwontstop) Emilia killed it. She jumped into the first half of our session with that adorable smile and her own ideas for poses. She told me her mom was a big reason she is so active. She played sports growing up, too, so that’s where Emilia gets it from. She also coaches her softball team, not to mention making sure she gets to all her other practices and games. Emilia is a swimmer and soccer player, and “she’s always trying to add to the list,” her mom Jessica said.

When we were just about done with our “clean uniform” shots, Emilia couldn’t wait to get those stark white pants dirty and put on some eye black. She lit up when it was time to get into the action shots. 

Emilia is not the kind of girl who is going to be intimidated on the field. And as far as her potential, she’s limitless. She plans to play her whole life and try as many new sports as she can, with field hockey and ice hockey high up on the list. She might be 8, but I wouldn’t bet against this girl. Behind that smile is someone who can do anything.

After our session was over, I asked Emilia what was different about being a girl in sports than being a boy in sports.

“Just that anything a boy can do, a girl can do better.”

I couldn’t have scripted a better response than that.

Emilia is featured on my website and Facebook page under “We’re Not Here Just to Have Fun” and you can see more of her comments there!

Next up, look for my session with a tennis player named Sarah! Interested in being a part of the series? Contact me today.

Caitlin, Age 28 – Catcher, Coach

“Why should girls have to be ‘one of the boys’ just to be taken seriously?”

When I was thinking about ladies to launch my new series “We’re Not Here Just To Have Fun,” there was no better choice than this girl. Beyond being my best friend, she’s always been a serious athlete and fierce competitor. Now she coaches volleyball and softball to the next generation of kick-butt ladies, and I know from experience that she’s a hell of a woman to look up to. 

Caitlin is both one of the most intense people I know, and the goofiest. This photo is one of my favorites of her.

Things get simpler when you’re playing the game. You can put all of yourself into what you’re doing in that moment, and at the end leave it all there when it’s over. Caitlin was always the player that left it all on the field.

Writing being one of her many talents, I knew she’d have some great things to say about what it’s like to be a girl in sports. She’s seen it from the athlete’s perspective and she sees it in her players. 

I asked Cait what being an athlete meant to her.

“Being a female athlete has always given me a sense of pride and confidence that I don’t think I would have possessed otherwise. Playing sports was my purpose growing up and it formed a huge part of my identity.”

On how she thinks being a girl in sports has changed since she was growing up:

“One word: Pink. When I was playing sports in high school, we would scoff at any girl who dared show up with a pink glove or pink cleats. Pink represented femininity – and femininity and sports did not mix. We were tough, not girly. Then, one day while I was working at Sports Authority, a father came in asking if we had any pink football cleats for his 11-year- old daughter, the only girl on the team. I was a bit surprised by this, figuring she would want to blend in and be ‘one of the boys.’ When I asked him, he said ‘She wants to wear pink cleats so that when she makes a tackle, the boys know they got tackled by a girl.’ It finally dawned on me: Why can’t girls embrace their femininity and athleticism simultaneously?
 

Why should girls have to be ‘one of the boys’ just to be taken seriously?”

Cait has always been an athlete, and she always will be, regardless of how much she plays the game. The determination and inner fighter means she’ll tackle anything that comes her way the same way she snipes a runner stealing second, or throws her body to the floor to pop up a ball on serve-receive: with everything she’s got.

Interested in being part of the series? Contact me at marylouisepolleys@gmail.com.